Jim Thweatt chokes back tears as he describes a photograph from his first trip to Haiti just weeks after the devastating magnitude-7.0 earthquake in 2010. A young Haitian who had recently lost a limb was curious about Thweatt’s carbon fiber prosthetic leg. “If you have a disability in Haiti, you’re treated as a second-class citizen and you’re not given the opportunities that other people are,” he said. “People need to see other individuals with disabilities that are fully functional.”
A 60-year-old physical therapist from West Sacramento, Thweatt had part of a leg amputated after a motorcycle accident at age 17.
Realizing the need for prosthetics to aid the thousands of earthquake survivors who lost limbs from injuries or infections, Thweatt collected whatever he could from prosthetists and amputees he knew.
Since the quake, he’s made five trips to Haiti, cramming as many prosthetic components into his luggage as he could carry on the plane. He gives them to a Haitian prosthetist in Port-au-Prince who is an above-the-knee amputee who distributes them at little or no charge to those in need.
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He started a program called Haitian Amputees Rehabilitation Team, or HART, that is sponsored by River City Physical Therapy in West Sacramento, which Thweatt owns and operates.
“A lot of them are still on the streets on crutches,” he said. “The need is tremendous, and the ability to fulfill that need is really tough.”