Little lady takes first steps at Roehampton Rehabilitation Centre
aged two years with the help of H.A.P.E.E.
Two year-old Punitha Valli, a child from a small village in Malaysia, was born with a congenital abnormality which meant she might never walk. Today, eyes shining with delight, she took her first steps, after being fitted with a prosthetic leg at the Roehampton Rehabilitation Centre in Queen Mary's Hospital, Roehampton.
Punitha, whose left leg finishes at the knee, was brought to England along with her mother, in early August 2004 by the charity H.A.P.E.E. (The Humanitarian Aid Project for Eastern Europe). The rehab team at Queen Mary's donated their time for free to give Punitha a better chance in life.
Tom Wickerson, the prosthetist who fitted Punitha's leg, said: "It's an amazing feeling, the first time you put a leg on a child, who was not mobile, and watch them get up and walk. It's not always plain sailing. Children can be distressed at first, because they don't know what to expect. But gaining their trust and seeing them make progress year by year is a real joy."
George and Lisa Henry, the couple who founded H.A.P.E.E. in 1998 (George was the first disabled person to drive a car & caravan to Egypt accross Eastern Europe), accompanied Punitha and her mother on their visit to Queen Mary's. George, himself a patient at the Rehab Centre, said: "In this country, we take it for granted that if someone needs an artificial limb, or a wheelchair, they will get one. Where Punitha comes from, people are not so lucky. She's a wonderful little lady. The first time we saw her, we wanted to do everything we could to help her. We contacted Stan East, the Rehab Operations Manager and he kindly arranged for the rehab team to donate their time and expertise. We can't thank them enough. As she grows up, Punitha will need to come back every year to have a new leg fitted. H.A.P.E.E. has to raise thousands of pounds just to pay for the air fares."
As part of their continuing work, Lisa and George set up the H.A.P.E.E. World Centre for Prosthetics in Port Dickson, Malaysia in 2003. They are now planning to make their work available to a wider area and have obtained a red London Route Master bus for the purpose. They are seeking sponsorship to kit out the bus as a mobile prosthetics unit, before taking it to Malaysia. They plan to ship the bus to New York, drive overland to San Francisco, then ship it to Bangkok and continue overland to Malaysia. En route, they we will be crossing the old London Bridge that was taken to Arizona in the 1960s. It will be the first time a London bus has crossed London Bridge in 40 years.
August 23, 2004