The Utah Valley University Mobility Mission organization (UVU-MM) was established in 2010. The UVU-MM assists the underfunded, disabled populations by aiding victims of limb loss and regain mobility. Our purpose is to increase an individual's self-reliance so they can better support themselves and their family. This organization's vision is to enable the thousands of disabled individuals in Central America to obtain prosthetic devices at 5% of the cost of a permanent prosthetic.
Our project began in 2010, when students from Utah Valley University approached Julie Baker Bagley to create a project that would impact amputees around the world. Having been involved in humanitarian projects in Thailand, Julie recognized the need for affordable, waterproof prosthetics for amputees. Douglas T. Wright, who had designed an inexpensive prosthetic while studying engineering at Brigham Young University, was contacted. This prosthetic was originally designed and created using polyvinyl chloride pipe. The process has now been refined to a co-polymer cast attached to a micro-cellular rubber foot. The patent rights of the component that connects the cast to the foot belong to the UVU-MM.
Although there is a great need, the cost to send the organization to Southeast Asia was beyond the funding of the program, and therefore other countries' needs were sought out. Research showed a need for prosthetics in Guatemala and Samoa. The first country selected was Guatemala. Doug contacted companies who donated supplies for the prosthetics. The original prosthetic limb was used like a shoe for short-term use; the newest prototype has been upgraded for long-term use. Recipients become mobile with an increased likelihood of employment or returning to school. A prosthetist from Guatemala, Julio Fuentes, was contacted. He determined which individuals had the greatest need for our assistance and still continues to donate his time and facilities to train the UVU-MM members. Those members learn to work with the gait of the individuals who receive the prosthetic, molding and fitting it to meet their unique stride.
The UVU-MM members utilized fundraising and paid for a 14-day humanitarian excursion to Guatemala in the summer of 2011. Members were responsible for their own airfare costs. The first experience helped 15 individuals obtain a prosthetic foot. The 2011 project gained the support of Guatemalan Government. In 2012-2013, the organization raised enough money to assist 80 people in Guatemala with a prosthetic; 38% of the patients are female. This project establishes community involvement and self-reliance. The long-term plan is to establish enough clinics to improve individual employment or education of the amputees.
In December of 2013, The Mobility Mission expanded it's reach to include the island of Samoa. In partnership with the LDS Church and the Samoan Ministry of Health, the Mobility Mission was able to complete the process to provide four patients with prosthetics in just one week. The introduction of the prosthetic limb to the people of Samoa was truly a break through. Many of the Samoan people were unaware that prostheses existed and that there was an alternative to their immobile lifestyle.
Lane Ferrin was a major asset to the excursion to Samoa. Over the past 20 years, Lane has dedicated his life to giving amputee patients the best care available in Utah. Over the last few years, Lane has become involved with the Mobility Mission as a medical advisor. Lane not only travelled with and assisted the Mobility Mission in their efforts in Guatemala and Samoa, but also trains each student to build prosthetic limbs and guides them as they work with patients.
The UVU-MM organization would be able to help more amputees have access to this prosthetic limb with additional funding. The money would fund the strengthening of the design of the prosthetic limb, purchase supplies and materials, and aid in expansion to create additional clinics. The organization fundraises throughout the academic year, but has had a limited ability to gain enough financial support.
The limited resources impact the scope of the project. According to the work health organization (who) the need for prosthetic limbs affects over 30 million people worldwide with approximately 2% of individuals in developing countries having access to prosthetics. Prosthetic devices on average cost $14,000 to $50,000 USD. Including travel expenses for the volunteers, The UVU-MM prosthetic cost is approximately $500 per prosthetic. With additional funding, more amputees will have the opportunity to utilize the prosthetic.