From Zambia to Australia for a new leg

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Eighteen year old Dorcas Kalunga returned home to Zambia on 13 August after surgery that has changed her life. Her journey to Australia is thanks to the efforts of the Serenje orphanage where she lives, and a group of Australian volunteers with a connection to Children First Foundation.

Dorcas was born with one leg shorter than the other. Her mother died when she was two years old, and she lived with her aunt until moving to the orphanage when she was eleven.

Enter Children First supporters Ken and Gill Garth.  Every two years they join a group of parishioners from St Mary’s Anglican Church in Sunbury to volunteer at the Chibobo orphanage, which is approximately 32 kilometres from Serenje.

Serenje orphanage has a commitment to education, and Dorcas is a very bright student – initially she had plans to be a bank manager. Orphanage director Angus Kamandeta knew that Children First had assisted a child from Chibobo orphanage six years ago, and wishing to find help for Dorcas, he approached them for help in contacting the Foundation.

Ken and Gill facilitated introductions to Children First, medical reports were sought and submitted, and the case was presented and accepted by orthopaedic surgeon Professor Leo Donnan and St Vincent’s Private Hospital in Melbourne.

When St Mary’s volunteers returned to Australia last July, Dorcas was with them – her flight funded by Children First – and she was safely delivered into the hands of Children First to be cared for pre-and post-surgery at the Foundation’s Rehabilitation Home (The Farm) in Kilmore.

Professor Donnan found Dorcas had severe childhood infection causing destruction of her hip and extensive scarring. She was not able to walk stably due to the severe shortening of her leg and a poorly fitting prosthesis. Dr Donnan considered surgery to correct her hip condition however this would have required multiple complex procedures over a number of years, and a major interruption to her education. The recommended plan was amputation of her foot to enable her to be fitted with a properly fitted prosthetic leg.

Dorcas’s new leg was expertly made and fitted by the staff at OAPL (Orthopaedic Appliances Pty Ltd) in Fitzroy and provided to the Foundation at a generous humanitarian rate. She’s walking well – even riding a bike around the Farm – and is happy to be returning home to renew her education – all thanks to surgeon, hospital, orthotists, physiotherapists, volunteers, Foundation, and the good intentions of two orphanages in Zambia.

In a touching note before she left, Dorcas expressed her appreciation to everyone who helped her.  “I’m really happy that I can walk properly,” she wrote.  “When I go back to Zambia I will be praying that Children First can continue helping people from different countries.”

The Directors and Staff of the Foundation were very saddened to learn of the untimely death of Orthopaedic Surgeon Mr Ian Torode.

Ian was a very special friend and surgeon to many of our children.  His endless patience and understanding  towards the  children, who were often fearful on arrival, ensured that they achieved the best possible outcome from his surgical care.

So many children from resource poor countries are now able to walk thanks to Ian’s surgical skills and his determination to help them.

His generosity and kindness in providing this humanitarian service to our children will always be remembered.

We send our deepest condolences to his family and his many colleagues.  He will be sadly missed.

Margaret Smith OAM
Chief Executive Officer