Gilbert’s Story: A Leg to Stand On


Editor’s Note: Children’s Ministry
Magazine staff photographer Craig DeMartino is an avid rock
climber. Seven years ago while climbing he suffered a terrible
fall, crashing nearly 100 feet to the rocks below. (You can read
more about Craig’s story here: As a
result of his fall, doctors were forced to amputate his right leg
below the knee. Craig took a special interest in Gilbert, a boy
from Haiti, who also lost his leg. Read on to hear Gilbert’s story
and see the process of fitting him for a new leg. Read more and see a photo gallery


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“If you can get him here, I think we can make a leg happen.”

That’s how I left it with Gary Falleson of Climbing for
. This climbing outreach organization based out of
New York heads into the mountain ranges of the world, helping
villages and pastors spread the gospel. Gary’s team had recently
come across a boy in Haiti who’d fallen off a roof. Gilbert, then
13, had fallen and broken his leg. There was no health care
available, and the locals used voodoo to try to heal the boy.
Infection quickly set in and it became evident that Gilbert would
lose his leg.

craigclimbingDuring this time
Gary’s team as well as Miguel, Gilbert’s teacher, were locked in
prayer for the boy. Gilbert, observing the faithful around him,
soon became a Christian. It wasn’t much later that Gilbert’s leg
was amputated at the hip, known as a hemi, and the infection and
pain quickly stabilized. When Gary left him, he was hobbling around
on crutches in the mountains. After returning to the US, Gary
approached me about finding a leg for Gilbert.

I never expected the team to actually pull off getting Gilbert
here — it seemed surreal-but when you realize God is pulling the
strings, not man, you see things really begin to happen.

Joe Johnson of Quorum Orthopedics in Windsor, Colorado,
volunteered his time and leg parts to help make Gilbert’s leg. The
process was slow due to the fact that Gilbert’s amputation is so
high. The leg needed to attach to his hips, and then drop down as a
normal leg.

When Gilbert first saw the leg, he wasn’t happy. We later
learned that he thought he’d just slip into a human-looking leg,
not a rod of metal. But as he started to walk almost the first day,
his confidence-and his smile-grew. Already with the help of only
one crutch he gets around really well.

The first thing I did, as an amputee myself, was to show Gilbert
photos of me and my friends who’d also lost legs. As amputees, they
were climbing and having fun. I felt like seeing that might give
him an idea of the things he could do in the future. He responded
with a sly little grin, revealing a long-delayed desire to just be
a normal kid.

As we packed Gilbert with school supplies and clothes for the
winter, I explained how to do basic repairs to his leg, as well as
cleaning and taking care of himself and his stump. We posed for
photos before saying goodbye, and I knew that although he has a
long road ahead of him, Gilbert will do great.

Craig DeMartino

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Gilbert’s Story: A Leg to Stand On
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