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I have just booked my trip with ProjectsAbroadUK to Ghana, to embark on a project in physiotherapy. I am really looking forward to it! and wondered if anybody else here would be going to do a physiotherapy project and/or going to Ghana in July 2017? also, if anybody has already been on a project in Ghana- are you able to give any advice? places I must visit whilst there? What to expect? etc? any advice would be great.
If you're going around the same time as me, please do get in touch! I will be doing some independent travel after my project and wouldn't mind buddying up with somebody.
Now I will explain more about the other project I have been volunteering at. I am currently in Atlanta Airport with a long layover until my connecting flight back home, and this is the first time I’ve had to properly catch up on this.
The Association is for children and young adults with Muscular Dystrophy, a progressive, muscle wasting disease caused by a lack of the protein dystrophin. It means that there are problems walking and doing everyday activities, and also eventually respiratory and heart problems. Without intervention, a person would not be expected to live beyond their early 20s. Thankfully these days there is a lot more intervention in terms of physiotherapy, in order to maintain some function and strength both in lower and upper limbs, and prevent muscle contractures here as much as possible, and also to maintain the muscles that work the lungs.
In the project I have been helping out with the physiotherapy sessions, using pulmonary and physical therapy to maintain as much function as possible. Stretching and mobilising the joints and spine are really important because in time, muscle contractures develop, especially in the lower legs causing eversion of the feet, and scoliosis in the spine. I also helped with the respiratory therapy sessions, which helps maintain lung volume and prevents infections from occurring. Some of those who came were in their early teens, they were pretty lively, careering about in their wheelchairs and enjoying noisy banter during the group therapy sessions. Others were older and in the more advanced stages of the disease, so needed a lot more help to do everything. Family were often an active part of the therapy sessions, as it is important to educate them on how best to practise the exercises regularly at home. Some of the older guys play in a band together, and were always blasting out Queen or Rolling Stones from their phones during therapy. They practised their English a little on me, and later, those still in the school system could go to another part of the building to have tutoring or do schoolwork, as being able to attend school full time is a challenge to most of them, meaning they are behind a lot.
It was really interesting learning about this condition and how it is treated, especially in a country with a different economy and a lack of resources in public health or organisations like this.
This week I started something new. As well as volunteering in the hospital I went to visit an organisation that works with children and young adults with muscular dystrophy. They have a physiotherapist who works at the project and does therapy with the clients who come, sometimes with their parents, or by themselves. They also meet others here their age with the same condition, and there is a chance for them to have tutoring with their schoolwork. So for a couple of days this week I helped out with the therapy treatment and got to find out a bit more about what it is like to have this condition. I will write more next time.
At the hospital in Zapopan, I am carrying on helping with the outpatient physiotherapy there, and I'm getting to know some of the regular patients a bit more. Some of them speak a bit of English which gives me the chance to have certain things translated, and with others I am using the basic Spanish I know to have simple conversations - VERY simple conversations! One of our regular patients has no humeral head in one arm, and she explained to me how she might be getting a prosthetic one. I was able to find out about how the strength in her injured arm has increased over timE due to all the therapy she has received, and what she can do now compared to before. There have also been some physiotherapy students in practising, which has meant we are able to be more efficlient in how we treat the patients.
I will write more next time, I am in Puerto Vallarta and the beach is calling!
I'm catching up now from when I started volunteering at the hospital, and its been much harder than I thought it would be! Outpatient physiotherapy in a public hospital here couldn’t be more different to that of the NHS in the UK. First of all, there is normally only one physiotherapist treating maybe up to 20 or 30 patients in the time that we are there, I’ve been told there can sometimes be up to 70 patients in a full day, myself and another volunteer are the extra help they desperately need. The room consists of 5 beds and some chairs for patients to be treated simultaneously.
We use treatments such as warm paraffin wax, hot compression as well as the types of treatments that would be used in a UK outpatient department; electrotherapy, mobilisation and, of course, “ejercicio” (exercises). Sometimes there will be a lull whilst a few patients are sat with hot compression and towels on their injury or condition, at other times it gets really busy, and we are with one patient after another. I have been surprised how regularly patients are seen in the department, many come for an appointment almost every weekday, and are treated with more than one therapy, such as hot compression, followed by a form of electrotherapy, and then mobilisations or strengthening and stretching exercises. I’ve never heard of that happening in and outpatient clinic in the UK, due to our “lack of time and resources!”
