Some of the thousands of Haitian amputees injured during the Jan. 12 earthquake are mobile again.
They are the beneficiaries of the first shipment of what eventually will be 1,000 wheelchairs, thanks to the Knights of Columbus and the American Wheelchair Mission, run by Chris Lewis, son of comedian Jerry Lewis.
Some of the wheelchairs were distributed April 27-29 to patients at a field hospital operated by a University of Miami medical team. Located on the grounds of the international airport in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, the 240-bed hospital has treated hundreds of people who suffered crushing injuries during the massive magnitude 7 quake.
“We gave wheelchairs to 15 people that day (April 27) who could not leave until they got a wheelchair,” Lewis told Catholic News Service May 3 from his office in Camarillo, Calif. “People are in the hospital but couldn’t go anywhere because they could not move. These wheelchairs are helping them resume their life.”
Lewis said the people he met were grateful for the wheelchairs. A few told him they were going to find a church to thank God for the gift.
During the last few days of April, Lewis’ foundation delivered 400 wheelchairs to the hospital in conjunction with the HHS Foundation in the Dominican Republic. Because of limited storage space, the rest of the delivery will be staged over the next several weeks.
The Knights of Columbus is sponsoring the delivery.
Knights’ spokesman Patrick Korten said the effort is part of the organization’s 7-year-old worldwide wheelchair program.
“It was very rewarding (to be there),” Korten said, “but a bit disconcerting … to see so many people with so serious injuries and without limbs. They can use these wheelchairs.”
Lewis, a fourth-degree Knight, started his foundation in August after working for another wheelchair foundation for nine years. He said he helped coordinate the delivery of 750,000 wheelchairs to 150 countries during that period.