* Editor’s Note: For the past 5 years, Athletico has supported and participated in a week-long medical brigade in Honduras through Global Brigades. Athletico volunteers have helped in supportive roles such as interpreting, running the pharmacy, triage, dental staffing, and this year, formal physical and occupational therapy. Over 600 patients were seen this year by Athletico volunteers, physicians, nurses, dentists, and other volunteers. This special entry is written by Athletico physical therapist Sarah Holt, who shares with us her experience as a volunteer with this year’s brigade.
It’s not often in life that you feel that all of your hard work and training have led up to one moment where you can truly make a huge difference in someone’s life. This year, with the introduction of physical and occupational therapy to the medical brigade, I was privileged to experience this during my day covering the physical therapy station. I will never forget how I was able to mobilize a woman’s shoulder and get her back to pain-free function in a matter of minutes. Strength was not an issue with this woman, just flexibility. I was amazed at how physically strong the Honduran people are due to their daily hard-labor to stay alive. To put your hands on someone to heal them and to literally get them back to the daily activities they need to survive, there is no setting that I know of that is more powerful or life changing to practice PT than in this setting.
Overall, we saw approximately 100+ physical therapy and occupational therapy patients during our week in Honduras, many with stories and results similar to the woman described above, further demonstrating the incredible physical strength of this population. Seeing their gratitude and need (as there is no other way for them to get this PT/OT care) was incredibly powerful. Athletico was able to donate two treatment tables to the Global Brigades program as well as resistance bands and a collection of therapy exercises to the local physicians. We hope to be able to see even more patients next year and look forward to building further upon a great start.
The last day of our week in Honduras, we were lucky enough to be able to facilitate a Body Mechanics and Stretching instructional clinic for the local “Community Health Guardian” volunteers through Global Brigades. These community volunteers are trained in basic health education and screening, so they can assist in basic healthcare needs in the months between the week-long Medical Brigades. There is often no other healthcare option. Their training until this point had not included training in body mechanics or injury prevention. We were able to address and teach these community leaders injury prevention for many of the common musculoskeletal injuries we had seen in patients, which included tension headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome, shoulder impingement, and low back pain.
For example, it was especially powerful this year to delve deeper into the complaints of headaches in women that have been so common over the past years of brigades and to realize that these really were muscle tension headaches due to the positioning utilized for hand-washing clothes and using their handmill to grind corn/coffee. It was hysterical and a blast to have everyone practice using their core and hips versus their shoulder and neck musculature to generate these movements.
Ana, one of the Community Health Guardians, said it best, “You’re teaching us how to prevent and get rid of our pain by changing the way we do things. You’re giving us the power to not rely on medications to control our pain, medications that arrive but twice a year through the brigades; it’s a wonderful gift.”
Overall, the introduction of therapy and education was an integral and exciting addition to the Brigades on top of the traditional medical and dental care. It’s wonderful to know that through the Community Health Guardians as well as through the nature of the familial/community structures, each person we educated is now sharing this basic injury prevention and treatment knowledge we provided in a sustainable way. It’s wonderful to think of the number of people we’ve been able to help in this light.
~ Sara Holt, PT, Athletico Park Ridge ~
Quotes from Athletico Medical Brigade Volunteers:
“I’ll never forget when I told one woman that she’d be seeing a PT, she said ‘Glory to God!’ It was so fulfilling to see the Honduran people genuinely excited and appreciative of the PT/OT.”
“It was awesome this year to be able to actually do PT and share our knowledge and expertise. It was also so great to work with the Health Guardians and really see their enthusiasm and passion. It was very inspiring and amazing to see the tangible steps toward self-sufficiency and sustainability of medical care in these communities.”
“I always come to Honduras looking to make a change, yet I always leave changed.”
“Being able to help not just today, but for years to come was very gratifying. Educating them on health issues (from PT to the importance of a clean toilet) ensures our help is more long term. Seeing how grateful everyone we helped was – I’ve never done anything so gratifying.”
“It was a very enlightening experience and was humbling to see how people live here and the great need for medical care.”
“My experience in Honduras was one that I will never forget. Seeing the smiles on the faces of the people we helped made me realize how important what we do is for them.”
Learn more about Athletico’s involvement over the years with Global Medical Brigades.