“My work in the Solomon Islands.” (Part 2- Solomon Islands)

Nov 27, 2019

Written by: Jeff Allen

I have been doing mission work in the Solomon Islands since 2010 along with my wife, Suzie, who is a Solomon Islander.  We have two little girls, Eliana and Ariella, who also help out.  Three years ago, we had to return here to the United States (US) because my wife was experiencing chronic health issues.  So we’ve been here, in Richmond, VA, attending to those health issues and developing a farm where others from overseas could have the opportunity to come to work, live and learn.

In August of 2018, in the village, “Lau Valley,” Suzie’s dad and my father-in-law, Hudson, had stepped on a piece of glass and his foot had become infected because he has diabetes.  So that August, they had to amputate his foot.  This procedure, however, didn’t help, and it became further infected, so they had to amputate his leg.  He was in the hospital for several months in the Solomon’s.  During this time, his health declined even further, and with his health, his emotional state declined as well.  He wasn’t eating, he wasn’t speaking, and he didn’t want to go on.  After all, he had taken care of many of his children and grandchildren through fishing, and now he couldn’t even walk.  All of this was just too much for him to bear, and he began to ‘give up’ on life. 

My wife Suzie was very concerned after finding out his condition, as were we all.  So immediately I felt that we should bring him over here to the US.  My father confirmed this when he mentioned the same thing at about the same time.  So I started the process for Hudson to be able to come over to Richmond, VA.  That whole process is and was a miracle because we didn’t have any funds for him to come on, and we certainly had no idea how he would get a prosthetic leg or even what doctor he would see.  But as the word went out and I asked others to support it; the money for the airline tickets came in.  

In Honiara – Capital of the Solomon Islands., there are 3 to 5 amputations a week, and no road to recovery…

Hudson, on his way to Richmond, which was made possible by the generous donations of supporters who care.

When Hudson arrived, he brought his wife, Ellen, along with their niece, Melvina, to help them as they both have difficulty walking.  Hudson and Ellen settled into my parent’s home, and Melvina stayed at our place.  Having diabetes Hudson had to remain on a strict diet, and we purchased local produce and fish from the international store up the road.  Every day I would go over, and we would make sure his food was prepared, and also check his blood sugar levels.  My dad had a knee scooter he no longer used, so Hudson used it to roll around.

A few weeks after Hudson arrived, my dad contacted a friend of his who also had had amputations of his legs.  This friend recommended we see physical therapist David Lawrence at Lawrence Rehabilitation Specialists – The Gait Center.  So we made an appointment, not having any funds . . . We just stepped out in faith.  When Hudson met Mr. Lawrence, we both immediately knew we were in the right place.  Mr. Lawrence looked at Hudson’s leg and immediately called a prosthetist, his friend and colleague just down the road at the Hanger Clinic; Gil Mejia.

Hudson began the process of fitting for a prosthesis through Gil Mejia and the Hanger Clinic in Richmond Va.  During this time he was stabilizing his blood sugar levels with diet and exercise (rolling around on the knee scooter, and crutches).  They fitted him for his prosthetic device, and immediately you could see his whole countenance change, hope came in, and determination to walk again as well.  Hudson saw the possibility.  It took a few times of fitting to get the prosthetic leg to where it wouldn’t blister, and then he was about ready to start therapy with David Lawrence who specializes in physical therapy with prosthetic patients.

A week before he was supposed to start therapy, I found Hudson unresponsive downstairs on the couch; he had suffered a major stroke.  As the ER doctors were urgently treating Hudson, they told me that the chances of him recovering may not be very good as it was a significant blockage and the artery was completely closed.  They also told us that if he did improve, he might never be able to move his right side again.  It was the side of the prosthetic leg and the very reason we had brought him over to the US. 

The surgeon who was on call happened to be the head neurovascular surgeon in the hospital, very well respected, and he arrived very quickly.  He mentioned to Ellen, Hudson’s wife (who was in shock) and myself that he would do what he could, and he would do his best, but there were no guarantees.  So as a family, we began praying and asking others also to join us in prayer for Hudson. I kept thinking to myself, “why did we bring him over here? Was it for nothing?”  So we prayed, and we waited to hear from the surgeon.  About 45 minutes later, the surgeon came out and announced he had completely removed the clot, and the surgery went very well, but still no promises on a complete recovery. 

So thankful, relieved, and tired, everyone went home to get some sleep.  Ellen stayed with Hudson through the night at Johnston Willis Hospital.  The next morning we came into the ICU at Johnston Willis, and Hudson was sitting up in bed talking like nothing had happened.  I was completely amazed; I had never seen anything like that.  Just last night he was in a coma state, couldn’t speak, couldn’t move, no response whatsoever, and this morning he’s ready to jump out of bed. Incredible!  He moved his arms and legs for the doctors and nurses. He had a 100% recovery.  They wanted to release him from the hospital directly from the Intensive Care Unit, which is unheard of.  But, just in case, I had the doctor ‘step him down’ for a day or so.

