Looking back on the week in Cuzco

Our schedule in Cuzco was quite grueling last week – 12-13 hour days, and Thursday found us eating pollo a la brasa (rotisserie chicken) delivered to our lodgings at 10 PM! Friday, however, was our last day and we finished early at 6:30 pm. The afternoon was a flurry of activity as we completed several wheelchair and postural care sessions, including two very complex young people. While we were doing this work, Equip KIDS and the Lions Club members were packing up all the extra wheelchairs and supplies for shipment to Arequipa where they will do more fittings next week. One of the best things about this week has been the opportunity to teach a class about postural care, and to see the interest kindled in Sandra (of Equip KIDS) who told Tamara that she loves postural care! We hope this new focus will serve many people well in the provinces of Peru, and look forward to sharing more next year.

See below for more photos of the week’s work, including a few folks on the team who were missed in the photo post from Lima!

Elmer poses in his new wheelchair with Christian (Equip KIDS volunteer), his teacher from Abancay and Scott - our intrepid wheelchair wizard!

Elmer poses in his new wheelchair with Christian (Equip KIDS volunteer), his teacher from Abancay and Scott – our intrepid wheelchair wizard!

 

Luz is a Lions Club member with sewing skills, here pictured using the 1935 Singer Featherweight sewing machine donated to Equip KIDS.

Luz is a Lions Club member with sewing skills, here pictured using the 1935 Singer Featherweight sewing machine donated to Equip KIDS.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Laura and Brandon (OT students) collaborate with Pam (PT) fitting a child with a Kid Chair.

Laura and Brandon (OT students) collaborate with Pam (PT) fitting a child with a Kid Chair.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our amazing translator, Luis, helps Tamara explain night-time postural care concepts - "knees and toes to the ceiling"!

Our amazing translator, Luis, helps Tamara explain night-time postural care concepts – “knees and toes to the ceiling”!

Matthias had several family members as his own personal "pit crew".

Matthias had several family members as his own personal “pit crew”.

Hade found a picture of her favorite animal - a dog - to color once she was set in her new wheelchair with a tray.

Hade found a picture of her favorite animal – a dog – to color once she was set in her new wheelchair with a tray.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most of the crew was around the table for our final team dinner on Friday night - missing - Placida resting in her room and Tamara behind the camera!

Most of the crew was around the table for our final team dinner on Friday night – missing in the photo, Placida resting in her room and Tamara behind the camera.

It is Sunday, June 1. Tamara and Sammie are laying low in Lima. Tomorrow we will go to Yancana Huasy where we will meet to review our 2014 work together, and leave 3 large bags of 220 volt tools and other supplies in storage for next years Peru clinics. Later in the day we will meet at Caritas del Peru, the customs consignee that allows us to bring shipments into the country tax free. From there we will go straight to the airport for a several hour wait until our flight to Atlanta leaves – the first leg of our journey home.

Agenda for the rest of today…rest!

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Eleanore’s Project Experiences-Reflections of the St. Catherine University OT Students

Today we have the students telling their stories about their time in Peru. I think you’ll agree that they are a fine group of young adults.

Jenna

We worked with Christian last week in Lima. Christian was a very complex case. He had high tone and it was difficult to position him in a safe and functional matter. His entire family waited for hours while we changed the chair over and over. At the end of the day the chair was finished and the family were extremely grateful we could find a position that relaxed him in his chair as well as a night time position to help him sleep safely through the night. All of the families have been unbelievably great throughout the long process of customizing a wheelchair. I’ve learned a lot about myself through this experience especially about my patience. This is something I have struggled with in the past but I’m happy to say my patience level has definitely improved over the last two weeks. Eleanore’s Project has been a great opportunity that will be invaluable for my future as an occupational therapist. It has been an enriching experience I’ll never forget.

Elizabeth

Working in a different country, with people from different cultures can be both intimidating and nerve racking. One person that helped me to remember the reason why we were here was a young woman named Adenka. She was a very complex client who had to come back to the Lima clinic 3 days after her initial visit to get her chair revamped. Although you would think someone who had already waited for her chair for a full work day would dread coming back, she was gleaming with joy the moment she entered the room. Her patience and positivity encouraged me to work hard to give her the best possible wheelchair. This is just one of the many instances that bought me back to the true purpose of Eleanore’s Project: enhancing the lives of those in need.

