Friday, May 1, 2015

Day 9 - April 29, 2015

Our time here in Guatemala has been nothing short of amazing. Really there are no words to adequately describe our experiences here. We have all experienced personal growth and professional growth as future physical therapists. While we were able to serve the people of Guatemala, Guatemala has also provided us with invaluable experiences and memories that we will carry with us for a lifetime. 

Thank you to everyone that helped make this service-learning trip possible and thank you to our friends in Guatemala who welcomed us with open arms and made us feel at home.

¡Hasta Luego!

~ Gary Johnson, Joe Miller, Sabina Beckler, Deidra Debnam, and Jessica Skeeter 


G5 with 3 of our leadership team members (Cathy Howes, Lisa Johnston, and Darcy Cooper) in front of Las Obras 

G5 looking over Antigua from Cerro de la Cruz (Hill of the Cross)


Day 8 - April 28, 2015

¡Adiós Guatemala, hasta que te vea de nuevo! (Until I see you again!)

Today is our final clinical day in Guatemala! We have enjoyed our time here, and we’ll leave with many fond memories of this beautiful country!

G5 started the morning working with Las Obras physical therapists. Sabina and Jessica worked in the nursery during the early hours of the morning. After spending time with Las Obras youngest patients, Sabina collaborated with Las Obras physical therapists in pediatrics, while Jessica worked in young adults. Jessica identified many contracture and movement-discrepancy similarities between pediatric patients and young adults at Las Obras. Deidra spent the morning working in Pediatrics, and increased her clinical skills in pediatric handling techniques, as well as wheelchair assessment. Joe had an interesting situation happen while working in older adults. Upon discovering Joe spoke English, a patient became nervous and placed a handkerchief over her face. Joe used his clinical skills to reassure the patient, and she began to relax and open up more. Treating in collaboration with Las Obras physical therapists, Joe helped facilitate improvement in many older adult patient’s trunk control, coordination and walking. Gary rounded out the morning in orthopedics, treating mostly low-back pain at Las Obras outpatient physical therapy clinic.

Before lunch, UNC physical therapist Cathy Howes presented to Las Obras physical therapy staff and students on handling and positioning techniques in the pediatric physical therapy setting. After Cathy’s presentation, Las Obras physical therapy staff and students took pictures with the UNC physical therapy group, and all shared in a delicious lunch from Rincon Tipico. Solemn goodbyes were said to the marvelous and dedicated physical therapy staff of Las Obras, it was an honor working side-by-side with such outstanding therapists. We will miss you guys!!

Las Obras PT's and students with the UNC PT group - ¡Buenos Amigos!

In the afternoon, G5 worked their final health fair at “Escuela Oficial Urbana de Ninas Leonor Rosales Vda. de Ramirez” in Santa Maria de Jesus, Guatemala. 

Escuela Oficial Urbana de Ninas Leonor Rosales Vda. de Ramirez” in Santa Maria de Jesus, Guatemala

Deidra continued her work at the nutrition station teaching individuals the importance of a balanced diet; she also gave out over 100 apples and 30 peaches! Sabina continued her discussions and demonstrations with soon-to-be and existing mothers, and discussed things such as proper infant positioning and swaddling. Joe taught individuals the importance of cleaning their vegetables and fruits properly, NOT sharing combs, and the correct way to wash their hands. Joe’s afternoon was highlighted by teaching the hand washing song (designed for children) to a group of adult male laborers! Leadership team member and UNC-DPT alum Darcy Cooper manned the back pain station.  She did an excellent job instructing and demonstrating techniques to health fair attendees on how to prevent and treat dolor de espalda (back pain). Jessica took blood pressure readings from the health fair participants, and discussed ways to reduce high blood pressure. Jessica really got to work on her Spanish speaking skills, as her station was one of the more popular destinations of the health fair attendees. When Jessica ran out of handouts, our excursion leader and overall wonderful Guatemalan tour guide Hugo came to the rescue and printed more.

Deidra discussing the benefits of a balanced healthy diet.

Joe teaching hygiene and food cleaning.

Jessica was moved when a women personally thanked her and the group for coming to Guatemala to work with their community. The women stated the information we were teaching was very much needed (especially by the women) in their community. G5 estimates around 130+ individuals were in attendance at this health fair, it is an awesome feeling to know we have touched so many lives in a positive way during our time in Guatemala!!

Our evening ended with a delicious dinner with our 2 translators Eduardo and Iris, and of course, the man himself, Hugo! We discovered Iris created hand made bracelets, and she gifted one to each of us for free!

Adiós Guatemala!! We have learned so much and enjoyed our time here immensely!! Until we meet again, ¡un brindis a su salud! (A toast to your health!)

¡Adiós from G5!

Written By: Gary Johnson

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Day 7 - April 27, 2015

¡Gracias por visitor nuestro sitio de blog!

Today marked our second to last day in the clinic at Las Obras. It is hard to believe that we arrived in Guatemala only six short days ago! Despite our fun and exciting, but slightly exhausting weekend, we all woke up bright and early to begin another full day of PT treatment in the morning at Las Obras and community health efforts at a nearby medical clinic later in the afternoon.

Sabina and Jessica started the day off working in the nursery with children between 10 months and 8 years. They enjoyed treating some of the same patients they had interacted with during the week prior, and were pleasantly surprised to find that a few of the babies seemed to have slightly progressed in a very short time since last being seen. Deidra enjoyed another educational morning working with older adults. Gary began his day working in orthopedics and met up with Joe, Sabina, and Jess in pediatrics. It has been exciting to build on our skills in each of these areas throughout our time here.

