About a year ago retired orthopedic surgeon Dr. Byron McCord returned from Malawi, Africa as a U.N. volunteer where he was one of only two orthopedic surgeons in the country. At a luncheon program Dr. McCord told the Soldotna Rotary Club of his work there and the increasing numbers of broken limbs due to emerging automobile traffic without the basic needs of medical equipment to stabilize limbs for surgery.
According to McCord treating these orthopedic injuries improperly is becoming one of the most serious medical issues in third world countries. The breadwinner of a family has a higher likelihood of breaking a bone in a vehicle accident or work related injury. Many of the more serious broken bones are set improperly and there may be additional complications which may cause a longer period of being bedridden or even worse, can result in amputation or death. Since most workers in third world countries live day to day, being bedridden with a broken bone and not able to work may put a serious hardship on that individual and their family. Recognizing the problem Dr. McCord developed the “Alaska Traveling Triangle,” to take with him when he was volunteering in Africa. With the help of Mackey Lake Welding he manufactured 50 of the Alaska Traveling Triangles sets. He teamed up with an organization called SIGN Fracture Care International to help distribute the orthopedic triangles. SIGN Fracture Care International is a non-profit organization. A complete set has one large triangle and one medium triangle. It is collapsible for travel and can be easily sterilized. Comparable commercial triangles can cost in excess of $500; the cost to manufacture them locally is approximately $20. To meet the need local Rotarians stepped up to produce an additional 215 sets of the triangles and last weekend the project was completed and prepared for shipping.
“215 sets means you have to work 860 pieces of aluminum,” explained one of the project organizers Dale Bagley, “We bought for the aluminum and had them cut to size. We also had logos from our club engraved on 430 of the pieces of aluminum so people would know where these sets came from. Each piece of aluminum needed the edges rounded with a special grinder, holes drilled in all four corners, holes burred out so there would not be sharp edges, we than used air grinders to touch up both sides. Then the aluminum was bent in a special bender to exact specifications so the pieces could be assembled in an orthopedic triangle. We also made a CD showing how to use and assemble the triangles. Many Rotarians that included local professors, lawyers, dentists, teachers, doctors and even media people put in many hours of physical work at Blazy’s construction shop to complete this project, in fact there were many evenings we locked up the shop long after his workers had left for the day. Rotary is a local as well as an international organization and many of our members even traveled to Nicaragua to build a school. I didn’t get to do that so I really enjoyed being able to do something right here at home that I know will benefit people in need elsewhere in the world. It took a lot of us but it was fun and we all are happy we got to work together to complete it,” explained Bagley.