As many of our loyal blog followers know, each year there are a few students from the DPT class selected to attend a trip to Malawi to provide Physical Therapy services to those in hospitals, as well as teach family members how to help their loved ones once the students leave.
This year, we are switching up our endeavors and heading to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic! Four DPT students (Nikki, Irena, Carlos, and Kelly) were chosen to partner with Hope Haven West to lead a seating clinic where we will examine and evaluate children with disabilities such as spina bifida and cerebral palsy, and work to customize the Hope Haven wheelchair to their specific needs in order to send them home with a chair that fits them like a glove!
In order to prepare for our trip, we have spent multiple hours in the classroom getting to know these wheelchairs like the back of our hands. We have taken them completely apart down to the nuts and bolts, and then reassembled them from the ground up. We have problem solved ways to recline the seat, tilt the chair in space, add cushions to accommodate for very small children (using dolls to visualize), add or decrease space from floor to seat, from footplate to seat, etc., as well as cutting and contouring foam for the backrest of the chair to accommodate for severe scoliosis. We have studied neuroanatomy and talked through many different case studies to solidify our understanding of exactly which aspect of the wheelchair to modify for specific conditions. We have also spent time at the Hope Haven warehouse getting familiar with how the chair will look when we arrive in the DR.
Needless to say, we believe we are ready to put all that we’ve learned in the past 9 weeks to great use and help to give these children a sense of mobility and independence that they may have never had before. We are headed to the airport bright and early on Saturday morning to begin our experience!
We are so excited to represent the University of the Pacific and our PT program on this new adventure and we can’t wait to dive into the culture and give back to the profession that has given us so many opportunities already. We want to extend our warmest thanks to the Rotary Club for their support for this endeavor, and we are looking forward to meeting the rest of the team who we will be working with!
We will be spending 3 full days distributing ~60 wheelchairs (so we will be very busy) but we can’t wait to share our experiences with you all! Stay posted!