Colombian Soldier Injured by Mine Helps His Wounded Comrades

Colombian Soldier Injured by Mine Helps His Wounded Comrades

By Dialogo
May 28, 2015







Colombian National Army Soldier Jesús María Izquierdo is one of about 6,000 uniformed service members injured by antipersonnel mines as a result of the armed conflict in Colombia during the past two decades. But he hasn't allowed the loss of his left leg to stop him: he makes prostheses for his comrades-in-arms who have also been maimed in minefields.

Izquierdo -- who was 28 when he was injured during a 2009 Military operation near La Uribe, in the department of Meta -- works in the Prosthesis and Orthosis section of Bogotá's Central Military Hospital, manufacturing about 400 prostheses every year for victims of land mines.

Izquierdo survives terrible injury


Izquierdo recounted how a land mine injured him, and how his wounds put him on the path to helping other injured Soldiers.

“During the operation, we entered a camp inhabited by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and while making an offensive withdrawal, I entered a minefield, and in a matter of seconds, I lost my leg.”

At that very moment, his comrades started fighting with a large group of FARC members, and he had to wait alone for two hours for assistance, “immersed in uncertainty and intense pain.”

“At that instant, I felt that my life was at its end, but I summoned the strength to give myself first aid, I applied a tourniquet so I wouldn’t bleed out, because I had completely lost my limb; it had been amputated,” he said. “But thank God I was the nurse, and I was carrying a first aid kit.”

Fellow Troops transported him to a hospital in San Vicente del Caguán for surgery, after which he began a lengthy and arduous rehabilitation process. Days later, in order to regain some sense of normalcy, he became interested in learning everything he could about prostheses.

“I had never seen a prosthesis before in my life,” he said. “There were other guys in my unit who’d lost limbs before I did, but I never visited them because it was distressing, and I didn’t have the strength to see them like that, without a leg or an arm; I would rather call them to see how it was going, and they did the same when it happened to me.”

Once he found himself in that very situation, he was determined to get rehabilitation and learn from his own experiences for his benefit and that of other Soldiers who would need help in the future. Just like any other Service Member injured by explosive devices, Izquierdo received treatment from medical specialists and began his rehabilitation at the Military Hospital. The treatment generally lasts six months.

Becoming a technician to help others


However, Izquierdo quickly felt the need to take a more active role in his recovery and began to research everything he could about prostheses. Then, he was given the opportunity to train as a technician at the National Learning Service (SENA), where he studied for three years. Since then, he has stayed up-to-date on new techniques and procedures to improve the quality of prostheses manufactured in Colombia.

“The idea of becoming a technician was born after my amputation, to meet my own needs. ‘Learn one way or the other,’ I thought, because my financial status wasn’t the best in the world … and on top of that, there are few people in Colombia who do this work well, so I thought the person with the greatest obligation to learn it was me, because I knew best where it hurt me,” he said. “Imagining it is not the same as living it. Being told about someone else’s experience is not the same as experiencing it yourself.”

Organizations such as Corporación Matamoros
also support wounded Military service members and police officers, as well as their families. Working hand-in-hand with the Ministry of Defense for more than two decades, the organization has provided support to thousands of service members to reintegrate them into society through training and education, which enables them to obtain new employment opportunities.

In 2012, Izquierdo finished his first prosthesis. His accomplishment was amplified when he saw a patient using it, casting his crutches aside. “You see that the ones who use crutches cannot use their hands, for example, to hold their children’s hands or simply to grasp what they need,” Izquierdo said. “So knowing that you removed that limitation through a prosthesis is a unique and beautiful thing … you need your arms, and you feel more useful with your arms free and not bound to crutches.” <strong>Force of will, faith and goals </strong> Throughout his adversity, Izquierdo never lost hope. People who are recovering from land mine injuries need to maintain a positive attitude and maintain their physical fitness to maximize their recovery.

“Some 99.9 percent of a prosthesis’ effectiveness is you,” he said. “If you don’t have good muscle control, if you aren’t in good physical shape, you won’t be able to work the prosthesis. You need training for rehabilitation, but first comes your head, because where there’s a will, there’s a way.” The Soldier explained that his faith was also a key element in speeding up the recovery process. He realized his injury is fundamental to his path in life, which is to help other injured people. Izquierdo now dreams of studying Orthosis and Prosthesis Engineering, so he can use his experience and knowledge to create new systems to improve the quality and access of prostheses for persons. “My goal now is to find financial assistance. There is no such engineering program in Colombia, but there are in Mexico, the United States, Germany, and El Salvador.” In Colombia, domestic-made prostheses start at 500,000 pesos (about $250), but Izquierdo says those are not ideal, because they can cause lesions on the body. Imported prostheses cost more than 200 million pesos ($100,000), but if they were made domestically, they would be much more affordable.

The need for prosthetic devices in Colombia is a consequence of the antipersonnel mines which have killed more than 2,000 people and injured more than 9,000 people since 1990, according to the Colombian government’s Directorate for Comprehensive Action against Antipersonnel Mines (DAICMA).

There are new victims every week. Since January 1, 79 Colombian nationals have been injured by explosive devices. However, in light of the recent agreement between the government and the FARC on demining, there is hope that the risk of stepping on a mine in Colombia will be reduced substantially.

The National Army’s Demining Battalion (BIDES) is responsible for cleaning and demining those areas under the guidance of the humanitarian organization Norwegian People's Aid. Although the majority of the wounded are Military and police service members, many are rural residents – adults and children who continue to lose life and limbs in the minefields, Izquierdo said.






