When it comes to a career, Lake Forest’s Haley Waud just wants to help people get back on their feet—literally. While studying to be a physical therapist specializing in prosthetics, the 20-year-old is already doing her part to help amputees in Chicago and in Guatemala.
A ROMP-ing good time
Waud was inspired to pursue physical therapy and prosethics during a volunteer trip to Guatemala that she took with her family when she was 17. She ended up doing some volunteer work with Range of Motion Project (ROMP), an organization co-founded by a prosthetist from Scheck & Siress, Chicago’s largest private orthotic and prosthetic company. Waud is now finishing a 6-month academic internship at the company.
“It was seeing people come in who couldn’t walk and then a few days later are walking without their wheelchair,” she says. It made her realize that physical therapy was a profession where she could help others and achieve dramatic results.
ROMP’s mission is to provide prosthetic limbs and orthotic braces to those who cannot afford or do not have access to these services, empowering them to actively contribute to their families and communities.
This year, Waud has been to Guatemala twice with the organization. She particularly remembers helping an 8-year-old girl with cancer named Jacqueline who had been on crutches for a year, having had an amputation from the hip.
Waud helped fit her with a prosthetic leg in July, and when Waud went back to Guatemala in October, she was teaching Jacqueline techniques for walking stairs and on gravel.
Waud also says it’s amazing to see the wildly eager responses to prosthetics in a Third World country: While Americans who get prosthetic limbs often don’t fully utilize them right away, Guatemalans drop their crutches or get out of their wheelchairs immediately (she’s seen some who waited for prosthetics for 10 years).
“All they want to do is walk with it,” she says.
That same month Waud joined amputee athletes known as the Chicago Blade Runners in a 5K race. The Blade Runners’ mission is to encourage amputees and those born without arms or legs to lead active, healthy lives.
Waud and her sister, Dana, were among 15 runners who ran under the Blade Runners’ banner. To be a Blade Runner, you can be an amputee or, like the Wauds, able-bodied supporters of amputees.
“Their outlook on life is so much different now than before—it’s amazing how much more they appreciate life,” Waud says of the amputees she’s met.
A Family Tradition
The philanthropic outreach is a continuation of Waud’s lifelong efforts to help those in need. It’s an others-centered commitment that her parents, David and Pamela Waud, have instilled in her.
Before graduating from Lake Forest High School in 2007, Waud had gained EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) certification and begun working with Committee Representing Our Young Adults (CROYA), a group dedicated to serving the psychological and social needs of young adults in Lake Forest and Lake Bluff. Through her EMT certification, she volunteers with the Highland Park Fire Department.
To learn more about the Blade Runners, including how you may join the group, visit www.chicagobladerunners.com, contact Rotter at [email protected] or call 312-996-6450.