ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Two local engineers have returned from a trip to Tanzania, Africa after opening a ‘pay-what-you-can’ prosthetics and orthotics clinic for families.
It wasn’t Kyle Reeser’s first time in the developing country, but this trip he brought his friend and software engineer, Chris Conlon. The two traveled to Musoma, Tanzania, which is on the shores of Lake Victoria.
“We opened up a ‘pay what you can’ prosthetics and orthotics clinic with my colleague Rajab,” Reeser said. “We also received donations from Creality 3D printers of six 3D printers, which we divided between the Lake Victoria Disability Center and the ‘pay what you can’ clinic.”
Conlon and Reeser, who is a biomedical engineer, taught their colleagues in Musoma how to use the printers and built prosthetics for them.
They say 3D printing is accessible and has a lot of resources online, making it easy to use.
“Really, it’s just open for anyone to be able to make what they want,” Conlon said. “Something that was fascinating was for some of the members of the Lake Victoria Disability Center, it didn’t really click with them that they could make anything with these printers, let alone prosthesis or adapters.
“It was just great to be able to bring these workhorse printers to them, set them up, be able to allow them to use them for whatever they want, but specifically in this orthotics lab.”
The clinic they opened is called TABUSAMU, which means ‘smile’ in Swahili. TABUSAMU was opened by a former prosthetist from the disability center, who is a good friend of Reeser and Conlon. They were also awarded a $3,000 grant through e-NABLE to open the clinic.
“Basically the ethos of this place is to combine traditional prosthetics and orthotics with 3D-printed prosthetics and orthotics,” Reeser said. “Before our trip, Chris and I started a GoFundMe where we raised money to provide four prosthetic legs for children in need, four really beautiful, wonderful children, and we were able to create these professional prosthetics for them.”
Reeser said they were also able to bring down the cost of a prosthetic arm and hand for a young girl from something in the neighborhood of $500-$1,000 to $2.
“It’s truly a life-changing gift. I mean, some of these children were born with congenital defects, so they were born maybe without a leg or without an arm. Some of these children unfortunately, had accidents growing up and lost a limb,” Reeser said. “So to be able to drive down the cost 10 times or 100 times and be able to provide these tailored prosthetic devices to these children is just a wonderful thing.”
Reeser and Conlon say it was a blast hanging out with the kids and getting to see them start to use their prosthetic devices. They add it was cool to see medical experts get familiarized with the products they brought.
“It always is great to see someone’s interest get sparked with something that they weren’t really exposed to before or maybe weren’t going to be,” Conlon said. “Even just to get them interested in understanding that this is a platform that they could use, that is worth it in and of itself, let alone any of the good these printers can do for people who have legitimate physical problems that these can help them with.”
To celebrate the opening of the clinic, Reeser and Conlon hosted a meal for more than 100 people. They provided eight women with two weeks of salary to prepare food.
While the clinic is now open for good, the two engineers hope to go back in the future to see the impact it has made.