Sarah

On my first day at the clinic in Cusco, I met a woman named Rosario. This particular client made me learn a lot about myself and my ability to handle uncomfortable situations. Rosario came into the clinic in a lot of pain. Each time we transferred or moved her, she winced and squeezed my hand very tightly. During these moments, I experienced strong emotions. In my life, I have worked with several clients experiencing pain and have never felt the way I did that day. Rosario is someone I will always remember when working with clients in the future. I hope the wheelchair, modifications, and night time postural care will reduce her pain level and help her have a better quality of life.

Jill

Today I met Eric. He was a vibrant 4 year old who was intrigued by the buckles, Velcro, and straps being put on his wheelchair. Throughout the process of putting together his chair, he wanted to touch everything and smiled at everyone. When we put on the wheelchair tray, he started to use both of his hands and arms to play with a squishy ball. This reminded me as a student of all the things I learned in class about posture and the upper extremity. This experience has helped me to see beyond the walls of the classroom. But this experience hasn’t just been for educational learning. For me, this has been a path of learning regarding compassion, empathy, communication, teamwork, and an ethical responsibility/ mission to help children and their families.

Brandon

While on this trip I have been constantly reminded of the power of love. Watching the parents of the children we help one realizes that those children are their whole world. The most objective evidence of this is the amazing lack of pressure sores we have seen on any of the children we have fit with wheelchairs. One girl in particular took 10 hours to fit, the family had taken a 7 hour bus ride and had another 7 hours back starting at 8:30pm. She was very high tone, more so than my supervising therapist had ever seen, yet her parents had dutifully repositioned her for years every day and throughout every night and sat through a 10 hour day just to keep her healthy and safe. Their love had kept her from a fate that many face when they have complex body shapes. Pressure sores can cause enormous pain and compromise an individual’s life. We were reminded of the power of love tonight by the heartfelt, generous, and kind words of the Lions Club. They told us we had helped them rediscover what it meant to be human and how powerful love could be.

Laura

One of my favorite experiences of the trip was be second day I was in Lima. We were building a wheelchair for a teenager who had never been fitted in a proper chair. She had poor head control and was not able to keep her head up. The therapist I was working with and I put a head rest on her that allowed her to independently hold her head up and move it back and forth to observe the environment. The “wow” moment in her eyes and the huge smile that appeared on her face were unforgettable.

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Cusco Wednesday

It was a much better day today than yesterday. it started in the morning, when Jorge told me that the group coming from Abancay was arriving a bit late. After the long day yesterday, even a few minutes to linger over a morning coffee was very welcome. The group from Abancay left in a large van at 3:00 am to be at our clinic. The things that parents will do for their children.

To my mind, there were two very memorable children today. Elmer is a young man who has just graduated from “secondaria”, the Peruvian equivalent of our high school. He is a very personable, very determined, very independent young man. He cannot control his limbs so they are apt to fly out at any second. Since he is so socially aware, he really wanted to have us help him control his legs in particular. He is very verbal and apparently does a lot of advocacy work for people with disabilities in Peru. His wheelchair was one where we did a lot of modifications meet his needs. He wanted a fairly low base so he could move himself to the ground. He used his armrests a lot to help move himself in and out of the chair; those that came with the chair were not strong enough. So Scott, our resident wheelchair hardware wizard, fabricated unusual armrests out of four unused back canes. The other problem that Elmer identified for us was that the twitching in his legs meant that he would injure himself on any metal surface, and specifically in the area of his knees. So Pam, the therapist working on his chair, and Scott devised pads on the wheelchair to protect his knees. They also did other things that Elmer specifically asked for. In the end it was an unusual wheelchair, but totally functional for Elmer. The most amazing thing was Elmer’s final test for the chair. Painstakingly, with arms and legs flailing about, he undid his seatbelt and foot holders, lowered himself to the cement floor, then pulled himself back up into the chair, and redid all the buckles. It was hard to watch – I wanted so much to help him, but his independent spirit was so strong that I knew I would hinder rather than help. What an example to the other children and parents there!

Elmer

Elmer in his new wheelchair

The second memorable child was Lillibeth. Hers was the last wheelchair finished for the day. As usual that also meant that it was one of the most complex. Lillibeth is a very cute nine year old girl who has a lot of spasticity. Her mom and a cousin were with her. Because of her spasticity, her chair needed to tilt in space, and a lot of adaptations very specific to her needs. Kim, the lead therapist on this chair told me afterwards that twenty different people had helped in some way with the chair. There were so many adaptations that it would bore you to list them all. Suffice it to say that it was a real work of art.

Lillibeth

Lillibeth with Brandon, Jill and Kim

It is late, and the twelve hour days are getting to us all. But the parents of these kids have much longer days than that, with travel.

