COPE Patients: Santar's Story   COPE Patients ~ Santar's Story

Santar is a 13 year old boy who illustrates the power of partnership. His story inspired the design of COPE Connect, our outreach programme, and whose treatment is a great example of teamwork and the need for locally based services.

Santar is from Muang Sing, in the far northwest corner of Lao PDR. It is a remote place but while on holiday there we heard about a little boy who had lost his leg. With the help of our hosts - Brian and Leila, who work for Health Frontiers, Santar was eventually tracked down and found sitting on a small stool inside his house. When COPE staff found him he was depressed and withdrawn.

His family were shocked to find out that we had come to see if we could help Santar. They told us that since a traffic accident two years ago Santar was confined to the house.  Santar had been injured when crossing a road.  His deaf father had called him to cross but hadn’t heard that a truck was coming.  Following the accident Santar lost one leg and the other was severly damaged. His left foot was fixed with his toes pointing downwards so that he was not able to stand or walk. Before the accident Santar was like any normal 8 year old boy who had been attending school and was a very active child.

Ruth explained to Santar and his family that his problem was complex because his remaining leg had healed in a bad position and that he needed surgery to correct it. There was already a plan in place for surgeons to visit COPE from the UK and the USA who would be training Lao surgeons to do these more difficult operations. Ruth showed photos of the kinds of legs that could be made in Vientiane and the family agreed to send him to Vientiane for treatment here at the NRC.

In Vientiane, local surgeons corrected his left foot.  Then the local clinical staff fitted a prosthesis for his right leg and an orthosis to his left. Over a period of four months Santar received regular physiotherapy at the centre.  As a result of his treatment Santar began to realize that returning to school was achievable and this helped to sustained Santar through the four months of treatment. Now living in Vientiane, Santar is at school studying English, enjoys cooking, swimming, computing and is currently top of his class! No longer the depressed boy we first met, he is now optimistic about his future.


Like all children with a prosthesis he will need regular replacement limbs and therapy as he grows.  COPE believes that supporting existing services, focusing on local skill development, and long term planning will ensure people have access to a quality rehabilitation service they deserve for as long as they need it.

To read more about Santar or to take his story home to share with others, see ‘Small World’ or ‘Sandar the Robot Boy’ available in Visitor Centre.

You can assist people like Santar to increase their opportunities in life by making a donation to COPE.