Sunday, October 31, 2010

Karen -Week Two

We continue to be busy at the clinic. We saw 16 patients yesterday, which is not a lot for 2 of us for a full day, but they all come at the same time! I asked about making appointments, but that seemed a foreign concept – always first- come first- served. Tom and I are finally getting used to having our patients wait. Some hang around after they are finished anyway, so they don’t seem to mind. Even the toddlers are waiting patiently. Most of the patients arrive by 8:30 or 9:00. We rarely get patients in the afternoon, so we are usually finished by about 2:30.
We are enjoying our patients. We had 5 new patients yesterday, so we continue to grow. I am so glad that I am here for 2 weeks, because I have the same patients coming back this week and I can really see progress. I have one woman who is only 2 weeks after her stroke, so this week she is coming every day. She is very motivated and her family is very supportive. She arrives smiling, works hard, and leaves smiling and is making progress daily. It is gratifying to know that this would not happen if we(Global Therapy Group)were not here providing this service.
I have also had a chance to visit with our host family and our translators. On Tuesday I sat down to talk to the translators about my expectations, etc. and I specifically chose to sit in a low child’s chair. One of the interpreters commented to the others in Creole and they all started laughing. The only words that I understood were “voodoo doctor”. When I asked him about it later he said that I looked like a voodoo doctor because a doctor would always sit in a low chair. Of course I had to ask the question “Is that a compliment or an insult?" He laughed and said “Neither, just an observation”.

October Adventures - Karen

The patients have been great. They are very motivated and interested in patient education. We have seen many young, male stroke patients (40s and 50s), lots of upper extremity injuries, a couple of kids with cerebral palsy and a mix of other diagnoses – some related to the earthquake, but not all. One of our patients comes every day. He is an older man who has had a stroke. He comes with his daughter. They are at the hospital all day, every day in the heat, because once they are dropped off, they have to wait until the end of the day for a ride home. Talk about dedication. That is why it is such a pleasure to work with these people. Many of our upper extremity patients have frozen shoulders and extreme weakness due to prolonged immobilization and no follow-up or activity guidelines/patient education. I realized that one of the most important things that I had to do was to tell them that it was OK to use it- simple but critical. Most of our patients are pretty poor – they come with dirty socks and worn shoes, with casts and bandages that are falling apart - but some are working professionals. We have a couple of teachers who are not back to work because their schools are not yet rebuilt. I am glad for the diversity, as I think that will help spread the word about PT to different sectors.
It is a good feeling to know that I am providing care that would otherwise not be available if I were not here. Another great thing is the container of donated supplies arrived from the states about 2 weeks ago, after many months of waiting. There are lots of therapy supplies and equipment, so we are able to give patients theraband, hand splints, walkers, wheelchairs, etc. I had a patient who was elderly with very painful arthritis in her knees. She hobbled along with a cane, but I was able to give her a walker (a rollator so she could maneuver on tough roads)and it made a big difference. We are also able to refer patients for prosthetics or orthotics to a local group. I have also been able to distribute toiletries that were collected and sent via Barbara-Jo Achuff. The patients are so appreciative – we have an instant friendship.
Today we were able to go to an arts festival that was held on a former mill that processed sugar cane. I bought a couple of souvenirs. It was fun to see all the local art Рpaintings, sculptors, tin work, macram̩, etc. What was most interesting, though, was the fact that the attendees were primarily the elite Рa switch from who we see at the hospital. Everyone was clean, well dressed and with nice cars Рa strange contrast.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Two Months of Challenges and Honors Donna

September and October brought excitement weekly for the Global Therapy Group. Both the good and the bad kind!
On the good side, Jo Ann and Donna were chosen as Alumni of the Year by their alma mater Washington University in St. Louis PT program and presented with an award in September. It was a wonderful honor, but also an opportunity to spread the word about our clinic and the need for volunteers and funding. Donna was excited to fully book our schedule of volunteers for 2010 by mid-Speptember and be able to open up dates for 2011.
The fall has also presented some challenges. A severe storm in late September tore the entire roof off our clinic. Our volunteers then struggled working in the hot sun all day. Thankfully, a PT friend traveling to Port au Prince brought us a new large tarp the next week, but it was then torn off during another storm! Luckily, the tarp was found and will be re-attached soon. Our container of donated supplies and equipment arrived after sailing from Texas, escaping the "black hole" of customs in Haiti, being delivered to the wrong place and lost for 4 weeks, then delivered to our hospital but sent back as it was labeled incorrectly. It finally arrived the day after the severe storm and had to be unloaded in just one day due to all the mix ups. Now cholera is in northern Haiti. We are monitering it closely and hoping it remains contained there and does not spread into Port au Prince.
We are hoping for a few weeks in succession without a crisis so we can begin to recruit help for fundraising, website development, accounting, etc. In spite of all the challenges, our volunteers continue to treat 16 to 25 patients each day and receive new ones weekly. People are improving in their function, have less pain, are able to return to work and are more independent. The volunteers all tell us what makes this an unforgettable experience for them, is watching the people of Haiti rise above all the challenges they are presented with. They are our role models and we know we can rise above our troubles as well!