During a weekend student mission trip to paint an orphanage in Mexico's state of Baja California, Michael Moor could not have anticipated he would have the opportunity to dramatically change the life of one little girl.
Moor, instructor of orthotics and prosthetics at Loma Linda University School of Allied Health Professions, says the original plan was for the student mission group to paint playground equipment at the Door of Faith Orphanage, one of the largest orphanages in Baja. But news of the group’s arrival soon traveled to local healthcare center, Siloé Wellness Center in La Mision — run by co-founder and medical director, Sarah Mayer, PA, a Loma Linda University alumna.
When Mayer found out the group had representatives from the orthotics and prosthetics, physical therapy and occupational therapy departments, she asked if Moor and a small student team would be willing to see a few patients the next day. The healthcare center was unable to offer orthotics and prosthetic specialty services to patients.
“We assessed four patients in one day, fashioning molds and prostheses using supplies from the healthcare center and the local hardware store,” Moor says. “But one case was significantly more complex.”
Miranda, at six years old, was the victim of an equestrian accident. While riding on horseback, a lasso rope lying across the saddle wrapped around her arm as the horse spooked. The wild mare sprinted away and the noose tightened, burning Miranda’s arm so severely that the doctor had to amputate her arm below her elbow.
After the accident, she was given a passive arm prosthetic designed to look like a natural arm, without active movement or functionality. Now, nine years of age, Miranda had not only outgrown the prosthetic arm, but was unable to do everyday tasks like tying her own shoes without the help of others.
“I knew that successful treatment would require multiple follow-up visits and a custom, body-powered hook prosthetic,” Moor says.
Moor left Mexico with the promise of returning the following month with a new, functioning arm and hand for Miranda.
In May, Moor returned to Mexico with a group of orthotics and prosthetics students to fit Miranda with her new arm.
After the fitting, with her mother at her side, Moor asked Miranda to complete a first task using her body-powered prosthetic by picking up a specific rubber band from a large bag of multi-colored bands. He told her to choose her favorite color in the bunch. Moor says without thinking she plunged her good arm into the bag to select a green rubber band. He told her “Wait, try that again, but this time use your new hand.”
Miranda was able to choose a rubber band from the bag on the first attempt using a body-powered hook prosthetic device operated by a cable system that uses body movements, like shoulder shrugging, in order to open and close the hook-shaped device.
“Her mother burst into tears and embraced her daughter, together they celebrated with long hugs, smiles and tears,” Moor says. “It was a blessing to be part of that life-changing moment.”
Because of the success of the multi-disciplinary student team, Moor has volunteered to lead rehabilitation-focused student mission trips to Mexico every other month.
“We can accomplish so much in just one short weekend of international service,” Moor says.
To learn more about Loma Linda University student mission trips, please visit the SIMS website.