Colombian National Army Soldier Jesús María Izquierdo is one of about 6,000 uniformed service members injured by antipersonnel mines as a result of the armed conflict in Colombia during the past two decades. But he hasn't allowed the loss of his left leg to stop him: he makes prostheses for his comrades-in-arms who have also been maimed in minefields.

Izquierdo -- who was 28 when he was injured during a 2009 Military operation near La Uribe, in the department of Meta -- works in the Prosthesis and Orthosis section of Bogotá's Central Military Hospital, manufacturing about 400 prostheses every year for victims of land mines.

Izquierdo survives terrible injury


Izquierdo recounted how a land mine injured him, and how his wounds put him on the path to helping other injured Soldiers.

“During the operation, we entered a camp inhabited by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and while making an offensive withdrawal, I entered a minefield, and in a matter of seconds, I lost my leg.”

At that very moment, his comrades started fighting with a large group of FARC members, and he had to wait alone for two hours for assistance, “immersed in uncertainty and intense pain.”

“At that instant, I felt that my life was at its end, but I summoned the strength to give myself first aid, I applied a tourniquet so I wouldn’t bleed out, because I had completely lost my limb; it had been amputated,” he said. “But thank God I was the nurse, and I was carrying a first aid kit.”

Fellow Troops transported him to a hospital in San Vicente del Caguán for surgery, after which he began a lengthy and arduous rehabilitation process. Days later, in order to regain some sense of normalcy, he became interested in learning everything he could about prostheses.

“I had never seen a prosthesis before in my life,” he said. “There were other guys in my unit who’d lost limbs before I did, but I never visited them because it was distressing, and I didn’t have the strength to see them like that, without a leg or an arm; I would rather call them to see how it was going, and they did the same when it happened to me.”

Once he found himself in that very situation, he was determined to get rehabilitation and learn from his own experiences for his benefit and that of other Soldiers who would need help in the future. Just like any other Service Member injured by explosive devices, Izquierdo received treatment from medical specialists and began his rehabilitation at the Military Hospital. The treatment generally lasts six months.

Becoming a technician to help others


However, Izquierdo quickly felt the need to take a more active role in his recovery and began to research everything he could about prostheses. Then, he was given the opportunity to train as a technician at the National Learning Service (SENA), where he studied for three years. Since then, he has stayed up-to-date on new techniques and procedures to improve the quality of prostheses manufactured in Colombia.

“The idea of becoming a technician was born after my amputation, to meet my own needs. ‘Learn one way or the other,’ I thought, because my financial status wasn’t the best in the world … and on top of that, there are few people in Colombia who do this work well, so I thought the person with the greatest obligation to learn it was me, because I knew best where it hurt me,” he said. “Imagining it is not the same as living it. Being told about someone else’s experience is not the same as experiencing it yourself.”

Organizations such as Corporación Matamoros
also support wounded Military service members and police officers, as well as their families. Working hand-in-hand with the Ministry of Defense for more than two decades, the organization has provided support to thousands of service members to reintegrate them into society through training and education, which enables them to obtain new employment opportunities.

In 2012, Izquierdo finished his first prosthesis. His accomplishment was amplified when he saw a patient using it, casting his crutches aside. “You see that the ones who use crutches cannot use their hands, for example, to hold their children’s hands or simply to grasp what they need,” Izquierdo said. “So knowing that you removed that limitation through a prosthesis is a unique and beautiful thing … you need your arms, and you feel more useful with your arms free and not bound to crutches.” <strong>Force of will, faith and goals </strong> Throughout his adversity, Izquierdo never lost hope. People who are recovering from land mine injuries need to maintain a positive attitude and maintain their physical fitness to maximize their recovery.

“Some 99.9 percent of a prosthesis’ effectiveness is you,” he said. “If you don’t have good muscle control, if you aren’t in good physical shape, you won’t be able to work the prosthesis. You need training for rehabilitation, but first comes your head, because where there’s a will, there’s a way.” The Soldier explained that his faith was also a key element in speeding up the recovery process. He realized his injury is fundamental to his path in life, which is to help other injured people. Izquierdo now dreams of studying Orthosis and Prosthesis Engineering, so he can use his experience and knowledge to create new systems to improve the quality and access of prostheses for persons. “My goal now is to find financial assistance. There is no such engineering program in Colombia, but there are in Mexico, the United States, Germany, and El Salvador.” In Colombia, domestic-made prostheses start at 500,000 pesos (about $250), but Izquierdo says those are not ideal, because they can cause lesions on the body. Imported prostheses cost more than 200 million pesos ($100,000), but if they were made domestically, they would be much more affordable.

The need for prosthetic devices in Colombia is a consequence of the antipersonnel mines which have killed more than 2,000 people and injured more than 9,000 people since 1990, according to the Colombian government’s Directorate for Comprehensive Action against Antipersonnel Mines (DAICMA).

There are new victims every week. Since January 1, 79 Colombian nationals have been injured by explosive devices. However, in light of the recent agreement between the government and the FARC on demining, there is hope that the risk of stepping on a mine in Colombia will be reduced substantially.

The National Army’s Demining Battalion (BIDES) is responsible for cleaning and demining those areas under the guidance of the humanitarian organization Norwegian People's Aid. Although the majority of the wounded are Military and police service members, many are rural residents – adults and children who continue to lose life and limbs in the minefields, Izquierdo said.
This man is truly a hero, that is what God wants, all of us to help each other without excluding anyone for their physical condition. Onward, Colombian I live in Brazil. I lost my right leg in a car accident resulting in thrombosis. Today, I use a prosthesis donated by the Brazilian Single Health System (SUS), which isn't the best, but it would be great if they could donate a slightly better prosthesis because I can't afford one.
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