Egyptian al-Hayah clinic revolutionises care for amputees

By Stasha  Igrutinovic

Egyptian al-Hayah clinic revolutionises care for amputees

EBRD and EU help clinic boost awareness of its services in Egypt

“Hayah” means “life” in Arabic. It is also the name of Sherif Shahin's  clinic, which manufactures prosthetic devices, prescribes them, and delivers psychotherapy to those who have lost their limbs.

Advisory assistance provided by the EBRD and supported by the European Union (the EU) helped al-Hayah grow into one of the first holistic prosthetics clinics of its kind in Egypt, with branches spanning Cairo, Alexandria and Mansoura. Its beginnings, however, owe much to the founder’s own struggles when growing up.

Identifying the gaps

Mr Shahin is well aware of the difficulties amputees face in everyday life. Their condition can worsen when the device is not customised for their specific needs or is not followed up with physical therapy or psychological support.

“Living and working with a prosthetic is no big thing,” Mr Shahin stresses. “It’s actually normal once you get used to it and know how to use it.’’ 

He had to learn this the hard way, however, when he was given an artificial limb at the age of three – an inadequate one. Lacking the care he needed, he was driven to facilitate access not only to customised movement aids, but to a holistic rehabilitation scheme that would ensure that patients who were undergoing treatment received the full scope of services pre- and post-surgery.

Determination driving success

Determined to provide care to those with limited financial resources, Mr Shahin went ahead with his social project with his partner Hany Hagag, a medical devices engineer with many years of experience with prosthetic devices. Together, they travelled all over the country, delivering therapy and training in the homes of patients located in more remote parts of Egypt.

Their concept was realised in three fully-equipped clinics in Cairo, Alexandria and Mansoura. The attention their work gained generated increasing numbers of new clients. Al-Hayah therefore required a carefully-planned strategy to improve market performance amid this rising clientele.

With joint funding from the EBRD and the EU, Mr Shahin was able to introduce a software system that stores and integrates data from all three of their branches. With the statistics in hand to inform their new marketing strategy, al-Hayah created social media accounts and a website on which they were able to engage with their clients and promote knowledge of their services under a rebranded name.  

Assisting amputees every step of the way

From the moment patients set foot in the clinic, they embark on a journey of full recovery. Describing the many ways clients are helped to overcome their disabilities, Mr Shahin explains how his clinic has revolutionised care for amputees:

“We speak with patients before the surgery for psychological support. Telling them stories about our clients and how they succeeded. After the surgery, the patients come back to our clinic, where we train them how to balance with their prosthetics, climb stairs, and how to adjust their walking pace. And finally, the patient would live their life normally.”

Their clinic’s unique proposition also includes psychotherapeutic sessions which aim to help amputees overcome the psychological trauma of losing a limb. To that end, Mr Shahin has devised an entire programme devoted to preventing patients from slipping through the cracks:

“In order to overcome a psychological problem, the patient should meet regularly with people that share their experiences. Every month, we organise a marathon for all of our clients, and every three months, we host a group therapy. We even go to schools and talk to children about bullying, how to accept our differences, and how everyone is beautiful in his or her own way.”

Mr Shahin remarks that, in a way, his clinic’s promotion of holistic care to amputees has contributed to a paradigm shift in how people think about prosthetics across Egypt. And this is precisely what he wanted to achieve with the clinic in the first place.