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Pacific Stars and Stripes, June 5, 1953

Marine Air Wing Gives Orphan Chance To Walk

By M/Sgt. Elmer Ill


WITH 1ST MARINE WING, June 5 - Mario is a 12 year old Korean orphan boy.  He doesn't have a last name - nor does he have a right leg.  Two years ago a Korean doctor couldn't diagnose a growth on his leg, so he cut it off above the knee.  Mario was discovered by Father Joseph F. Cloonan, a chaplain serving with Marine Aircraft Group 33.  He was playing baseball in the play yard of the Catholic orphanage near wing headquarters, doing a bang up job of it, too - until his crutch slipped and he fell and hurt his arm.  It was then Father Cloonan decided Mario needed a new leg.


HE CONTACTED Lt. (J.G.) Patrick F. O'Connell, a doctor serving with a ground control group of the wing. The doctor volunteered his services to measure the leg and make a plaster cast in insure a proper  fit. Marines, hearing of Father Cloonan's project, asked to be let in on the deal.  He announced it one morning at mass and the marines opened their hearts and purse strings to the tune of $153.  Before more money could be collected, Dr. O'Connell wrote to a nurse, Mrs. Elizabeth Deuber, who served with him in the family clinic at Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro, and told her of the situation.  Mrs. Deuber told her husband, James, a prosthetics man for a group of Los Angeles doctors.  He contacted the Adroit Prosthetics Company, Los Angeles, and told them about Mario and the attempt to get him a new leg.  The workers volunteered their labor.  The cost of the material was all that was needed and the marines had that.  The artificial leg arrived in Korea, and the day for Mario to try it was near.  It was like any other day for him. He got up, dressed, ate his breakfast, and watched the other children play.  A short time after lunch, two jeeps drove into the orphanage yard.  Out stepped Dr. O'Connell and Father Cloonan. The leg was finally attached and adjusted.  Mario stood up and looked at his two full pant legs for the fist time in over two year.  A smile slowly crossed his face and his eyes said thanks to everyone who made this day possible.

The moment arrived.  Mario took his first step-a little shaky and still with the aid of his crutch, but with two legs under him instead of one.  He looked up for the needed encouragement, got it, and continued his practice.


IT'S A LITTLE difficult to work an artificial leg with one good leg.  The knee bends as he steps and, as he prepares for the next step, must pull the leg back to snap the knee joint in the upright position.  It is an involved process, but as the day went on Mario was getting the knack of it.


A couple of hours went by and the doctor noticed that Mario was getting tired.  He advised him to stop for the rest of the day.  Mario was ready to rest, but hated to give up.  As the father carried him off for a nap, he asked a question.  "Could I sleep with my new leg tonight?"  "Yes, you can sleep with it, Mario, it's yours from now on." said the doctor.


Mario went to sleep.  The leg wasn't on.  It was cradled in his arms like a new-found friend.






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