It was in March 2000, the year of LEAP’s 10th anniversary, when a local surgeon asked Dr. Craig Hobar if he would take a look at a patient who had been in the hospital for three weeks. The story of Wilkin alarmed even surgeons accustomed to dealing with suffering on a daily basis.
The Dominican Republic is a land of sugar cane, coffee plantations, and music. In the little town of San Pedro de Macoris, the hometown of former professional baseball player Sammy Sosa, sugar cane was transported by a slow moving train. As the train made its way through town, laden with the dark cane stalks, the local children played a dangerous game of jumping on and off the trains. It was during one of these childish games that Wilkin, then 16, fell beneath the wheels of the moving train and was dragged several yards down the tracks. He was taken to the new hospital where his left arm and left leg were immediately amputated. His right arm and leg were mangled, but the local surgeons tried desperately to save them.
Dr. Hobar and Dr. Larry Hollier, a noted hand surgeon from Houston, cleaned the severe wounds on Wilkin’s remaining arm and leg and determined a treatment plan later in the day. The operating schedule was rearranged to accommodate Wilkin, the team was ready to begin, but no one was prepared for the severity of Wilkin’s injuries or the condition of his remaining arm, which later required amputation. In the 17 years since LEAP first treated Wilkin, we have continued to monitor his progress and have outfitted him with prostheses for his arms and leg.
Wilkin is now in his 30’s, married with three children, and works with computers. As part of his ongoing care, LEAP recently provided him with replacement prostheses for both arms. It has been a joy to watch him flourish despite the many challenges he’s faced and to see him find love and happiness. One of the best parts of our mission work is that we get to return to the same communities and maintain lasting relationships with our patients.