Thursday, July 10, 2014
Ann, PT from Vermont....third trip in four years!
Back to Haiti for the third time in 4 years. Things that have not changed are the crazy driving conditions, the trash everywhere, the smiles when one says “Bonjou” to a Haitian when walking down the street, and the still present although less high and less frequent piles of rubble from the earthquake. It is actually hard to find a tent city and many of the tent communities seem to have been made more into neighborhoods with at least somewhat less flimsy structures.
The therapy clinic at Global Therapy is now within walking distance to the guesthouse where volunteers stay. The clinic had its grand opening last month. It is a large Green structure open on two sides (with sliding bars to keep out animals and thieves) with ceiling fans, parallel bars, a large therapy mat and one plinth. When we get to the clinic around nine every morning there are patients sitting outside waiting for us. They come first thing in the am and are seen in the order that they come. An appointment system was tried but the patients seem to like their own way of doing it. No one seems the least bit upset about having to wait. They all know that they will have their turn.
Some patients walk to get to us, some come in cars, or on tap taps- a sort of colorful community bus system- and many arrive via motorcycle with anywhere from 2-5 people on them, many times carrying babies or small children as well as people with hemiplegia due to stroke.
This is the most common reason that patients are seen at the clinic, followed by young children with disabilities, and least common people who were injured in the earthquake. I am primarily an orthopedic PT so the neurologic patients and small children are not the typical patients that I see. But having been a PT for 30 years in a variety of settings I still have things to offer them to help them to function better. After three days in the clinic I am spending a lot of time encouraging patients to try to use their hemiplegic arm and hand as much as possible. I saw a woman on Monday whose daughter and son were helping her to get dressed. After assessing her hand it was clear that she could do more. I had her pick up some small objects using a pinch grip. She had no idea that she was capable of this. Today when she came back she told me that she was able to put on her blouse and button it herself! It is these small victories, the charm of the Haitian people, the warmth of the family that runs the guest house, and most of all the chance to make a real difference in at least a few Haitians that keeps me coming back to Haiti.