Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Wednesday April 30th UNC PT Outreach Obras and Alotenango

Holla from Guatemala! We began our last clinic day at Hospital Virgen Del Socorro (Las Obras). We continued to assist the therapists and nursing staff feed patients, perform wheelchair modifications, and other therapeutic activities. Working alongside the therapists there has been wonderful sharing approaches and learning from them. All the staff has been so grateful throughout our time there and we are so grateful that they we willing to share their time with us! 

After saying goodbye to the staff and patients at Las Obras we proceeded to a small mountain town just outside of Antigua called Alotenango for today’s health fair. We arrived in town in time to explore a bit and spotted yet another public wash basin. These community water sources are numerous in Antigua and the surrounding towns we have visited during our trip. It takes you back in time a bit to see individuals doing their washing in this way. 

The groups expectation for a large health fair turnout was confirmed when we arrived. A line was already forming outside of the half-built structure which was operating as a school for children with special needs. People who had come in years past and new faces as well. In just 1 hour we were well on our way to giving away all the fruit, feminine hygiene, diluted beach, and cleanliness items we had brought with us. Several consultations began immediately because individuals with CP and other conditions requiring more nuanced education/treatment were waiting to be seen and continued to come until after the health fair ended. It was a long but rewarding day! 

This trip has certainly been educational. It has also been tear and joy provoking for many of us, providing memories and a perspective we will carry with us for many years to come. To have the chance to come to Guatemala, talk to the people, provide care, and reflect on our time has been eye opening and humbling. 

April 29, 2019

Today was our second to last day in Antigua and we continued working at Las Obras and hosting a health fair in the afternoon. Each day the students have felt more comfortable jumping into treatments and assisting with wheelchair modifications, and it shows in the consistent collaboration with the local physical therapists. Each day we are able to rotate through different areas in order to see a different population and work with different therapists, which provides the opportunity to learn and benefit from different skill sets and purposes for interventions. Today was especially unique in that one student, Olivia DeSena presented an inservice presentation on positioning for children to promote optimal posture, interaction, feeding and how to integrate positioning into daily care. The therapists and our students were able to practice and develop solutions to common positioning problems.

In the afternoon we headed to Brillo de Sol, an inclusive school started by a local mom who saw a need for improved education for children with disabilities. We hosted our health fair and met with over 45 people to discuss blood pressure, nutrition, biomechanics, hygiene and infant health. The chance to meet and talk with members of the local community about simple ways to improve overall health and wellness has been a great part of this trip. Some of the especially valuable moments are the times when we get to watch families encourage each other to integrate the habits or practices we discuss. Overall, we are surprised to have only one day left after a trip that has involved so many experiences and are excited to integrate what we've learned in our future practice. 

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Sunday, April 28th, 2019

Today was another beautiful day in Guatemala! We started our day with a trip to the Mayan ruins and stopped for breakfast along the way at a restaurant called Chichoy. The food was fresh and delicious—the black corn tortillas were cooked right beside us in the dining area. We even had the opportunity to make our own! Our tour guide Hugo told us that the restaurant is known for its fruit pies, so we ended the meal with a papaya and pineapple pie which was very tasty!

After breakfast we continued to Iximche Archaeological Park where Hugo led us on a tour of the Mayan ruins. We learned a lot about Mayan history and culture. Elise and Rachel even practiced playing “polenta Maya,” a popular Mayan ball game in which players can only use their shoulders, elbows, hips, and knees to advance the ball. Elise and Rachel were clearly naturals!

After our tour, some of us headed to Lake Atitlan for zip lining while others returned to Antigua to shop and explore. Lake Atitlan was beautiful and we had a great time on the zip lining course.

Overall, it was a wonderful day and we are so grateful for the adventures we were fortunate enough to experience while being here. We look forward to returning to work tomorrow. Thank you to Hugo and his team for a wonderful weekend!!
-Alison Berglund

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Although today was a day off from working with patients, many of us spent the day doing excursions and experiencing some of Guatemala's culture. Some people in the group spent a relaxing morning at a macadamia nut farm, and got to eat delicious pancakes and have facials! The rest of the group went to hike one of the four active volcanoes in Guatemala, Picaya. One the way to Picaya, we drove though a town that was completely destroyed by Fuego, another active volcano. It was amazing how something so beautiful could also be so dangerous and destructive. We were not able allowed to go all of the way to the top of the volcano for safety reasons, but we had a steadily climb close to the top. While there, we found a hot spot to roast marshmallows and sandwiches for lunch. Our tour guide, Hugo, was very informative about how the volcanoes formed 12,000 years ago in Guatemala, and how the volcanoes affect the surrounding communities. Near the top of the volcano was also the Lava Store, which is where the members of the community make jewelry and other items out of the volcanic rock to help support their families and local communities.

