By Jay Fidell
There are a million people, mostly in the developing world, who are missing their hands. They have been injured in land mine explosions, fishing with dynamite, machete amputations in war, and the like. And in the developing world it’s hard to get the expensive, high tech hands you can buy for big money in the first world. They’re not only expensive they’re not all that helpful in the rural environment and in a life of farming or manual labor in the developing world.
Art Fine is an attorney practicing in Los Angeles. His wife Margie is a surgeon. They’re both altruists and philanthropists. Art got involved with a nonprofit that distributes prosthetic hands. They're plastic and cost less than $50, parts and labor included, and perfect for the developing world. They’re secured on the remainder of the amputated arm with Velcro straps to allow the amputee to groom himself, perform household tasks and do work. He can clamp the fingers together and then release them by pulling at the wrist. The hand gives the amputee a new life.
Brad Wong is a retired local super surgeon who runs Aloha Medical Mission. He is completely dedicated to this work, every day 24 by 7. Last fall, Margie joined Brad and a number of others on an AMM mission to do surgery for a couple of hundred patients in Dhankuta, Nepal. Margie also brought some of Art's artificial hands, and they were distributed in Dhankuta. This was an important collaboration, and it added a new element to the work of AMM.
This past February, Art attended AMM’s trip to the Philippines. And two weeks ago, he came to Hawaii to teach members of the Aloha Medical Mission how to introduce and distribute the hand on their trips to developing countries. He will participate in more of those trips going forward.
Art and the foundation that distributes the hands have already distributed some 7,500 of them, but there are many more to come and a long way to go. Not only are there a million people out there who don't have hands but in fact that number is growing faster than Art can reduce it.
The story of Geraldine, an 8 year-old girl in the Philippines, is memorable. She had lost a good bit of her left arm and was brought in for a fitting for one of Art’s hands during the AMM trip last February. But she didn’t have enough left of her arm to use the hand, and Art couldn't help her. The video showing her reaction (in quiet communion with her Teddy Bear) when she was told she could not have a hand is unforgettable.
Art was determined to help Geraldine. He went back to California and found a manufacturer who could redesign the hand to work for Geraldine. They made a hand that would fit on her shorter arm, and had it delivered to her in the Philippines. Now she's happily wearing her new prosthetic hand, and enjoying happier times with her Teddy Bear. The story of Geraldine is compelling.
What makes Art Fine run is pretty much the same as what makes Brad Wong run. Both are dedicated to helping people with the highest leverage possible. Just as Brad can change or save someone's life during his surgical missions, Art can recover a life in a few minutes by fitting a hand. They are brothers in kindness, and their collaboration, synergy and good work is a lesson for us all.
If you want to hear Brad and Art talk about these things, check out our latest video, starring the two them together on thinktechhawaii.com. It will touch you, not only for the gifts they are giving to so many people, but also for the gifts they are also giving each other.