The New Generation of Indonesian Women Making Vital Prosthetics & Orthotics

Liana and Puspa knew they wanted to do much more to help people with disabilities who they’d seen struggling without a prosthetic, orthotic or mobility aid on the streets of Jakarta or their hometowns. So, they decided to make it their job.

The two driven Indonesian women, both in their twenties, are on the cusp of graduating from the Jakarta School of Prosthetics and Orthotics, after completing a four-month internship in PUSPADI Bali’s workshop.

They’ve been studying hard for the past four years and in August, they’ll become qualified prosthetic and orthotic technicians in a country crying out for their skills, to meet a growing demand for mobility aids for people with disabilities. Here, they reflect on their time at PUSPADI Bali and the wide-ranging experiences that have shaped them.

JSPO students Puspa (22) and Liana (24) putting the finishing touches on an AFO (ankle-foot orthosis), which is one of many prosthetics and orthotics they’ve made during their four-month internship in PUSPADI Bali’s workshop.

Describe the work that you’ve been doing during your placement.

(Liana) I’ve been making prosthetics and orthotics for people with disabilities and recently, I made a brace for someone who has problems with their spine and has paralysed legs.  So, we supported him to stand (with a mobility device).

How has this experience impacted on you? 

(Puspa)  I’ve liked how I’ve been able to work with more people with disabilities and get to know them directly. I also tried to be confident within myself and to learn more because I have enjoyed what I have done here. It has given me a new experience and an opportunity to try something new.

Tell us the moments that you’ve enjoyed the most during your time at PUSPADI Bali.

(Liana) I’ve loved making prosthetics and orthotics for below-knee amputees because when I study, I use the hard prosthesis and it is hard for me because there are many more steps. In here, the technician teaches me how to make soft prosthesis, and for me, that is easier, so, my mindset changed from the hard way to the simple way.

I most enjoyed when I went to Buleleng for casting and we got lost along the way, but lucky for us, the scenery was so beautiful.

Liana is fitting the first AFO on a young child in a remote village near Bali’s Mount Agung, where a large number of the population live in poverty.

Why did you want to become a prosthetic and orthotic technician?

(Liana) Actually, I didn’t know what I should do before I studied prosthetics and orthotics at the JSPO (the Jakarta School of Prosthetics and Orthotics).

I knew I wanted to work with people with disabilities and then I saw someone who cannot walk, and they had to use crutches. I was inspired when I could see that they could use the prostheses for amputation without assistive device (crutches) and it is amazing for me because I felt like, ‘is it real, did I make the device for him?’

What would you say to those people who are considering a career in prosthetics and orthotics?

(Puspa) I think it is good to be a prosthetist and orthotist because we learn so much about patience to not only make the device but how to improve a person with a disability’s life, so they can go back to their daily life.

Puspa has been developing real skills in prosthetics and orthotics by applying her knowledge when making mobility aids for people with disabilities who visit PUSPADI Bali’s workshop throughout the week.

What is your dream?

(Liana) Actually, being in this place has really inspired me and I would like to make a foundation like this because it is amazing and to do what PUSPADI Bali has accomplished for people with disabilities, by providing rehabilitation and mobility aids. I would like to develop a foundation in a rural area because there are high levels of cerebral palsy and people with disabilities also have difficulty coming to town for rehabilitation and to access services.

Tell us the steps involved in making a prosthetic or orthotic.

(Liana) First, we discuss with the person with a disability about their expectations and after that we learn more about their background and about the type of mobility aid they need, as well as its function. After that, we do a casting and take a model of the stump and then we work on the liner of the prosthetic or orthotic, before putting on plastic to strengthen it.

During the next stage, we assemble the component, so it can become functional. Then we do fitting and training with the person with a disability to show them how to use a prosthetic or orthotic and how to care for it. We tell them if they have a problem, they should come back in here, so we can make adjustments. After the rehabilitation stage, we deliver the mobility aid and follow up with them three months afterwards, to see how they’re going.

Liana fitting an AFO on a child during a field trip to Buleleng Regency in North Bali, as part of a joint partnership between PUSPADI Bali and Stepping Stones Bali.

Describe the feeling of going back home each day and knowing that you’ve made prosthetics and orthotics for people with a disability?

(Puspa) For me, I’m happy if I can make a device for them and it’s working. If I can’t do that, I feel like, ‘how can I not do this, what are the problems?’ And I should start again.

(Liana) I’m satisfied when prosthetics and orthotics are working well. For an amputee or a person with a disability, before, they can’t join in to groups but when they use PUSPADI Bali’s prosthetic, they can join the other group again. I also feel good when a person with a disability gives good feedback, like, a person who uses a wheelchair for a long time, around 5 years, and they weren’t standing anymore but we try to make a brace or mobility aid, so, at least they could stand. She looked so happy standing again.

What is your next step?

(Puspa) I’m currently looking and applying for jobs in the prosthetics and orthotics field.

(Liana) I graduate in August, so I’m now applying for jobs or I might look for a scholarship to do further study.

Puspa is applying a flesh-coloured covering to a prosthetic leg, so that it looks and feels like an actual leg that a  person with a disability will be comfortable to use.