Tag Archives: disabilities

Hidden Treasures

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Our medical team had a new type of outreach this week.
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We had some extra medical visitors in town, including a dear pediatric colleague who lived here for 2 years and there was an opportunity to go to a smaller city about 3 hours away to a special needs school.
This school was absolutely phenomenal.
We saw a total of about 60 patients, with 5 residents/recent graduates seeing the patients and N and I precepting/teaching.
In addition, the children seen that day also all received fluoride varnish treatments and some basic oral hygiene training from our team.

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I was struck by the parents’ hunger for information on how to help their kids learn and thrive.

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Some have received a diagnosis and have no idea what it means.
Others have no diagnosis, just are told their child is “delayed.”
I asked many of the moms and grandmas whether they felt like having their child at this school had made a difference.
The answer was an overwhelming YES.
Countless times we heard that prior to coming here, the children were unable to walk, or talk, or do much for themselves.
Now, 6 or 12 months later, they can!

This boy was being hauled up to the 4th floor by his grandmother every day, her lifting him under his arms.
And he’s not a tiny kid.
In the past months, he can actually climb all the stairs by himself, holding the handrail.
They were both beaming with pleasure, and I had tears in my eyes.

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I was blown away by whatever the teachers and therapists are doing.
Perhaps not all according to our ideal US standards–they are eager to have colleagues come and do more teacher training and therapy training–but they are certainly already making a huge impact on these families.

I was reminded of the fact that 85% of people living with disabilities are in the developing world.
And 98% of children with disabilities have no access to education worldwide.

(for more, read Unicef’s report on disabilities here)

I have certainly found limitations to education here in our city–for one, pretty much anybody with a disability cannot attend the regular school.
Each district has a public special needs school but there are reportedly tuition fees that many families cannot afford, even if distance is not an issue.
But I am still learning about that issue, so cannot wax too eloquent yet.

In any case, this particular school is a bright spot in their city, and we are looking forward to our next trip and planning more targeted educational and medical interventions.

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Equestrian Excitement

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While I was in the US this summer, a lot was happening here “on the farm.”
One of our very energetic foster mothers wrote a grant which would enable our foster children to participate in a horse-experience.
It was granted!

Initially the children were all pretty nervous.
And the foster parents too, I think.
However, as the weekly visits continued, more and more have been riding.

This week I will be able to go for the first time and see for myself!
In the meantime, here are a few shots from this summer.

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Swimming Upstream

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Swimming Upstream

This past weekend 30 families and their children with disabilities flocked to a beautiful retreat center outside the city, thanks to Joni and Friends and another local non-profit organization in town.

MC (one of our family medicine residents) and I were invited to give a lecture on health issues and do medical consultations.

MC did a fantastic job doing her first lecture as well as first translation of both the slides and verbal interpretation for me.

More importantly, we were humbled by these families.

In an environment where a child with a disability of almost any kind is often barred from enrolling in preschool or elementary school, where orphanages are full of abandoned children with simple or complex congenital anomalies, and where therapies and special education are hard to come by–

These families have chosen to keep their child with cerebral palsy, neurological disorders, autism, low IQ, deafness or seizures.

They have chosen to pay the cost of keeping this one they love, sacrificing the approval of their family and neighbors, the chance for their child to attend the best universities, a comfortable marriage.

As we met some of these parents individually and heard their stories, I also realized what a hunger they have for reliable, up to date and useful information about their child’s condition.

We were literally bombarded with questions from all sides most of the day, ranging from how to help their child walk better to is there a cure for this condition.

The concept of a medical home, such as we know it in the United States, is unknown here.

Only the patient coordinates which specialists to see, and when.

Nobody reminds them when to go and get a follow up test.

And many of these families have no access to the internet and the plethora of (even inaccurate) information about their diagnosis due to financial constraints.

Those in our group were all below the poverty level, according to the organizers.

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Absolutely amazing, these precious children and their families.

A Little Support

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As I said, we’ve been busy.

This past week we launched our first bilingual foster family support group meeting.

Eight current or former foster moms attended, including our director.

A short term visiting team provided childcare in the living room so the grownups could talk in the dining area.

Our primary goal was to be a safe place where people can connect with others who really understand their unique challenges.

The unknown future.

The possibility of saying good bye as the child leaves with a forever family in another land.

The hard questions many strangers ask.

It was quite fun linguistically, with translation flying in all directions depending on who got it first, and a lot of laughs.

Some tears were shed.

One former foster mom shared about the challenges of saying good bye to her foster son when he was adopted after two years of fostering, and how she grieved for over two years after that.

One told about the hard times when her then 10 year old newly arrived child screamed every night and would not calm unless she was laying by her side.

A couple moms mentioned living on the 4th or 6th floor (no elevators in buildings less than 7 floors here!) and the difficulty in carrying kids, stroller, groceries up and down.

These women are both past 50.

I feel like such a wimp when I grumble about a minor inconvenience like being caught in the rain for five minutes.

(Like today.)