The open room with no curtains between the beds, the regularity of the patients and the warm friendly nature of Mexicans in general all contribute to a chatty welcoming atmosphere, no one is a stranger here, and most days gifts in the form of food are brought in by the patients or staff.
The language barrier is a challenge. As my supervisor does not speak English at all, we have to rely on my small knowledge of Spanish, some of the patients who speak a little English, and miming and small words, or words which are similar in English, such as “capsulitis” and “fractura de Colles.” And we get by. Its certainly forcing me to have to use my Spanish more!
Yesterday, I had a change of scene from the hospital and helped out on another project just outside Guadalajara. It was building an ecological school building for a local group of women using traditional methods of bamboo woven together and mud packed on top of it. Actually it was a mixture of mud, sand and hay mixed together with tools and… our own feet! Quite a lot of fun to squelch the mud mixture and get thoroughly muddy in the process. We did this whilst some others worked at splitting the bamboo canes in half with a machete, then we helped to pack on and smooth the mud mixture over the woven bamboo with our hands. It’s no wonder Projects Abroad called it a ‘Dirty Day!’ Some of the panels of the walls had already been completed previously and had dried in the heat to become quite sturdy and hard. It was good to see at the end of the day we had finished a few more sections. We all headed home exhausted, back into Guadalajara city to rest our aching limbs…
On Thursday I joined some others on a medical outreach project to the outskirts of Guadalajara. We were in a community centre in a poorer area of town, for people to come and receive free healthcare. It was mostly things like taking their history and vital signs, which I got to do for the first time, after being shown how to take blood pressure and listen to lung sounds a bit, as we haven't really studied that at uni yet. The doctor I was sitting with was good at showing me how to do it, even though I didn't have a clue what to do to begin with! The hardest thing was the language, being able to ask patients things and just generally chit chat to them as I would do in an English speaking situation. After a while we worked out a system whereby he wrote down in Spanish what questions to ask, so then I would ask them and he would note down the response.
I had explained to me how the healthcare system works in Mexico: from what I gathered, those who can afford it pay for it, and for those who can’t there is some free healthcare provided by the government, however this does not include medications, they still have to be paid for. And the quality, I was told, is not quite the same. In this situation those who needed it were able to receive advice and medications for free. I had more questions about how it all works, but we got busy with other patients at that point so my questions will have to wait!
You could tell that the doctor I was shadowing really liked working with kids, he said he wants to specialise further in paediatrics. For example, to one girl he gave some medication and then wrote down how and when to take it, and got her to read it back to him to make sure she understood. She was only about 9 years old and had come by herself, so he had to make sure she was going to take it correctly. Also, when parents came, he always spoke to their children as well as them, involving them in the conversation if they were old enough to understand. I could see this even though it was in Spanish - some things you can see even with a language barrier!
On Friday, I was taken to see the hospital where I will be working. It's in a part of town called Zapopan, which is really pretty. When I am able to I will upload photos onto here. I didn't get to speak much to my supervisor, as they were pretty busy when we got there, but I will on Monday, when I start. I'm really excited about being able to get more experience – hopefully I haven't forgotten everything I learned in my first year of uni!
Well, I'm starting to find my feet in this giant city and I'm getting used to hearing Spanish around me all the time. I'm more and more able to pick up words in sentences and then figure out what people are saying. Learning Spanish is hard! Grammar has never been my forte. But speaking to people is, so I'm attempting to use the few words I know to ask things or answer questions. Choco (whose house I'm staying in) is very patient with me. She will say something to me slowly, then more slowly, and then again... Sometimes we give up and try the English! Once or twice I've ended up hopping from foot to foot pointing to or grabbing various objects in the kitchen to try and figure out what I'm being asked.
