Local businessman helping rebuild bodies in Haiti

Reported by Casey Roman – bio |email
Posted by Peter Smelser - email

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – There are brighter days ahead for earthquake victims in Haiti, thanks to local businessman, Jeff McDonald.

Jeff owns Atlantic Prosthetic Services in Wilmington. He took thousands of his own dollars and spent four days in Haiti outfitting people who had lost limbs.

McDonald estimates that thousands lost appendages during the January disaster. But until recently there was no prosthetic aid in Haiti and often amputees were shunned and put out of work.

When Jeff first arrived at the capital, he remembers, "it was nothing I had anticipated. I stepped out of this jeep and there are 20 people sitting there. The magnitude of it started setting in, what I had committed to with these people."

Jeff is an amputee himself. He lost his entire leg in a motorcycle accident that happened when he was 19. He wanted to give back with the gift of mobility and independence. He's funding his project with money from his own pocket.

"There's no body to call that's just going to show up," McDonald said. "It's not like this over here, you pick up the phone you call 911 and somebody shows up. It's not like that there – there's not that help."

The models the Red Cross brought didn't match the color of the people or the terrain of the country. Most live in the mountains and where there are few paved streets.

"We were gonna have to go rouge on them," McDonald said. "Kinda do our own thing 'cause what we saw just wasn't gonna work right."

His version includes a toe space so that their sandal fit.

Each cast has a story behind it. Like François, who's in his early 20's and was working in a garment factory when the earthquake hit.

"The roof of the building collapsed and trapped his right limb for 2 days," McDonald said. "He and his brother amputated his own leg. That really changed my definition of what tough was."

Jeff will be traveling back to Haiti at the end of June to deliver the prosthetics.

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