Allan is a 14-year-old from Uganda. And he is the one of the most amazing Pacer users that Rifton has ever known.
In Uganda, Allan attended the
Nyaka AIDS Orphans School. Wherever he wanted to go, he had to crawl over the hard–packed earth, using his strong left arm—and a fierce determination—to propel himself, since his right arm and both legs were severely crippled. A missions group working with the school arranged for Allan to come to the United States for medical help. When he arrived, one of the first things his hosts noticed were the huge calluses on his knees. They also noticed that he brought nothing with him except the clothes on his back and a cardboard box of Ugandan food staples.
But the picture was about to change for Allan, as many people immediately rallied around him. The Cousino family of Michigan took him into their home. In a heartbeat, he was ingesting American food like a local. And from November of 2008 to May of 2009 he underwent a total of five surgeries to ameliorate bilateral knee and right wrist contractures, and had pins placed in his toes to straighten them.
Then, in February, rehab began. It took several months of serial casting to get Allan’s knees straight. Once this was accomplished, he began the task of learning to bear weight on his feet. Next, he needed to learn reciprocal leg movement. A large Rifton tricycle was soon aiding him in this. So well, in fact, that within a few weeks he was riding too fast for the hospital hallways. Now he was ready to be upright. His outpatient PT believed that the Rifton Pacer would be the product to help him. In early June, his "first day ever" in the Pacer, he walked 50 feet in about 30 minutes. He was so excited: he had never walked in his entire life. By July he was walking 1500 feet—the length of a loop of indoor walkway between two buildings. It took a long, long time to make it around the loop but nothing was stopping Allan.
His American "Dad" Ken kept pace with him every step of the way: When Allan’s therapist recommended the sit–to–stand and stand–to–sit activity as "a good quad strengthening exercise, to do as you manage," this team came in at the next appointment and asked, "Is 250 times every two hours enough?" Besides this, Ken and Allan decided that coming in for walking practice on the hospital’s Pacer was something they couldn’t get enough of. It became a daily occurrence. To say they were motivated and dedicated would be a gross understatement.
All the practice paid off. By August, Allan was walking twice around the walkway loop every day, and doing it in an hour. Slowly and steadily the prompt supports were removed as Allan made progress. By the end of August, he actually took 10 steps with a reverse walker. Even though everyone knew he would always rely on a reverse walker, along with a wheelchair for long distances, these steps meant the world.
and exuberant spirit made for many surprises. When he learned to ride an adaptive tricycle, he hatched a plan to cycle to his therapy appointment. He made his "Dad" Ken stop their vehicle and help him mount the trike a good 3 miles from the outpatient clinic. All on his own, he then laboriously pedaled his way along the bicycle trail that led to the hospital. His therapist will never forget her amazement when Allan showed up, dripping sweat, but elated by the dumbfounded look on her face!
Another time Ken and his wife were ho
me, well aware that Allan was upstairs (it took work to get him there). Suddenly they heard a noise and looked up to see Allan standing at the top of the stairs, hanging onto the railing with all his might. And then—would you believe it—with insurmountable effort and some help from Ken, he slowly made his own way down the stairs, step over step. A miracle moment.
That’s Allan for you. Everything he’s accomplished—from his rapid learning (he reads English, and has mastered useful mental math), to gaining 50 pounds (he loves chocolate!), and ultimately to leaving the Pacer behind him—was possible only because of his enthusiasm for life and his goal of returning to his friends and classmates in Uganda, ready to excel with the best of them. Uganda, here I come!
Allan and his therapist team
To learn more about Nyaka AIDS Orphans School, please visit www.nyakaschool.org.
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To see Allan when he was younger, attending school by crawling, click here and scroll down to the middle video entitled "Nyaka Documentary Trailer (short version)." At approximately 1:20 minutes into the trailer you will see Allan coming out of a doorway, until about 1:40 minutes.