Boko Haram launched its insurgency in 2009 [Image: AFP]

The sad and terrifying story of 11-year-old Mohammed Saleh breaks my heart. No child should have to go through something like this; yet sadly, there are many who do. In the spring of 2016, he, along with several other young boys, was abducted in Nigeria by Boko Haram – the Islamic State terrorist group in West Africa, which is responsible for killing tens of thousands of people, and displacing 2.3 million others from their homes over the last nine years.

Saleh made an unsuccessful escape attempt, and sustained an injury to his right arm at the hands of the insurgents after they recaptured him. Once he was finally released, he managed to get back home, where he was taken to a clinic to be treated. After a transfer to the University Hospital in Maiduguri, doctors found that his arm could not be saved, and amputated it below the elbow.

Now, 3D printing is entering the story to change Saleh’s life for the better.

Create Orthotics & Prosthetics (Create O&P) is responsible for creating the first medical grade 3D printed prosthetic arm for an earthquake survivor in Haiti, and two years ago launched the world’s first fully integrated medical grade 3D printing system specifically for orthotic and prosthetic devices.

Now, the Lake Placid, New York-headquartered company is teaming up with heartwarming 3D printing volunteer network e-NABLE, the Nigerian government, and Nigerian agency Cornucopia Consulting to design, 3D print, and fit Saleh with his first prosthetic arm and hand.

Create O&P and e-NABLE are sending representatives to Nigeria this week for the project. Cornucopia arranged and facilitated the trip, and connected experts from the two companies with the country’s government, which is currently exploring the use of 3D printed prosthetics for Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) who have lost limbs due to the Boko Haram insurgency.

Jeff Erenstone, Create O&P

“We are honored that the Nigerian government invited us to come and bring the capabilities of 3D printed prosthetics to the victims of Boko Haram. Though we are starting with just this one test case, we hope that 3D printing will prove to be a sustainable solution for many victims of limb loss in Nigeria, as it is around the world,” said Jeff Erenstone, the Founder and CTO of Create O&P.

Erenstone is a certified prosthetist-orthotist, and already had his own clinical practice when he launched the company in 2015, after seeing all of the potential of using 3D printing in the field. The company’s mission is to 3D print prosthetics that are cost-effective, and easily accessible in not only the US, but also around the world. It has provided 3D printed prosthetic devices in such places as Haiti, the Middle East, Nepal, and Switzerland. Now, Create O&P can add Nigeria to this list.

Ed Choi, a member and representative of e-NABLE who mobilizes volunteers to provide 3D printed prosthetics to the people who need them the most, and Fricis Pirtnieks, a former Create O&P intern from Latvia with a background in 3D printing and prosthetics, will be joining Erenstone in Nigeria from June 3rd to June 5th.

The three will work with local medical providers in Nigeria, in order to properly evaluate Saleh’s injuries onsite, prototype the design, and fit him for the custom-made portion of his new 3D printed prosthesis. Create O&P will be bringing a portable, medical-grade 3D printer on the trip, along with supplies and 3D printing materials.

At the end of their visit, Erenstone, Choi, and Pirtnieks will make a presentation to government officials, including Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, and medical providers. They’ll cover how to implement 3D printed prosthetic care in the country in a sustainable way, and provide advice on what supplies are necessary to develop a 3D printed prosthetic lab there.

“The empathy that exudes from the team for the recipients of their 3D [printed] limbs was clear and palpable. They were the option that obviously best suited the partnership that we required on this significant endeavor in Nigeria,” said Ibukun Adebayo-Adedayo, CEO of Cornucopia Consulting.

Create O&P will be posting updates and pictures from the trip to Nigeria on its social media channels, so stay tuned next week.

From July 2nd to 7th, three representatives from Nigeria will travel to the US for training and consultation on 3D printed prosthetics. In addition to spending time with Erenstone and the rest of the 3D printing team at the Create O&P facility in Lake Placid, they will also visit with Jon Schull, the founder of e-NABLE, in Rochester.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts in the comments below. 

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