Polio survivor receives 'new leg' (+ video)

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LOOKING FORWARD: QE helps Fijian polio victim Reggie Kumar who is looking forward to his new leg. PHOTO/STEPHEN PARKER
LOOKING FORWARD: QE helps Fijian polio victim Reggie Kumar who is looking forward to his new leg. PHOTO/STEPHEN PARKER

A Fijian polio survivor will soon be able to walk again with ease thanks to QE Health Rotorua and Polio New Zealand.

Reggie Kumar, 59, can't wait to take a long walk with his "new leg".

Mr Kumar was diagnosed with polio as an 18-month-old which left the right side of his body weak and almost paralysed his right leg.

His one set of braces were made more than 40 years ago.

Despite his best efforts at maintenance, they are no longer functional.

Fiji has no orthotic services and there are limited treatment options for him there.

Polio New Zealand sponsored Mr Kumar to come to New Zealand to be fitted with new orthotic braces at QE Health's orthotics department.

He will stay for three weeks for assessment, construction and fitting of the braces.

He will also attend a Polio New Zealand retreat in Rotorua this weekend with more than 50 others.

Mr Kumar said the steel joints on his braces were made two years ago, but the braces were made when he was 17.

"It means a lot to me, I will be able to move around freely and I will be able to carry around some weight. If I go do shopping I won't need somebody else to lift it and put it in the car.

"I am a pastor and there are times when people want me to go to the hospital and pray for someone and I can't, it's very very hard. I have reduced my movement a lot and I have gained a lot of weight because I'm not able to do the exercise."

He said when he first started complaining and crying his parents thought he was teething, but then he was taken to hospital.

"I was quarantined for four years with other polio victims. We were not allowed to go home.

"As time went by my family couldn't come very often, my parents were on the other side of Fiji and so my foster grandmother and grandfather really took care of me.

"In 1963 the Pentecostal church came and prayed for me and after that I was released from the hospital.

"Then I was tested to see if I was mentally okay when I started school. One day I would go to a normal school and then one day I would go to the disabled school. I did that for one year, after one year they said, 'he's okay, he can go to normal school'."

Mr Kumar said his new brace would be amazing.

"My family are very, very excited, there is no words to describe it. They have seen me hobbling around. I am really indebted to Polio New Zealand, there's no words, no words."

OE Health orthotist Caleb Van Buskirk said Mr Kumar's leg was not a normal shape.

"His current brace probably fit him 40 years ago when he got it, but he has changed quite a bit since then.

"He's not bearing weight on the heel, it's all on the side and his foot has kind of broken down through the middle.

"It's not going to be fully normal, there is weakness throughout his leg, he walks really well for the weakness that he has got. We are looking to improve where he is at right now and just preserve his ankle joint a little bit more.

"The brace will just come up to his knee which will give him some side to side stability, but losing the thigh component and losing the joints are going to make it a lot lighter for him.

"It should let him roll through a little bit easier. It should improve his energy expenditure and the stability and comfort.

"His current brace has got screws and bolts and sharp edges everywhere and I'm amazed he doesn't have more skin break down then he does."

- Rotorua Daily Post

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