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Amputees from Haiti visit Dallas

December brought the precious gift of dental care to a group of young men from Haiti visiting the United States as members of the newly formed Haiti National Amputee Soccer Team.

Three of the 15 players on the team lost limbs in the devastating Haitian earthquake of January 2010. Formed in August 2010, the team had less than two months of practice before representing Haiti in the Amputee World Cup held in Argentina in October. FC Dallas professional soccer team invited team members to the metroplex later that month to train at their facility in Frisco, Texas.

Dr. Fred Sorrells, founder and president of the International Institute of Sport based in Arlington, Texas, advocates for the power of sport to elevate the status of people with disabilities, increase awareness of their capabilities and encourage their acceptance within society. He helped assemble Haiti's amputee soccer team after the earthquake, seeking a therapeutic way to help the disabled in Haiti.

“Therapeutic recreation is a valuable way to restore quality of life for amputees,” Sorrells says.

Sorrells coordinated the team’s visit to Texas, which included visits to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Dallas, Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children and the Wounded Warrior program in San Antonio. They also demonstrated their skill at Tyler Junior College in Tyler, Texas, and on the grounds at the state capitol in Austin among other stops around the nation.

“People have been so encouraged by the attitude of these young men,” he says.

Medical examinations by the Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation and dental evaluations at Baylor College of Dentistry were a welcome unanticipated benefit. The team dentist for FC Dallas is Dr. David Nunez, assistant professor of general dentistry at TAMHSC-BCD. Nunez provided dental screenings for the Haiti players, many of whom had never been to a dentist. He helped connect them with care through the assistance of Leeanna Bartlett, director of social services in the Department of Public Health Sciences.

“There were many hurdles to overcome, but suddenly the schedule openings, interpreters and volunteers all came together in a way that allowed us to serve these young men,” Bartlett said. “So many people were willing to volunteer their time to assist. It was obvious by the expressions on the Haitian players’ faces that they were deeply grateful for the care and attention they received.”