Goodbye to Selvia: one of our Top Prosthetics & Orthotics Supervisors

Selvia (right) fitting a person with a disability in Atambua with a new prosthetic.

We’re sad to farewell one of our brilliant staff, Selvia Suryadinata, our Prosthetics & Orthotics Supervisor! Selvia has been with PUSPADI Bali for almost two years after graduating from the Jakarta School of Orthotics and Prosthetics.

Selvia has a tremendous work ethic, with the people with disabilities that we support always receiving the utmost care when she made their prosthetic, orthotic or mobility aid.

The PUSPADI Bali team will really miss her but we’re excited about her future possibilities as she heads off to do further studies in her field in Thailand.

In an interview below, Selvia reflects on her last outreach trip to Atambua where she and Nesa (our workshop manager) did assessments and castings of prosthetics for people with disabilities living in one of the poorest regions in Indonesia.

PUSPADI Bali has a collaboration with Pusat Rehabilitasi Hidup Baru Atambua and the team assisted our staff in identifying local people with disabilities who needed our help.

Describe the work that you were doing in Atambua?

We were doing the normal work that we were doing at PUSPADI Bali, such as assessments, castings, fitting the products and then delivering to the clients. In Atambua itself, we went there for 7 days (and in 6 days we did all of the work and did a day trip to people with a disability’s home in remote areas).

What kinds of disabilities did you come across in that region?

We saw a lot of people with polio or who had amputations because of trauma or from infected, small wounds (potentially a scratch from a knife) and so, as they didn’t clean or treat it, it became worse and spread, which led to an amputation.

For local people who didn’t have or weren’t using a mobility aid, what did they rely on instead?

They are mostly using a stick that they’ve made from bamboo or wood every day or they only walk with their knee, so, walking by kneeling.

Most of the people with disabilities that we see are farmers and in Atambua, if it is dry season, it’s very dry but the problem with the rainy season, is that there is mud everywhere.

So, when they are walking through these areas, they are mostly only using their knees and that’s why we found a lot of knee contraction problems. It’s really hard for them and we hope we can help more people in Atambua because they really need our devices.

Describe the journey of travelling long distances to find more people with disabilities living in Atambua?

One of the people with disabilities that we visited lived 7/8 hours away from where we were but the street itself is not really as smooth as the ones here (in Denpasar).

Also, the bridge over the river that we had to cross and the forest that we had to pass through had no light at all (and it was really dark).

We had to do as much as possible because if we pass the way in the night, we wouldn’t see anything because it’s only all in darkness and not everyone has electricity.

Selvia (right) assessing and fitting a prosthetic for a person with a disability, without light at night-time in the Atambua region.

What did you and Nesa do once you arrived and were inside the homes?

We followed up with people with disabilities that we had seen before and to see if they needed an assessment, casting, other support or if they needed to go to Pusat Rehabilitasi Hidup Baru Atambua and we’d arrange to meet them there.

It’s difficult for Hidup Baru staff who found them and tried to bring them to the centre to get mobility devices from us because sometimes the people with disabilities didn’t want the devices or they felt embarrassed or something like that.

Sometimes, there is a person with a disability who needs a brace or other device and we explain the function of it but then they would say, that they don’t want to wear those kinds of devices because they were very worried about how their family would react. It is also too because the mind isn’t open to this kind of support and its benefits.

Did you notice a difference in the mindset towards people with disabilities in Bali and Atambua?

Yes, as the awareness towards people with disabilities in Atambua is less than here (Bali) and maybe it is because of their families. In Bali, families will try to hide people with disabilities from society but in Atambua, many of the families will not allow them to access mobility aids or other support and it was a lot more difficult.

Once they get the prosthetic leg, what is it like for the person with a disability to then go back to their community in Atambua?

Previously, it was really hard for Pusat Rehabilitasi Hidup Baru Atambua to approach people with disabilities to use rehabilitation devices but after they tried it and know how it works, they felt like they needed it. After that, more people with disabilities that we support in Atambua are using our devices until it wears down and they get a new one.

How many new people with a disability is PUSPADI Bali now supporting in Atambua?

There are 27 new people with disabilities that we are supporting in Atambua, with two people with disabilities needing brace castings and another 15 who need mobility devices (including prosthetics and AFOs). They are mostly female at the moment but there isn’t a big difference, with about 60% female and 40% male.

How important is PUSPADI Bali’s outreach program and travelling to these remote places?

It is important because I think in Atambua itself, it’s really hard to get any mobility devices. People with disabilities can get a wheelchair but it can be from really far away or they can get it from Kupang (which is 8 hours driving) or from Atambua. However, with prosthetics itself, they never can really get it from anywhere and it’s very difficult.