In a country like Honduras, access to basic medical care isn’t always easy to find, and services such as physical therapy become more of a challenge. At the beginning of August, two faculty members and 12 students and recent graduates traveled to Honduras on a service mission trip through Heart to Honduras, based in Xenia, Ohio.
Julie Toney, PT, Ph.D., director of clinical education and associate professor, and Sharon Walsh, D.Sc., interim chair and associate professor of the physical therapy program, led a group of four students and eight recent graduates on an eight-day journey to help people – especially children – in Honduras.
The first half of the trip was spent in Las Vegas, Honduras, where the group was stationed in classrooms in a school. People were lined up waiting to be seen, and many children had disabilities. According to Toney, parent education was a large focus, teaching them about proper handling, positioning and exercise that would help their children develop.
“Working with the children and adults at the school in Las Vegas was very rewarding because the parents were very interested in what they needed to do in order to help their children,” said Rachel Ebner, a physical therapy student, who contrasted that experience with what the group saw at an orphanage later in the week.
“The orphanage was heartbreaking because there was no one to care this deeply for them,” she said. “It was especially sad for the children with disabilities because they were not receiving the attention necessary to help each kid individually, such as stretching them, helping them to stand, et cetera.”
The 12 students and graduates were split into groups of four at each location, and each group was led by someone who recently had completed a pediatric rotation. Walsh and Toney helped supervise; Walsh specializes in pediatrics. A nurse practitioner familiar with the area also traveled with the group as the Hearts for Honduras representative.
One of the group’s stops included a center for women, infants and children, which was built by a northwest Ohio Rotary Club.
“The most memorable part about our trip to Honduras was treating patients,” said Amanda Bachmayer, physical therapy student. “People were lined up outside the clinic hours in advance to be seen for physical therapy. Every patient was very grateful to have the opportunity to return to their previous levels of function, to decrease their pain and to improve their strength and mobility. Although we were only in Honduras treating patients for a week, I really felt I made an impact in their lives.”
Ebner, who has been on several mission trips with her home church, was especially touched by the translators that worked with the group.
“Two of them had their own health issues, so we were able to evaluate and help treat them so that they could continue to do their best work without pain,” she said. “In particular, one of the translators touched my heart by his intense love for God, for children and for helping others in general. He was one that needed a lot of physical therapy and benefitted from us being there … He was just so thankful to be able to be walking so that he could help others, so that’s what he does daily.”
Ebner plans to graduate in 2013; Bachmayer plans to graduate in 2014.