Domingo's Drive


When the Typhoon hit Tacloban, Domingo Ursabia’s nine grandchildren found shelter at school. The rest of the family sheltered at home. When the house started to collapse, they fled to the day care center, but that building began to collapse too. Finally, they found shelter in the elementary school. 

“When the typhoon was over, we inspected the damage and my wife Vilma and I both felt depressed,” Domingo said. “We almost thought it was a pity to be alive. Our house had been completely destroyed.”

Domingo started to clean up the mess, but while he removed the debris, he injured himself. For Domingo, who is a diabetic and wasn’t able to disinfect his wound properly, this turned out to be extremely dangerous.

“In the end, I couldn’t walk,” he recalled, while Vilma began to cry quietly. “My wife took me to the Australian Hospital in Tacloban to get me vaccinated against tetanus, but it wasn’t enough. Five days later, the doctors had to remove my leg below the knee.”

At that time, two Handicap International physiotherapists visited the Australian Hospital and met Domingo. They ensured his follow-up, but when they returned to check on Domingo, they learned that the Australian Hospital had discharged him. Domingo had disappeared.

With 28 years of work in the Philippines, Handicap International is able to help other NGOs deliver their aid by adding it to our distribution network. And on Dec. 12, this assistance led another Handicap International team back to Domingo.

As the team was assessing an extremely isolated barangay (BRGY 103), and helping Shelter Box, a partner Handicap International worked with in Haiti after Hurricane Sandy, to deliver its kits to hard-to-reach areas. As they began distributing emergency kits and tents, Domingo reappeared. He and 14 other members of his family were living in a badly damaged house, without any protection from the elements.

Handicap International provided Domingo's family with a Shelter Box shelter, which included a tent, a water container, sleeping mattresses, mosquito nets and blankets. Additionally, a hygiene kit would help Domingo's family stay clean and healthy, while a new pair of crutches fit for Domingo ensured he'd spend more time upright.

Henri, Handicap International’s occupational therapist, was still concerned. Domingo's stump was exposed and his other foot was infected. To ensure Domingo didn’t lose his other leg, Henri referred him to the MSF Hospital, where doctors operated on Domingo a second time on Dec. 17. The operation went well—Domingo can keep his leg if no complications occur.

Handicap International will keep a close eye on Domingo to ensure he can get the medicine he needs, and will provide him with rehabilitation care, too. Two Handicap International physiotherapists and one occupational therapist will provide support in four hospitals in Tacloban, including two MSF hospitals, to ensure other Filipinos like Domingo can get the care they need as they recover.

Domingo had been a taxi driver, providing for the family before Haiyan struck. As he adjusts to his amputation, he cannot work—and the family has no income. Domingo hopes a prosthesis will allow him to drive again. “It’s the only job I’ve ever done,” he says. “I don’t know anything else. If I can’t work, I can’t feed my grandchildren. Without my leg I’m dead.”