Monday, May 27, 2013

Michelle, PT The Last Day

Day 12: Therapy + Health Update

Yesterday was my last day in the clinic. I can’t believe how fast time has passed and am amazed at how much of an impact my patients have made on me in such a short amount of time. Most of them were stroke patients so it was nice to use things I learned at home to help. Therapy is a new concept for people here, even though it is desperately needed. There were so many small children that came in for various reasons - developmental delays, cerebral palsy, burns, club feet… it’s sad to think how few services there are for them. And for the stroke patients - it’s just crazy when I think about how much we have at home compared to here. Not only are there very few therapists here, but patients rarely have access to things like custom splints or braces, shoulder support, imaging, medication, ultrasound, mirrors, Kinesiotape, Bosu balls, special creams, ice packs, wheelchairs (or choice of wheelchair color, like we have at home), walkers, canes, proper shoes, etc. Sometimes I do wonder if what we have at home is maybe even too excessive when I think about the patients here and how many don’t even have the basic supplies they need. One of the stroke patients arrived at the clinic on a motorcycle. Her husband basically just lifted her up and onto the motorcycle. This would be practically illegal at home! But people here are creative, resourceful and determined. I’ve seen a man with a crippled leg, trekking up the hill with a pair crutches. I’ve also seen an amputee pushing his wheelchair up the steep hill.
In Haiti, there is no health insurance or disability payment system so when a person gets hurt, it makes such a huge impact on their work and livelihood. They tried an appointment system at our clinic but it didn’t work out (traffic, especially after rain, can be very difficult) so oftentimes, people just have to sit and wait for therapy. 
The people in Haiti need so much more. Basic health education and disease prevention is desperately needed. In 2009, statistics showed that Haiti had one nurse and 3 doctors for every 10,000 people. Only 10% of Haitians have running water and 80% lack adequate sanitation. During a rainstorm here one day, I saw people outside collecting water with buckets. Oftentimes, people have to walk long distances to get drinking water - sometimes small children go early before school… sometimes mothers go and return with water-filled buckets on their head. Every minute spent getting water is a minute not spent in school or at work; people may miss class or work if they have stomach pains, diarrhea or dehydration. I read in an article that for one lady, her test for clean water is this: “If it is clean, nothing will happen. When the water is not clean, my children get diarrhea.” I can’t even imagine not being able to turn on a faucet to get water or wash my hands, or having to spend my days walking for water. We are definitely very, very lucky.
I know there is so much potential for Haiti, but they still have a long ways to go. I’m encouraged whenever I read about the progress that is being made - improved sanitation, more people getting vaccinated, more cholera awareness, etc. If you want to learn more about the water crisis around the world, check out this short 3-minute YouTube video or visit the Charity:Water website:

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