Friars Abroad: My Ecuador Experience with ROMP

A Fenwick young alumna shares details about five days in South America with the Range of Motion Project (ROMP), during which her team built 18 prosthetic limbs for amputees.

By Jane Farrell ’16

Jane with Team ROMP in Ecuador.

One of the most remarkable things about Fenwick High School is its alumni network. I remember being in Paris with my family when my older brother [Social Studies Department Chair, Varsity Football Defensive Coordinator and alumnus Alex Holmberg ’05] was stopped by a Fenwick alum that recognized the shield on his shirt. Not only is the Fenwick alumni network far-reaching, but it is also high-accomplishing. This past May, I got the incredible opportunity to serve amputees in Quito, Ecuador, thanks to a high-accomplishing Fenwick alum. I never would have gotten to go on this inspiring trip had it not been for the faith I have in the quality of Fenwick’s alumni network.

As a rising junior in the biomedical engineering program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I wanted to spend my summer doing something within my desired career field. One of my classes at UNC piqued my interest in the prosthetics field, so I shadowed a prosthetist at Shriner’s Children Hospital in December. I was inspired to continue exploring the prosthetics field, and a family friend and fellow Friar fan [past/present Fenwick parent], Kate Nikolai, recommended that I check out ROMP, the Range of Motion Project. She told me that it was an organization that worked with amputees in Ecuador and Guatemala. The best part was that that one of the co-founders, David Krupa, is a fellow Fenwick alum (Class of ’98).

As I looked into ROMP, I realized it was the perfect trip for me. ROMP’s mission is to provide high-quality prosthetic care in under-served populations, which enhances mobility and unlocks human potential. Through ROMP, volunteers can travel to Ecuador or Guatemala for the opportunity to work with local prosthetists and patients. The incredible thing about ROMP is that volunteers get to be heavily involved in the entire prosthetic process — from the casting of the patient to the device delivery to the physical therapy work.

Jesus and Jane

My personal experience with ROMP was nothing short of life changing. In May, I traveled to Quito, Ecuador by myself. I knew no one on this trip, but knowing that a fellow Friar would be there was comforting.

We worked in a local clinic, Fundacion Hermano Miquel, for five days serving 16 patients. I personally worked with two patients, Jesús and Carlos. Obviously, Jesús is pronounced like the Spanish name and not like Jesus Christ, but I don’t find it a coincidence that they share a spelling as my patient Jesús was an absolute ray of sunshine and reminded me of the importance of serving others. Even though he lived in severe poverty, he always offered to buy me a Coke with what little money he had.

Jesús was a below-knee amputee while Carlos was an above-knee amputee. Over the course of five days, myself and two other volunteers worked closely with an Ecuadorian prosthetist to build two brand-new prosthetics for these men. Both Jesús and Carlos lost their limbs in car accidents and were in desperate need of prosthetic care. Being able to provide them with the care they needed was extremely rewarding, and I will forever remember the lessons I learned from these two inspirational men.

March, Friars …

Fellow alumnus Dave Krupa (right), in a 2015 photo, is an amputee himself.

While I did not work directly on patients with Dave Krupa, we spent a decent amount of time together. I recall one day, we were both working on sculpting prosthetic molds when Dave looked at me and clapped the intro to the “Fenwick Fight Song.” Even though he graduated 20 years ago, he still knew all the words! I was very impressed. Although his memory of the fight song was impressive, there are much more impressive things about Dave. He is fluent in Spanish, and he pointed out that Fenwick and Ms. Megall were integral in his Spanish education. Not only is he a prosthetist and a co-founder of an incredible organization that serves amputees in Third-World countries, but he himself is an amputee. He is one of the most active people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting, and he serves as an amazing example of celebrating your own mobility.

My trip to Quito with ROMP was exactly what I needed this summer. It inspired me to keep exploring the prosthetic field, to continue serving others, and to celebrate my own mobility. I owe all of that to Fenwick for producing such inspiring alumni. Without Fenwick, I would not have felt comfortable traveling to a new country where I knew no one.

If you would like to learn more about how you can help ROMP continue their service in Ecuador and Guatemala, please visit their website at www.rompglobal.org.

If anybody at Fenwick wants an opportunity to help the Range of Motion Project, there is a climb in Chicago that is a fundraiser for the program as well as a way to celebrate your mobility! Here is the link: Climbing for ROMP.

A very happy Jesús.

 

Alumnus David Krupa’s favorite ROMP story and read more about the Forest Park native and humanitarian.

One Reply to “Friars Abroad: My Ecuador Experience with ROMP”

  1. I am very heartened to hear of your experience. There are still
    People who believe in doing helpful work to make life better!

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