Susan Banda is 17. She was the first patient of the 500 miles Centre in Mzuzu. She was born with deformed legs and has never been able to stand or walk. She has spent all of her life in a wheel chair or crawling on the ground. Her father left her mother when she was born because she was disabled.
Her mother married again but when she had more children with her new husband, the husband rejected Susan and she was sent to live with her grandmother who was also disabled. After a few years, the community realised that her grandmother was not able to look after Susan properly so they took her to a kind Malawian couple called Joseph and Gertrude, who already had five children of their own, and asked them to take her in.
When this family heard about 500 miles’ first Centre in Lilongwe, it arranged for Susan’s legs to be amputated, one above knee and one through knee so that she could be fitted with legs. Then they brought her to 500 miles and we fitted Susan with her first legs in June 2011.
However when new amputees first start using their legs the muscles atrophy and very quickly the sockets become too big. The problem was that it is 6-7 hours in a bus on a poor road between Mzuzu and Lilongwe and it was also expensive for Susan to travel to and from Lilongwe with a guardian and to stay in Lilongwe and so Susan had ended up immobile again. As soon as she heard about our Centre in Mzuzu she was visiting the building site in her wheelchair regularly to make sure she was first in line.
You can see Susan standing in the doorway of the 500 miles Centre with the legs that her prosthetist, Dumisani, made for her and then in the first video below, doing what she told us she wanted to be able to do – “the same as all the other women in the village” – to draw water and carry it on her head.
In October 2013 Sam took Olivia to visit Susan and Joseph and Gertrude at their home on the lakeshore at Chinteche. They went out for a walk which you can see in the second video below. It’s much more difficult for an amputee without knees to walk and Susan’s apparent ease of mobility is down to her strength and determination.
Susan told Olivia that she’s now at school full time, that she walks everywhere, that she likes to make her own clothes, that although it will mean sticking in at maths which is a challenge, she wants to work with people with disabilities because she knows what it’s like to live with a disability and will be able to help them to value themselves and to see their opportunities – and that Gertrude always told her, and she always believed, that God would send her legs when it was the right time.