Hope for Iraqi Amputees

Steven Lindsley

When Army Capt. Steven Lindsley (FSM02) was in Iraq last year, his military police battalion of reservists from Mississippi were involved in some pretty high-profile assignments. They guarded the detention facility where Saddam Hussein and many of his top lieutenants were housed. They helped open the supply lines that provided food, generators, ammunition and sanitation trucks to the Marines fighting insurgents in al Fallujah. Following the death of one of the vice presidents of the Iraqi provisional government, they were sent to Baghdad to provide security for the country's other government leaders.

But it was during Lindsley's off-duty time that he made a unique contribution to the Iraqi people. As clinical coordinator for a rehabilitation center in Monroe, La., Lindsley fabricates and fits artificial limbs for his patients. While in Baghdad he was touched by the number of people he saw who were missing arms and legs. He wanted to help, so he worked with Sgt. Chris Cummings to found Operation Restoration, a project that provides artificial limbs and braces to Iraqis.

"About 90 percent my patients were amputees from other wars, another 5 percent were a result of the current conflict and the last number were accident victims or amputees as a result of illness or disease," Lindsley says. Some had never had a prosthesis, and most who did had very old ones.

Operating out of one of Hussein's palaces in Baghdad's International Zone, commonly known as the "Green Zone," Lindsley and some of his men set up a clinic. He would see patients most nights until about 10 p.m. and be back on duty with his unit at 5:30 the next morning.

Several U.S. medical supply companies contributed equipment and supplies, but the situation called for a dose of Yankee ingenuity. "The palace where we set up the lab had a pizza oven that we used to heat the plastic for the prosthetic sockets and braces," Lindsley says. "We also used a defused mortar round mounted to a workbench as a riveting platform for attaching straps."

In October Lindsley received a call from the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General informing him that they were sending a team to continue the work of the clinic, create a rehabilitation hospital and train Iraqis to manage patient care. — T.S.