Today we worked with 17 children and teens from Cusco and the area around Macchu Picchu. They rode an overnight bus for 12 hours to get here. I began this post on our (and their) lunch break, aware that it would be rather late tonight before I could finish it. At 1:30 pm we had finished 6 kids, with several more underway and more not yet begun. Our team is a bit depleted, with both Tessa and Julian ill in their rooms. We are getting better at pulling in the social workers, teachers, therapists and other professionals accompanying the kids and families. This is not only better for us because we need extra hands, but it is beneficial for them as they learn how the wheelchairs are constructed and adjusted. With this knowledge they will be better able to deal with future equipment problems.
We saw a wide age range today, from 18 months to 23 years. Many have cerebral palsy, and one is from a family that speaks only Quechua, no Spanish. Fortunately, another mother spoke both languages so with double translation the essentials were communicated.
Lourdes is 18 years old and was born with lower limb deformities. Until a few months ago she had never left her house, but she is active and strong since receiving a wheelchair that was provided for her in the usual way – at a distribution without evaluation or customization of the equipment. Lourdes left today with a very different chair, rebuilt to a front drive wheel configuration that will allow her to traverse rough terrain more easily and make the jewelry that she creates to earn a living.
18 month old Dara came from Cusco with her mother and received her first wheelchair today, a cute Kid Kart. Dara has cerebral palsy and is not able to sit up on her own, but her bright eyes dart everywhere and she did not miss much.
Jose outgrew his wheelchair and came for a replacement. He uses an alternative communication system so he was a priority to receive one of our precious (because they are rare in Peru) clear plastic trays. Pictures and communication boards can be fastened underneath so they are protected, yet visible so that Jose can make choices and communicate with those around him.
Frank and his mother barely made it here. They had no money to make the trip, but they went to the bus station and were begging for money to buy tickets when another group on their way to our clinic saw them and picked them up.
Miriam is 5 years old. When she was 3, she was in a car wreck that killed her mother. Miriam survived with a spinal cord injury that left her paraplegic. She is being raised by her aunt and grandmother after being deserted by her father. Miriam was so excited to have a wheelchair that she did not want to sit still to have her picture taken!
It is late and tomorrow is another day. Stay tuned for a blog post by our OT students from St. Catherine University, who will share their perspectives tomorrow night!