Gil Mejia from Hanger Clinic – Richmond, takes the time to learn a persons lifestyle before he creates their prosthetic leg.

So basically, not only did Hudson receive a prosthetic leg but coming to the US also saved his life. His condition would have most likely been terminal in the Solomon Islands.  Through having the stroke, the doctors found other health issues such as an irregular heartbeat, that they would have never discovered if this wouldn’t have happened.  

David begins the process of therapy using the gait model which Mission Gait is now teaching to physical therapists everywhere!

Hudson was released from the hospital and given medications for these other issues. He then went miraculously to physical therapy with David Lawrence the following week.  David was able to treat Hudson personally because he had just had surgery himself and was on ‘work leave’ for that, and not treating patients at the time. Despite that or possibly because of that, David was able to work directly with Hudson himself. 

Under David’s therapy, Hudson progressed very quickly; each session was taking monumental steps forward. I watched Hudson progress from walking in with crutches to walking unassisted, climbing stairs, walking fast, running, walking over uneven ground and surfaces, even playing some soccer for therapy (balance).  David’s techniques are clear, progressive, and achieve results very quickly. 

Also, during the therapy, Hudson learned the art of ‘socking’ and being able to change the number of socks you wear for optimal performance.  Gil and Hanger Clinic also provided Hudson with an additional prosthetic for going into the ocean, as Hudson lives most of his life on the sea and supports his family with fishing.  So with the life-altering prostheses and physical therapy, Hudson was released and able to return to the Solomon Islands.

When Mr. Lawrence first explained the process of getting a prosthetic device and physical therapy, he also explained that he and Gil Mejia, have been collaborating for years on patients, as well as, volunteering together with Walking Free – a non-profit that has helped to establish sustainable prosthetic clinics and train rehab professional in under-served countries around the world. We learned that Walking Free is now the international program within Mission Gait – a non-profit that David Lawrence founded to bring education and research on gait training to rehabilitation professionals across the country and overseas. It would be through these efforts that all of Hudson’s therapy and prosthetic care would be free of charge.

This to me, was a miracle, as I listened to Mr. Lawrence explain how in one situation, they partnered with a team to outfit a 40-foot shipping container to treat patients in the Dominican Republic. Also that this helped provide sustainable jobs for locals, and some amputees themselves became trained as technicians – learning how to help make the prosthetic devices. A role for them that they could do, providing an income. I knew after hearing Mr. Lawrence; this was a miracle. What are the chances? We were definitely in the right place. Knowing how many people need this in the Solomon Islands, and how many have amputations just like Hudson; I knew God had us in the right place, at the right time.

Mission Gait’s – International Walking Free Program is successfully providing care to 9 countries all over the world.

David, Hudson and Jeff Allen on their last day in the United States.

Before Hudson left to go back to the Solomon Islands, we stopped by Mission Gait to follow up and thank them for everything. It just so happened that we arrived when they were working on a new project for a portable prosthetic lab in the Dominican Republic. Hearing about this project led to us discussing the possibility of a ‘Prosthetic Lab” for the Solomon Islands people as a whole so that everyone could have access to a prosthetic device there in the country… and walk again. This discussion has led to the start of a new Walking Free program – Solomon Islands Container Prosthetic Lab. To me, this is the larger mission of Hudson and our experience, and that is to provide a way for everyone in the Solomon’s to also be able to have the same opportunity Hudson has had and to have hope once again that they too can walk again.  

Presently, Hudson is back in the Solomons, an ambassador/advocate for those who need prostheses there.  People even come to his house and ask him how they too can get a prosthesis.  The Director of Rehabilitation of the whole of Solomon Islands is on board with the ‘Container Prosthetic Lab.’ There are also two local Solomon Islanders trained in prosthetics ready to get to work, as well as, a supporting group that will be there long term for the sustainability of the project.  Everything is in place; we are just waiting for the final approval to begin. 

So please be in prayer as this story continues and hopefully hundreds, if not thousands, will also be able to obtain a prosthetic device and be able to walk again.  There are many, many amputees waiting for this to happen. Presently most of them are housebound, and their health is declining. But when this ‘Container Prosthetic Lab’ gets there, they too can have the ability to walk again. — Asking for your prayers and support.  Thanks so much!

Catch up on reading Part 1 “Shake Things Up! See what it takes for a man to change a village and impact a nation…”

View additional pictures in the slide gallery below…