During our “break time” at 10/10:30am, we had the opportunity to participate in a group dancing session. It was exciting to see how happy all of the patients were to get to listen to music and dance in a big group. All of the individuals had the biggest smiles on their faces, and we were amazed to see how much the activity motivated them to mueva! During lunch, Jessica had the opportunity to present her Capstone project to the physical therapists and physical therapy students at Las Obras. Her presentation was on “Cardiovascular Health: Assessment and Intervention for Patients with Physical and/or Cognitive Disabilities,” and was well received by the therapists at Las Obras. Jessica did her best to provide the therapists with useful and appropriate assessment tools and intervention ideas that the therapists may be able to incorporate into practice.
Deidra dancing with one of the abuelas.

Group dancing at Las Obras! ¡Muy divertido!

Jessica delivering her Capstone project with the help of a translator to therapists at Las Obras.

After a busy morning at Las Obras, all of the students and the UNC leadership team headed to the nearby town of Pastores where another health fair had been organized for the afternoon. The students did a great job communicating with patients – in Spanish, I might add – and offering appropriate advice for nutrition, hand washing, blood pressure, back pain, and baby care. Following an interesting afternoon of interacting with community members who requested advice on a variety of PT-related topics, we returned to Antigua for a little bit of shopping. We rounded out our evening with more touristy photos and a delicious dinner at Café Sky.

The Health Fair location, Clinicas Medicas, in Pastores.

Acting the part of tourists - and realizing that we had "celebrities" in our midst!

We are looking very much forward to our last full day in Antigua, Guatemala tomorrow!

Written By: Jessica Skeeter

Monday, April 27, 2015

Day 6 - April 26, 2015

¡El fin de semana!

For the weekend we decided to do a photo blog of our weekend excursions. Today, we visited the Mayan ruins of Iximche and we even got to see a mayan ceremony taking place. After our visit to the Mayan ruins we went to Reserva Natural Atitlán in Panajachel, Guatemala and completed the Cables X-Tremos tour which consisted of a hike and a zip line and ropes course. 

A huge thanks to our good friend Hugo Suarez from Expeditions Guatemala for leading our action packed day of adventure and FUN! 

Model of the city 

This platform was used for human sacrifices

Altar showing the remnants of an earlier ceremony 
A shaman preparing for a ritual ceremony.  Those are cigars - the prayers were for a person with a smoking problem.

Gary ziplining

Joe ziplining

Jessica ziplining
Deidra ziplining
Ropes course

Day 5 - April 25, 2015

¡El fin de semana!

For the weekend we decided to do a photo blog of our weekend excursions. Today, we hiked Volcan de Pacaya and went on a detailed tour of a local coffee farm learning the process of making coffee from the farm to the coffee cup. Yes, we even got to enjoy the freshly brewed coffee at the end of the tour. 

Special thanks to our friends from Expeditions Guatemala for leading our tour of Pacaya National Park.

Volcan Pacaya

Roasting marshmallows over hot lava
Roasting marshmallows over hot lava

Lava Store - where we could buy jewelry made from lava

Coffee farmer and his faithful dog 

Coffee beans

Roasting over fire

Ready for grinding

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Day 4 - April 24, 2015


Things are going great in Guatemala! It was another full day for us, beginning with treating patients at Las Obras. Jessica and Sabina worked in the nursery and in pediatrics. Gary also got some experience working in pediatrics.  Joe worked with young adults, and I worked in ortho. In addition to treating ailments such as neck, shoulder and low back pain, I also had my first experience treating a patient with spina bifida. Gary got to participate in a procession in and around Las Obras that was a part of a week long celebration for Santo Hermano Pedro. Gary was originally working with older adults, but when treatments stopped because of the procession he got to transport one of the patients in his wheelchair around the hospital. Gary also got to see the fireworks outside the hospital which were a part of the procession. Joe and Lisa helped with an aquatic therapy session at Las Obras. For Joe, it was his first time ever doing aquatic therapy and he immediately recognized the therapeutic effects of water to improve range of motion and reduce spasticity.

After our morning at Las Obras we returned to Enseñame a Pescar, the school where we conducted a health fair at the previous day, to treat patients from the local community. Children and adults both came and our groups of physical therapists and physical therapy students evaluated and treated patients with neurological and musculoskeletal conditions. One thing we all recognized throughout our interactions with the families that came was the amount of devotion the mothers displayed. Each woman demonstrated a high level of dedication to providing the best for their child and took very seriously the advice and recommendations we provided them – some even indicated that they come every year to the clinics ran by UNC DPT to get medical care and advice. During the clinic, one group spent a great deal of time treating a patient with an amputated limb who was preparing to get a prosthetic leg in a few months. He specifically came to the clinic because his doctor told him that he needed to utilize an exercise program and lose weight before receiving his prosthesis. While we were able to provide him with a detailed exercise program, he also provided us and others with a heartwarming example of a selfless act of kindness. Following his session with us, the patient went home and later returned to the school to personally give his own wheelchair to a young patient whose family did not have the resources to obtain a wheelchair. This man’s generosity touched the hearts of everyone present.

All work and no play is no fun, so after I saw my last patient at Enseñame a Pescar I noticed several kids outside playing on the school’s playground. I recognized one of the kids from earlier because I treated his brother during the clinic. I spent about 30 minutes playing with these three kids – helping them get across the monkey bars, chatting (great practice for my Spanish), and letting them take silly photos with my camera. When I finally had to say good bye to each of them, I got three big hugs. For me, it was the perfect way to end a busy day.

Written by: Deidra Debnam

Aquatic Therapy at Las Obras

Procession Outside of Las Obras

Patient Who Donated His Wheelchair to a Younger Patient

Playing with the Kids Outside of Ensename a Pescar