From Croatia

Patient Robert with BSc/Cat.I graduate Milos and students testing the new orthoses during the Human Study clinical seminar

Patient Robert with BSc/Cat.I graduate Milos and students testing the new orthoses during the Human Study clinical seminar

Through the practical part of our educational program, our students who come from different countries and regions have the opportunity to meet their colleagues from the region, but also from far away countries. Owing to this fact, initiatives have been made to create and support the national ISPO memberships and their participation in the international professional sphere.
Our students have the chance to learn and apply the contemporary methods of patient treatment, while working with their regular patients on a day-to-day basis. They are supported in dealing with the most difficult cases of patient treatment, the patients who have not received proper treatment due to various causes, such as lack of available practical professional knowledge and skills, administrative and financial issues and so on. The experiences gained with patients who have been faced with complex problems, not treated properly for years, who finally receive appropriate devices, which enable them to participate in their daily activities thus improving their quality of life, are absolutely priceless.
One of such experiences is the life story of Robert (43) from Croatia and his P&O practitioner, a Human Study student, Milos Opacic, MD.
Here is how Milos Opacic describes his experience with Robert:
“When Robert first came to see me he was a 39-year old man who could not move his body to get out of home. He could not walk further than 20 meters without feeling pain.” Up until his early teenage years, Robert was just like the other boys his age, he could run, walk and jump, but then his condition worsened. The first signs of muscle weakening in his arms followed soon after, during Robert´s late teenage years.
“During the first five years of treatment, I was making modifications to Robert´s orthoses and shoes to the best of my knowledge and skills. Robert could not extend his feet and he did not have any base support for his body. His disease was progressing, and I decided then to enrol into the Human Study e.V. educational programs.”
The workshops were taking place in Zagreb, Croatia. “When I first told Robert about this opportunity, unsurprisingly, he was reluctant. Somehow, I managed to convince him to accompany me to Zagreb. During the HS educational workshops, with the help of their internationally renowned lecturers, I learned how to help Robert, and now he is able to have a full-time job, a family and a normal life.
Without any problems, Robert can stand and walk for hours, relive the joys of life, which he feared were lost to him.” Over the years, Milos and Robert have become close friends. “I am grateful that he gave me the opportunity to help him personally, but also to improve my professional skills and knowledge. I have learnt a great deal, not only about P&O, but also about the beauty of life.”

Robert has put his emotional experience, which he likes to call “waves” in this poetic letter:
A conversation, which changed the world, or worlds. A call made out of despair changed everything. “Come Robert, let us give it a try. We have nothing to lose. We could at least make the effort”, said the voice at the other end of the line.
Robert is my name. I am 43 years old. The voice at the other end of the line was Milos Opacic (MD), my P&O clinician. “If this does not prove better for you, we will do it the old way, then”, doctor Opacic said. That is how he convinced me.
Travelling was often strenuous. There was the energy consuming school of gait to be gone through. Travelling to Zagreb, Munich…
When I was a child, I was diagnosed with Charcot–Marie–Tooth disease (CMT) and until the age of 16 I had lived without the help of any orthopaedic appliance. At that time, I came across the ankle-foot orthosis (AFO) which I have used ever since. Then, I met doctor Opacic, who not only instilled confidence in me, but also was the only person capable of comprehending my problems in dealing with the lack of understanding from my employer, my family and my family physician. Not to mention the problems I had with finding a girlfriend. I even quit thinking about girls. Bent in form of the letter ‘G’, looking like a bundle of rope, with pains in my feet, ankles, knees, up to my head, with cramps in my muscles, exhausted, unable to stretch my leg, psychological problems I cannot even describe, huge blisters on my atrophied leg. To cut the long story short, almost five years after I met him, Dr. Opacic, or Mihajlo as I like to call him, is not only my physician and orthotist, but also my friend.
My message to everyone would be: Give it a try, there is nothing to lose. Today, I walk in the form of the letter ‘I’, thanks to the orthoses I obtained through the program of HUMAN STUDY. Today, I have no problems with cramps, no pain in my bones, no back-pain, no breathing difficulties. I do not have to be absent from my job as often as I used to. Today, I walk 5 kilometres in 20-30 minutes, while before I was literally not able to go to the toilet by myself. Before this treatment, I was almost confined to my bed. My room was my world. Today, I work as a clerk and I have several hobbies. I even think about starting my own business, so strong I feel myself to be. I move the world towards the better.
I am very grateful to everyone involved in the HUMAN STUDY educational project in which I participated as a model patient. I am particularly indebted to Mihajlo (M. Opacic, MD) for his psychological support, Christian Schlierf for his help with the swimming pool, Bill Neumann for our conversations, and others that I cannot name all but I am indebted to them all. I would like to thank HUMAN STUDY for making this possible, the city of Munich for their hospitality which will always remain in my memory, and to the Don Bosco University. My motto today is: Give it a try, move, make an effort! Do not give up and you will see you can do it! This story might as well be read as an excerpt from my unpublished personal story that could be named: Waves from the Best Patient.”