After a short break from the morning, the entire group then went to tour a local coffee farm. We got to meet Don Beto and his wonderful family. First, we walked to see some of the coffee plants, and learned about the differences between them. We also talked a lot about the coffee industry in Guatemala and the United States. During harvesting season, Don Beto walked an hour and a half to his coffee farm where he and his family pick the cherry beans, and then must walk back that day to process them. After going to see the plants, we were able to go into Don Beto's home where he showed us how coffee is made. The cherry beans are put into a pitting machine, which separates the beans from the pits. Next, the beans must ferment in a bag for a few days, and then sit in the sun for several days to get the perfect consistency. After about 2 weeks in the sun, the women in the family must sit and go through all of the beans to throw out any beans that are not acceptable to sell. Finally, the beans are ready for roasting, and are then bagged and sent out to be sold. Everyone got to taste some of the delicious homemade coffee, and buy bags to take home! This was a very humbling experience because we were able to see how local Guatemalan people live and complete their day to day activities. It was also very wonderful to be able to support a local family, who must work very hard to support each other.

Even though it was a long day, it was amazing to see the sites of Guatemala, meet some of the local people, and get to learn more about the Guatemalan culture!
Taylor Guardalabene
Buenas Días!

Friday was a busy day for our group. At Las Obras, we switched some of us around to be able to meet and interact with more residents. We were able to help with feeding the residents breakfast again, and it was so neat seeing how efficient the nurses were with helping so many residents in so little time! Afterwards, the rest of the morning was spent with treatments and wheelchair evaluations. In the young adult group, we were able to work with Amanda, the main physical therapist, in problem solving together in several chair repairs. It was so humbling to see how resourceful the staff is in utilizing the tools they have available in making each resident fit as well as they can in chairs.

In the afternoon, we hosted a Health Fair at Pastores. There were several stations: flexibility, nutrition, low back pain, pregnancy and infant care, hand washing, blood pressure, and feminine hygiene. At first, there were not many people from the town coming in, so a few of us went out and about to help recruit, which worked really well! We even got to see some of the people we treated yesterday, and they came up and hugged and kissed us and greeted all of us like we were old friends. I cannot get over how welcoming every single person we meet is, and how they are so giving and generous, even when they have so little of their own.



As a group, all of our Spanish is growing in skill each day. We are very thankful for the patience of the people we are interacting with in learning how to communicate, and we hope to make at least a small lasting impact on our visit!

Hasta Pronto!
Rachel Earnhardt

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Today we spent a full day treating patients. We started the morning bright and early at Las Obras helping serve breakfast to the residents. We saw many of the residents and staff that we met yesterday and started forming relationships. After breakfast we began physical therapy! We broke into the same groups as before, helping with older adults, young adults, and pediatrics. Some of the same residents returned from the day before and there were many new patients. The adults group had a great day and even learned a new way to make a hand splint!

We had so much fun working with all of the patients today and they seemed to enjoy working with us. I made friends with one of the residents as we walked around the common area and talked about his life. We even got a picture together!

The staff and residents then invited us to join them in a ceremony that was full of music and song.

After lunch we drove to Pastores which is a town outside of Antigua to treat patients at the Clinicas Medicas San Jose. We were thrilled to see fliers promoting our services around town!

We are excited how many people came to receive treatment. We treated individuals of all ages from 9 years old to 80 years old with various conditions such as sciatic, low back, arm, neck, and shoulder pain.

After we returned for the night, we organized for the health fair tomorrow and exchanged amazing stories from today. Everyone had a great day and shared how much they learned and expressed gratitude they had for a wonderful day.

Anna VerMeulen

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

First Day in Los Obros

 Today was our first day at Las Obras! We arrived yesterday and after a good night sleep we were excited to begin at the hospital. We split up into three groups across the treatment areas of the facility. One group worked with pediatric residents, one with adults and one with geriatric residents. Right away, we were welcomed into the physical therapy gyms and began to work with the residents. We spent time working on positioning in wheel chairs, walking, seated balance, range of motion, and transfers along side the physical therapy staff and local physical therapy students. We were amazed at the strong relationships between the staff and the residents as well as the beautiful facilities. They moved into their new building two and a half years ago, and it was obvious how proud and thankful they were to be able to serve the people of Guatemala. At the end of out clinic day we met with Xiomara, the volunteer coordinator, and she gave us a tour. What stood out was the abundant success  Las Obras has with volunteer support. Additionally, Xiomara described the different ways residents are involved in the community. Most recently, several of the  residents cut up confetti for the massive Holy Week processions in Antigua. Outings and crafts to support local events are a big part of their regular schedule. 
After a morning at Las Obras, we walked to our Spanish lessons and have an overwhelming and massively helpful three hours in class. We were toured in small groups based on proficiency. Besides learning vocabulary, it was fascinating to speak with locals about their typical days and community. We all felt that the time spent practicing Spanish will help us communicate and work with people in Guatemala as well as at home.

After a full day, we met to debrief and share our thoughts and experiences. All were impressed with the facilities, the generosity and openness of the staff, and are excited for a great second day!
Deborah Guthman and Elise Widman