EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

June 29, 2010

Prosthetic limbs sent from Salem to other nations

By Jillian Jorgensen
jjorgensen@eagletribune.com

SALEM — Prosthetic limbs aren't the first thing that comes to mind when people wonder what can be recycled — but Northeast Rehabilitation Hospital is hoping to put old limbs to new use.

"As people grow and change, their limb grows and changes, so they usually end up with one or two hanging around the house that they can't use anymore," according to Joanne Desmarais, a physical therapist and in-patient program coordinator at the hospital.

But those limbs can help others, and the hospital is collecting them over the next month. Federal regulations do not allow prosthetics to be recycled in the United States, so the donated limbs will be sent to other countries.

"It goes to people in other countries who don't have access to the new prosthetics," Desmarais said. "We're hoping a good share of them get to Haiti, but we can't be guaranteed where they go."

The hospital is working with American Prosthetics and Orthotics, which has an office in Salem, to collect the prosthetic limbs. They will be donated to MedShare, an agency that recycles and distributes surplus medical supplies and equipment.

"When people first have their amputation, their leg is a very different shape and size than it will be over the course of their recovery," she said. "The limb that they get first usually works for the first six months to a year."

Many people who have extra prosthetic limbs at home are eager to donate them to others.

"They're very aware of the financial cost of a prosthetic, and then they're also so much aware of the benefit of having a prosthetic, so they're usually more than willing to pass them on."

The last time the hospital collected prosthetic limbs was in 2006 when more than 100 were donated. Desmarais said she is looking forward to receiving a similar number this year.

"I think 100 was a pretty good turnout, so I'm hoping," she said.

Desmarais said the Northeast Rehabilitation hospitals in Salem and Nashua will both participate, as well as the dozens of outpatient facilities that are part of the network. They will continue to collect the limbs throughout July.

Desmarais said the drive will also be a nice way to part with prosthetics left behind by family members who have died.

"When people are sick, they accumulate so much equipment and then when they don't need it anymore, a lot of people want to get it out of sight," she said. "This is just a nice way to do it."

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To donate

Anyone who wants to donate prosthetic limbs or orthotics should bring them to Northeast Rehabilitation Hospital, 70 Butler St., Salem. Donations can also be sent to Northeast Rehabilitation Hospital at Southern New Hampshire Medical Center's West Campus, 29 Northwest Blvd., Nashua.