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When Typhoon Haiyan’s powerful winds began tearing off the roofs of homes in his village near Tacloban, Dante, age 53, worried for the two men renting a small house on his property. Despite the danger, he decided he should leave his own home, find the men, and bring them to a safer place. When Dante got inside, a coconut tree smashed into the side of the house. As the wall came tumbling over, Dante pushed the men out of the way, saving their lives. However, the wall fell on Dante’s left leg, crushing the bones of his foot.
“It hurt so badly, I just wanted the whole foot cut off,” said Dante. After the storm, Dante was referred to a series medical organizations for treatment for his foot, which was also badly cut and infected. His wound was treated but surgery to repair the shattered bones in his foot was too difficult and too expensive to perform. Faced with the overwhelming need for medical care following the storm, doctors were focused on saving lives, not feet. Having the painful foot amputated would be the easiest option, Dante thought.
Dante was eventually referred to Iris Fortuna, a physiotherapist working for Handicap International. “When I found Dante in January he begged me to help him get an amputation,” says Iris. “However, when I assessed his foot I knew it could be saved if only we could find a hospital that could perform the complicated surgery to mend the broken bones. I asked Dante if he would be willing to wait while I tried to find a solution. He was in great pain but he said ‘yes.’”
For three weeks, Iris made phone calls and inquired at hospitals and clinics. Finally, she found a place willing to perform the surgery, the Mother of Mercy Hospital. Handicap International covered the cost of the expensive metal plates that were put in his foot to hold the bones together.
Iris visited Dante in the hospital on February 22, the day after the surgery to repair his foot. Surrounded by family members, Dante greeted Iris with a smile. “I owe you everything,” he said. “I can’t wait to go home.”
Six days later, Iris came to Dante’s home and taught him how to use his new crutches so that he could move efficiently and without pain. They practiced walking up and down the home’s cement foundation.
According to his doctor, Dante will be out of his cast in May and will make a full recovery. “It was a miracle that Iris came into my life,” said Dante. “I think of her as my sister, my daughter, my doctor, my everything. Whenever I have a problem, I call her and know that she will help.”
As Dante was not able to work during his hospitalization, Handicap International offered Dante’s adult son Renate a temporary job cleaning up storm debris as part of its cash-for-work program. The program provides people with disabilities or their family members with 18-day work assignments so they can earn income to support their families.