A Nicaraguan woman with bilateral transtibial amputations has received new feet, alignment, liners, and cosmeses, thanks to the work of an Connecticut police chief, a crew of volunteers, and two O&P companies: Alternative Prosthetic Services, Fairfield, Connecticut; and Hanger Prosthetics and Orthotics, Stratford, Connecticut.
According to the Fairfeld Minuteman, Kenia Castro was hit by a missile in 1987 during the Nicaraguan civil war. She was just six years old. In the missile strike, she lost both legs, and her grandmother died. At age seven, Castro was able to travel to the Nicaraguan capital, Managua, and receive her first set of prostheses. Over the years, she received four more sets and was able to go to school and work; she even obtained a college education.
Fast forward 18 years: In 2005, Castro was teaching university courses in Leon, Nicaragua, and working toward a more advanced degree when she met Erin Peck, who was teaching English near Leon through the Albert Schweitzer Institute of Quinnipiac University, Hamden, Connecticut. Castro and Peck became fast friends, to the point that Castro took a day off when a group of Erin’s friend’s went sightseeing with Erin and her father, Police Chief David Peck, when he came from Fairfield to visit. As the group was hiking up a local volcano, Chief Peck noticed that Castro was limping over the rough terrain.
His daughter told him Castro’s story, and it stuck with Chief Peck even after he went home. Back in Fairfield, he asked a fellow active-duty officer, who had a leg amputation, about prosthetic care. The officer referred him to Alternative Prosthetic Services and Hanger. “They said, ‘You get her here, and we’ll take care of her,'” Peck told the Minuteman. Chief Peck stepped up the challenge and made a decision that would change Castro’s life: he would bring her to Fairfield for new prostheses.
Chief Peck’s effort to bring Castro new legs took more effort than he had expected. Castro’s visa application at the American Embassy in Managua was denied, so Peck had to call a local congressman’s office and fill out extensive paperwork to obtain for Castro a humanitarian parole visa. “I had to bare my soul,” Peck was quoted as saying. He had to declare many private details of his life, from his entire work history to the size of his salary and mortgage. His efforts paid off though, and Washington DC officials agreed to expedite Castro’s application, granting the visa in ten days instead of the usual 60 to 90.
“People overwhelmingly wanted to help. The Patrolman’s Benevolent Union gave money, and I called Partners International Foundation, who gave money upfront for the airfare,” Peck told the Minuteman. “Kenia came to Fairfield last August  and in one week, she had three or four visits at Hanger and Alternative Prosthetic Services.”
The two prosthetic care companies also worked quickly. In that week, Alternative developed a pair of high-quality cosmeses, and Hanger provided Castro with gait training, a prosthetics tune-up, a set of liners, and a new pair of energy-storing feet that would be serviceable in Nicaragua. Both companies provided their work free of charge.
Not long after she returned home, Castro sent the chief an e-mail describing her happy dilemma of having to choose which pair of sandals to wear on her new feet and saying how glad she was to be able to wear fashionable short pants.
The rewards didn’t stop there. On March 26, Chief Peck was awarded the International Good Samaritan Award by the American Red Cross. “I feel embarrassed because I didn’t do anything but help a friend,” said Peck, who gave a nod to the other volunteers. “No one ever said, ‘No.'”