Old NHS equipment gives disabled people in Africa a new lease of life
DISABLED African people are able to walk and even dance again thanks to a donation of unwanted crutches, leg braces, specialist shoes and other NHS items.
A team of East Midlands medics, academics and students travelled to Uganda and used decommissioned NHS equipment to treat people there.
They saw patients who were so badly disabled that they shuffled into hospital on their bottoms. They left a short while later using crutches.
One man, a musician who could barely walk when he arrived, danced after receiving a pair of specially-adapted shoes.
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Among those who helped make the mission happen was Dr Margaret Phillips, who works at Royal Derby Hospital.
Dr Phillips, a clinical associate professor in rehabilitation medicine, said she was inspired by the resourcefulness of the patients she saw but saddened by the discrimination they faced.
She said: "We hope the project will show that giving equipment like this can help people in developing countries."
Dr Phillips and the rest of the 20-strong team worked with 240 patients who had problems with their legs and feet.
Before arriving in the country, they shipped out a 40ft container filled with the mobility equipment.
They then headed to a hospital in the country's capital, Kampala.
Busloads of disabled patients arrived to see them, thanks to the co-ordinating efforts of local politicians.
The majority of patients had disabilities caused by childhood disease polio.
It has largely been eradicated in the Western world but the vaccinations remain too expensive for the majority of people in Uganda.
There were also patients who had problems caused by old gunshot wounds, road traffic accidents and disabilities since childbirth.
Team members also featured on national television and met Uganda's Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga.
The driving force behind the mission was Dr Trudy Owens, who has undertaken extensive research on poverty in sub-Saharan Africa in her role as an economist at the University of Nottingham.
She was offered the equipment after a chance meeting with an NHS worker who specialised in fitting people with braces, splints and other supports.
During conversation, she learned about the amount of items which were still in good working order but could no longer be used by the NHS because of stringent health and safety rules.
Dr Owens said her original plan was to fill an extra suitcase with equipment to take on one of her regular trips to Africa.
But she was given enough equipment by Nottingham's Queen's Medical Centre "to fill a garage".
The trip was paid for with a £20,000 donation from the University of Nottingham.