Monday, June 28, 2010

Getting his life back: Haiti quake survivor who got prosthetic leg in New Haven is following new career path

By Amanda Pinto, Register Staff

NEW HAVEN — Five months ago, Ralph Gedeon was lying trapped beneath a pile of rubble when the engineering college he attended in Port-au-Prince toppled in the 7.0 earthquake that hit the island nation.

His leg was crushed and several organs were failing when his father, after digging for a day and a half, rescued Gedeon from the tumbled remnants.

Miraculously, on Sunday, the earthquake survivor stood on two legs — one of them a prosthetic — and packed his bags as he prepared to leave the Sister Ann Virginie Grimes Rehabilitation Center on Chapel Street.

Gedeon’s progress is a miracle, and seeing him walk brings tears to the eyes of Dr. David Gibson, an orthopedic surgeon who teaches at the Yale School of Medicine and is affiliated with the Hospital of Saint Raphael.

“This is what you do it for,” he said. “It is really heartening to see him walk.”

But for Gedeon, who will now begin outpatient treatment in Rockland, N.Y., walking is only a part of his positive journey.

When he eventually returns to his home country, he will have a permanent prosthesis that will even allow him to play soccer, and he’ll have an engineering degree that will enable him to help others injured in the earthquake, said Ayal Lindeman, the emergency medical technician, nurse and Scientology volunteer minister who was on a mission in Haiti when he met Gedeon, 22.

Gedeon will also take classes at Rockland Community College, and will likely receive a scholarship from the International Society of Transport Aircraft Trading to continue studies in engineering, Lindeman said. He will switch his concentration from electrical to mechanical engineering so he can focus on creating and improving orthotics and prosthetics to help Haiti’s thousands of amputees, Lindeman said.

Gedeon has come quite a long way for a man who contemplated accepting death rather than enduring an amputation that could have left him shunned in Haiti, where amputees are degraded, Lindeman said.

After Gedeon was rescued, his father, Raphael Gedeon, told Lindeman ‘I love my son, but I cannot condemn him to this life.’ At that moment, Lindeman thought of the motto on the back of his mission jacket, ‘Something can be done;’ he called his friend Gibson and promised Ralph Gedeon a leg and a life.

Now Gedeon has had nine surgeries, his care has been provided at no cost by St. Raphael’s and a prosthetic donated by a manufacturer. He has been tutored, free of charge, in English.

He used a cane to walk from the rehabilitation center Sunday, but routinely lifted it as he waved and joked with the small crowd of well-wishers who gathered to see him off.

Of his ability to walk, Gedeon smiles and simply says, “We’re progressing.” “(I thought I would walk) because Ayal promised me, and second, I’ve seen people walking (on prosthetics) in the movies,” he said.

He said his leg, which is still healing, is a bit uncomfortable, but he was full of smiles and hugs for the group—which included Marie and Marc Roseme, housekeepers in the facility who are originally from Haiti— who bid him an emotional goodbye.

His father, who arrived in the U.S. Friday, said through a translator Sunday that he was at a loss for words for what his son has accomplished, and for the generosity bestowed upon him.

“I don’t have an expression that would fit,” he said. “Just thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Happiness and strength endure only in the absence of hate. To hate alone is the road to disaster. To love is the road to strength. To love in spite of all is the secret of greatness. And may very well be the greatest secret in this universe.~~L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Scientology religion

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