When you see someone down on the ground, crawling on all fours, it takes you a while to process exactly what you’re seeing. Is that an animal? Surely that’s not how that person usually gets around? Why isn’t that person using a wheelchair? Those are just some of the random thoughts that went through my mind the first time I saw an adult on the ground….crawling like an infant. I was in Vietnam and watched a grown man crawl up a set a stairs and then across a room. Polio made his legs lifeless. He could not afford an $850 wheelchair. So from a squatting position, he would use his arms to propel him forward and then tuck up and drag his legs behind. He did this modified crawling/squatting motion on the floor more than a dozen times to get across a room the width of about 15 feet. His arms were well defined with muscles from walking on his hands his entire life. His clothes were dirty from dragging himself on the ground.
In Guatemala, we also saw people crawling because they had no one to carry them. In this photo, is a boy named Jose crawling next to what appears to be vomit on the floor.
One person who received a PET in Vietnam told us he was so happy to be off the ground because he wouldn’t have to crawl through dog manure anymore. I found covering these stories of people who have to crawl in South Asia and Central America incredibly sad. Sad for the fact that there are people dying in their beds because they have no other way to get out of their homes and sad for the fact that national news organizations are not covering the plight of these people. Take for instance the plight of a Honduran man who crawled. He was beaten, robbed and had both of his legs burned off. As I was logging video for his story, our newsroom had CNN playing in the background. CNN was featuring for the second time in as many days a new breakthrough in “robotic legs”. A group of investors had spent more than seven million dollars to develop these bionic legs. Nothing against that company or the recipient, but I couldn’t help but wonder why our news media give so much attention to advancing mobility in the developed world….but little space and airtime to The Culture That Crawls in poor countries. In journalism school, we learned to seek truth and report it and to give voice to the voiceless. My hope is that someone will see this truth about what’s going on in poor countries and realize that this hidden crawling culture needs a voice. Are you listening?