“I have really grown fond of our patients”

by Karin Uckrow,  2010/06/29

Since the end of April the humedica team in Port-au-Prince has been supported by two physiotherapists from Germany whose help had been required urgently. They have been working with the team for eight weeks now and thanks to their commitment a lot of positive results have been achieved. humedica project coordinator Karin Uckrow interviewed the two physiotherapists about their work, their impressions and feelings.

The first steps into a new life – thanks to the help of Andreas Moll. Photo: humedica/Henning Günzler

“During the first few weeks after the earthquake the work of the humedica team was focussed on first medical aid for the victims of the earthquake. This first aid encompassed the treatment of bruises and severe bone fractures and in many cases limbs needed to be amputated.

The majority of these patients are still in- or outpatients and receive after-treatment which now also includes a comprehensive physiotherapeutic treatment.

Andrea Glass and Andreas Moll arrived in Port-au-Prince at the end of April in order to support the medical team regarding the rehabilitation measures which had become necessary at this stage. The two professional physiotherapists had decided to work for humedica in Haiti within an admirably short time.

Helping others without hesitations

Andrea Glass had been planning to work abroad in the framework of a humanitarian mission for some time. “Being a physiotherapist I know how important physiotherapeutic treatment and rehabilitation measures are for patients with amputated limbs. And when I read a report on the humedica homepage stating that physiotherapists were urgently needed in Haiti, I immediately decided that I wanted to offer them my assistance.

When the earthquake shook Haiti on January 12, 2010, Andreas Moll already wished that he could offer help and work in Haiti on an honorary basis. Back then, however, he had other job-related obligations. When he received an email at the beginning of April stating that humedica urgently required physiotherapists, he did not hesitate any longer and only a short time later he was on the plane to Haiti.

Muscles are strengthened and the use of prosthetics is practised by means of various exercises. Photo: humedica/Jens Großmann

Right now there is a lot of work for physiotherapists in Haiti. On the one hand there are hardly any Haitians with professional physiotherapeutic training. On the other hand thousands of amputations had been necessary after the earthquake and a large number of people had suffered bone fractures which often were very complicated and accompanied by various complications.

Therefore, there still is high demand for comprehensive and long-term physiotherapeutic treatment at the Hospital of Hope. “The most important tasks at the beginning were to strengthen the muscles of the amputated limbs, promote the patients’ mobilisation after months of lying in their beds and to help them develop a normal physiological gait pattern.

The patients needed to be approached carefully at first, not least because physiotherapeutic treatment often is painful and the people are frightened and in pain. Patience was required of both parties for the patients to accept the treatment.

“At first the patients were very reserved. But after we got used to each other most of the patients wanted to see us on a daily basis and furthermore they wanted to do their physiotherapeutic exercises on their own in addition to daily treatment“.

In cooperation with the organisations Handicap International and Healing Hands for Haitihumedica had been able to provide artificial legs to a large number of patients. For the physiotherapists this means that they now need to focus on active walking exercises to practise the use of the prosthetics, and to help the patients to gain trust in themselves and get used to the artificial limbs as soon as possible.

Prepare them for the “life after hospital”

After bone fractures have healed, physiotherapeutic treatment can be started. Photo: humedica/Jens Großmann

The two physiotherapists, however, also agree on the fact that the most challenging task is to prepare their patients for their “life after hospital”. Some of the patients have lost everything due to the earthquake – their families, their homes and the possibility of taking up their professions.

For us the largest success of our work was to watch the development of our patients and to see how they gained a little courage and trust in their bodies and for their future with every little improvement of their health,” said Andrea Glass.

Patients are only dismissed from hospital, when this decision is acceptable from a medical point of view and when the patients are ready for returning to normal life. “By means of our work we wanted to prepare the patients for life outside the hospital as good as possible and show them that there definitely is a life for them despite their handicaps.

Nevertheless I know that living conditions cannot be compared to our European standards. For the future I hope that our patients and the large number of other injured people in Haiti will also have a place to go, if they have problems regarding their prosthetics or their health.

I have really grown fond of our patients and it is hard for me to leave Haiti now. Medical treatment still is so urgently needed…” – concluded Andrea Glass when leaving Haiti.

I definitely can imagine returning one day

Physiotherapists give the patients hope for their future. Photo: humedica/Andrea Glass

Andreas Moll will work at the hospital until July 2010 before returning to Germany – at least temporarily. Besides his work with the patients, the thing he values most regarding his mission for humedica is the experience he gained – for example the insight into another culture, the great importance of non-verbal communication, the intensive interdisciplinary exchange with colleagues and other organisations as well as the experience of empathising with other persons’ fates.

I can definitely imagine returning to Haiti in future in order to work here as a physiotherapist.” Due to the officially estimated 1,500 amputations and the countless earthquake victims whose severe bone fractures have still not healed, physiotherapists will be needed for a long time.

Please support this field of work of humedica by means of a targeted donation – either online – or to the account below:
      humedica e.V.
      Donation reference “Earthquake Haiti
      Account 47 47
      Bank Code 734 500 00
      Sparkasse Kaufbeuren

You can also support us in a fast, simple and secure way by means of sending us a text message:
You only need to send DOC to the abbreviated dialling +49 8 11 90 and support us with a one-time donation of 5 euros, with 4.83 euros of this amount being directly channelled into the humedica project work. Thank you very much.

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