The IF Award 2001 went to Dr. Carla Verpoorten from Belgium by unanimous decision of the international Board.
Dr. Verpoorten is neuro-paediatrician and coordinator of the Spina bifida team of the university hospital of Leuven (Belgium) where she has been working for 30 years. Dr. Verpoorten is well known in our Federation for giving excellent lectures at several of our conferences. She did a remarkable literature study on termination of pregnancy when the unborn child has Spina Bifida and/or Hydrocephalus. This was the basis for the discussion atthe Toulouse Conference and led to the IF resolution ‘the right to be different’.
Dr. Verpoorten understands why ‘Against all odds’ became the theme of the 2001 conference. It is very difficult to organise good and effective care in Developing Countries. She has been involved in the IF African project from the outset, giving training in Kenya to Liliane Foundation mediators and at all levels in each of the projects. She takes small steps, permanently evaluating what is being done, attending meetings and discussions.
Dr. Verpoorten is diplomatic, often keeping her thoughts to herself, but never when the quality of care is involved.
She is first of all a wonderful human being. She is also a good doctor. Listening carefully to parents and the children because she knows that their information is crucial to finding the right key to help them. She begins with this information and uses her great expertise and experience as a doctor to find some answers.
She has studied for her entire life. Knowing that she often does not know. Being critical of herself and the others.
Here is just one example: In one project a young lady of 18 with Spina Bifida had problems with pressure sores. The mobile team took her to the hospital en route from one of their out reach clinics. The young lady had already had one foot amputated and the leg had big infected pressure sores, which made surgery on that leg impossible. She was to be sent home without any other care.
Dr. Verpoorten insisted on speaking to the girl and after a while we found a translator. After talking to the girl, Dr. Verpoorten thought that 18 years of experience having Spina Bifida in the field would be of great value to IF. She thought that possibly the young woman could be helped with a wheelchair. However this young lady was from very far away and after using public transport she had to crawl on her infected knees for miles to reach her home. Where she lived it was impossible to use a wheelchair. What she really needed were crutches. These would prevent further damage to her foot and knees and the pressure sores could be looked at further. Simple crutches will improve her life dramatically. If Dr. Verpoorten had not talked to and listened to the young woman treatment would have been nothing more than sending her crawling for hours on the pressure sores with the message ‘come back when there is no infection.
The combination of being an excellent doctor and a wonderful human being is very rare. The IF Award 2001 is well deserved.