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Heather Abbott ’13 and Lorene Young ’13 Go to Guatemala

Apr 22, 2013

Taking a trip is always a fun and exciting time. Taking a trip to Guatemala for a wheelchair distribution project is a once in a lifetime opportunity. In November, Heather Abbott '13 and Lorene Young '13 joined a group of volunteers for the Rotary International Wheelchair Distribution to provide wheelchair customization and fitting to adults and children. The wheelchair distribution is a partnership with the Department of Physical Therapy and Rotary International, with support from Equip Kids and Hope Haven International.

During their trip, Abbott and Young spent time at Hope Haven customizing wheelchairs for children. They spoke about their experience interacting with patients like 'Hector' whose family only had one tool to adjust his wheelchair which he had outgrown over the last few years.

Before leaving for Guatemala, the doctor of physical therapy class of 2013 did a toy run to collect toys to donate to the local children. Abbott and Young were able to deliver the toys and watch the children play in excitement.

"The patients were able to play and keep the toys that the class donated while we adjusted their wheelchair. The patients and their families had a great time," said Abbott.

In addition to adjusting wheelchairs, the students also provided evaluations of the workers at Hope Haven. They spoke about how they were able to provide ergonomic evaluations for a worker named Dionel who lost strength in his biceps and triceps. The students also worked with a worker named Gustavo who had spinal surgery that ultimately brought him more suffering than healing. He was diagnosed with paraplegia.

Towards the end of their trip, they visited Anini Orphanage and Hospital de Hermano Pedro where they provided more wheelchair customization. Young recalled working with a patient named Beverly who was fifteen years old and she was "crying and moaning and we didn't know what was wrong. I just picked her up and she stopped crying. Small acts make such a big impact," she commented.

When asked how the experience changed their view of physical therapy Abbott says "We learned how to communicate with patients verbally and nonverbally." "Stretching on a daily basis is important because it helps improve your range of motion. It's simple to do but many forget," added Young.

about the author

Dua Moua   Dua Moua '09 is the Marketing Communications Assistant at the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences at Pacific.