Haitian Amputee Soccer Team Inspires Walter Reed Wounded Warriors
By Dialogo October 25, 2011
Haiti’s Team Zaryen stopped at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC), at Bethesda on October 17, as part of the Haitian Inspiration Tour, to give a demonstration and amputee soccer clinic to wounded warriors.
The team is comprised of players who lost limbs after the devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010. They visited WRNMMC to thank the health care providers who were part of USNS Comfort mission off the coast of Haiti that provided medical treatment following the earthquake.
Rear Adm. Alton L. Stocks, WRNMMC commander, was U.S. Fleet Forces fleet surgeon. He deployed as the Joint Task Force Haiti surgeon at the time of the earthquake, and responsible for the U.S. military’s medical response.
The toll the earthquake took on people was “horrific,” and the scale of destruction in the country was “indescribable,” he said, adding, having Team Zaryen visit WRNMMC is incredible.
“America has a longstanding relationship with Haiti [and] when that earthquake happened, we took it personally as well as professionally to go there and help. It does my heart good to see these young men and women here being able to participate in an athletic event such as this.”
He said the earthquake overwhelmed Haiti’s health care system, but since then, the United States has been working closely with Haiti on amputee and rehabilitation care.
“That’s been a positive learning experience for the nation,” said Stocks.
The Knights of Columbus and Project Medishare sponsors Team Zaryen, which began as the dream of one of its players, Wilfrid Macena.
After Macena was fitted with his prosthetic limb in April 2010, he began running and kicking a soccer ball. In September 2010, he along with Cedieu Fortilus helped form the soccer team of amputee patients as a way of encouraging others in similar situations. They named themselves ‘Zaryen’, which is Creole for tarantula, because the tarantula is known to keep attacking despite its wounds. The team’s logo is a spider with a missing leg. The team plays on crutches, because it is required by amputee soccer to level the playing field between different levels of amputation.
“Today, in my heart, is the best day [because I’m] able to come here and say, ‘thank you’ to the military for their efforts in Haiti,” Macena said. He added that Team Zaryen members are also teaching young amputees in Haiti to play soccer.
Macena is now a Project Medishare’s prosthetic technician in training.
During their visit to WRNMMC, Jason Miller, the physical therapist and director of rehabilitation for Project Medishare, said this was Team Zaryen’s attempt “to give back a little” of what the U.S. military provided the Haitians following the 2010 earthquake.