MACON, Ga. – A Georgia college professor and his students are working to increase production of low-cost prosthetic legs they’re offering to amputees in Vietnam, some of whom have been injured by land mines left behind after the Vietnam War.
For the past five years, Mercer University biomedical engineering professor, Dr. Ha Van Vo, a group of students and faculty have been fitting amputees with free prosthetic legs that were developed in a lab on their campus in Macon. The program’s leaders are now working with contractors in Vietnam to manufacture the limbs there.
The group traveled to Vietnam in mid-December as part of the Mercer on Mission program, which was founded in 2007 and has established volunteer projects in southeast Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. The team began their journey in Ho Chi Minh City, then traveled about three hours south to Can Tho and finished their trip in Phung Hiep.
Dr. Vo, who emigrated from Vietnam to America in 1990, said the idea to develop prosthetic legs came from seeing countless people whose limbs were blown off or disfigured by land mines in postwar Vietnam. Many are injured or killed while farming, he said.
“I remembered my people in Vietnam with no legs, crawling. Children — a lot of them,” he said. “I said ‘Oh, we have to do something for them. They cannot just crawl in the dust like that.'”