Lunch today was something called pozole. It's a stew or soup kind of thing with maize in the bottom and you add well cooked strips of meat and then all kinds of things like onion, lettuce, horseradish, and really hot Mexican chilli sauce - depending on your tolerance! It's SO GOOD. We had some leftovers for dinner. We have lunch here from about 2 til 4, it's a really relaxed affair, people at work take their long lunch break during this time, then go back to work.
Later this afternoon I went off on an expedition to find the centre of town. And... Okay, okay I admit, I stopped in Starbucks on the way home! Then the heavens opened. As aforementioned, this the rainy season, so in the early evening the intense heat that's been building up during the day breaks: Thunder and lightening, the streets turn to rivers (I mean RIVERS); you don't want to get caught in a thunderstorm! I stood and watched it for a while from the canopy outside the shop where other groups of people were sheltering, and I thought about how much I'm loving this city.
Hola! I've arrived in Guadalajara, Mexico! I got in late last night – my host family are lovely. They have a little dog called Chack who is very excited that I am here and was following me round as I was shown around the house, also a parrot who I'm told is very old! I was served tea and tacos for a late night snack before much needed sleep after my long flight. My hostess does not speak very much English which is good as that will mean I have to practice the Spanish I will be learning a bit whilst I am here. Unfortunately though our conversation was mostly in English last night due my tiredness and lack of brain function!
I noticed a difference as soon as I was at the boarding gate to my connecting flight to Guadalajara: everyone waiting for the flight was so much more chatty and friendly with each other, even speaking with people they didn't seem to have met before. The whole atmosphere was different. The British are known for their reserved-ness, we don't talk to strangers and it is a rule of thumb to not make eye-contact with others on public transport! So I knew I was going to like it here.
It's now 6.30 in the morning – 10.30 UK time hence why I now am awake. There is some stormy weather as is usual for this time of year here. I was trying to keep my eyes open in the early hours to see the lightening out of the window, but they kept drooping shut. Tomorrow I have a free day to accustom myself to my surroundings and on Monday I start my Spanish lessons.
‘Til next time!
Coming from countries which have an advance level of physiotherapy in particular and rehabilitation in general (United Kingdom and Denmark), two volunteers Sarah Cowderoy and Sarah Åkerlind who volunteer at the National Hospital of Acupuncture (Hanoi, Viernam) have been able to use the knowledge gained from academic studying and from working experience in clinical placements not only to help the Vietnamese children with disabilities to get daily physiotherapy treatments but also to introduce useful and new techniques to the doctors and nurses at the hospital placement. In the National Hospital of Acupuncture, the main method used for rehabilitation is acupuncture and massaging; physiotherapy techniques haven't been applied alot here in combination with the acupunture to speed up the recovery progress of the patients. This is partly due to the fact that physiotherapy is not much developed in a country like Vietnam and specifically in a traditional hospital like the Hospital of Acupuncture. Nevertheless, realizing the positive impacts that physiotherapy rehab can have on the patients when being combined with acupuncture, the management board of the hospital appreciates the work of Projects Abroad volunteers as the volunteers are able to introduce these western techniques to the treatment process which has proved good results and thus, they encourage the doctors and nurses to learn these techniques from the volunteers and to apply them to treat the patients.
Yesterday, after a certain time of having observation and directly working with the patients (both adults and children), two volunteers were asked to prepare and deliver a presentation to give basic and essential introduction about peadiatric physiotherapy in Western countries and different simple techniques that the Vietnamese doctors, nurses and parents should be trained to help with the rehabilitation of the handicapped children. Viet Dao, the medical project coordinator from Projects Abroad, helped the volunteers with the translation and interpretation work for the presentation. In the presence of forty doctors and nurses working in different departments in the hospital as well as of Mr. Son, the vice director of the hospital, Sarah Cowderoy and Sarah Åkerlind delivered a strong presentation on the topic with important physical demonstrations of the introduced and recommended techniques. The presentation is believed to have raise more awareness about the importance of physiotherapy in patients' rehab treatment and of the involvement of the parents in helping their children get back to the normal physical state. It gets high appreciation of the participants and especially, the vice director of the hospital. After presenting, the two volunteers are also offered to give another presentation on physiotherapy techniques that can be applied for adult patients next week.
We'd like to express our pride of this work of both Sarahs and shout out to their efforts in researching and making this great presentation!