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Cusco Tuesday

Today was a very long day for us or anybody for that matter – 12.5  hours for me, 13 for many of our group. The first day of any clinic is always difficult. But overall we had a successful day. The mothers and children who came to our clinic were from Sicuani and Puno – 5 hours and 7 hours respectively by bus. So they got up way earlier than we did, and faced a much longer return trip. How fortunate we are.

There were 11 children today – and lots of really heart-grabbing moments. One of the kids was Carlos – a young boy who had never had a wheelchair before. It was amazing to watch him use all his might to make the wheelchair go where he wanted to go. He won Sammie’s heart by kissing her hand in a very gentlemanly way, and by reaching out and touching her gray hair. Gray hair is very uncommon here.

The photo is of a beautiful Quechua woman who is carrying her three year old son on her back  in the traditional way. Her older daughter, Lillianne, had multiple problems, but loved her wheelchair. When we put the tray on it, her eyes lit up, because she is learning to use a mouth stick to turn the pages of books, and saw an opportunity to make it that much easier. Of course, Sammie, her therapist, made a cardboard model of an easel which would hold her books. Her father will make a wooden version of it for her use. We also found out that Lillianne sleeps on a sheep skin on the ground in her house. She went home with an inflatable air mattress overlay to support her new night-time sleeping position for postural care. The health worker who brought her took two more to store away as spares for when she needs them.

Please send positive thoughts our way as several members of our team have had travellers’ diarrhoea.

All for now. We will send more tomorrow.

Quechua mother carries her three year old.

Quechua mother carries her three year old.

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Arrival in Cuzco

After a late Friday night dinner party with Yancana Huasy colleagues, we rose bright and early on Saturday for our 6:30 am ride to the airport for flights from Lima to Cuzco. We arrived to bright sunshine and blue skies, with temperatures in the 70′s F. by day but dropping to the 30′s F. by night. With no real heating in the buildings, it gets cold! Dressing in plenty of layers is essential, the wool and alpaca blankets are comfy and hot tea tastes really good!

There were some delays in arriving at our hostel on the grounds of the Clinica San Juan de Dios, but by 1 PM we were pretty much in our rooms and able to get settled. Cuzco is ~11,000 feet above sea level, and the 55 minute flight from Lima at sea level makes for a fast altitude change. Most folks on our team began taking medicine to help with the change on Friday, but on the first day it is common to feel more tired than normal and out of breath climbing stairs and hills. Saturday afternoon was spent napping and exploring Cuzco. Today most of the group has left on a two day excursion to visit Macchu Picchu, one of the seven modern wonders of the world. They will spend the night in Aguas Caliente and all day tomorrow at Macchu Picchu, returning around 10 pm tomorrow night.

Those of us staying behind are resting, catching up on blog posts (!), enjoying the sunny blue skies, meeting with our partners from Equip KIDS and preparing for a postural care workshop that will take place tomorrow. Our demonstration clinics will start on Tuesday. Stay tuned!

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Our week in Lima complete…

From the sunshine and cool temperatures of of Cuzco there is time at last to write a post about our final day in Lima. On Friday 7 children were scheduled including 1 returnee from earlier in the week. We were on a tighter schedule, to finish working by 4 PM and have our supplies and stuff out of the church by 5 PM so they could rearrange and start preparing for weekend liturgies. There were many wonderful moments as teenagers with severely compromised body shapes and painful dislocated hips were made comfortable through postural care and very specialized wheelchairs; other younger kids received their very first set of wheels and their parents learned about postural care to protect their body shape for the future. The photos below tell the story of some kids and the wonderful team who worked with them on Friday.

Alanis is supported by her father and Barb while Sammie checks the fit of her seating system.

Alanis is supported by her father and Barb (St. Kate’s OT faculty member) while Sammie checks the fit of her seating system.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alcira had outgrown her wheelchair and was so thrilled to be receiving a new one!

Alcira had outgrown her wheelchair and was so thrilled to be receiving a new one!

Tamara supports Matthias while Laura takes measurements for his first wheelchair.

Tamara supports Matthias while Laura (OT student) takes measurements for his first wheelchair.

Sarah and Beth, OT students, and Kim, PT consult on nuts and bolts.

Sarah and Beth (OT students) and Kim (PT) consult on nuts and bolts.

Hayden is invaluable in the fabrication and repair shop.

Hayden is invaluable in the fabrication and repair shop.

Edward, from Yancana Huasy, works on a chair for a child.

Edward, PT from Yancana Huasy, works on a chair for a child.

Mary Beth (OT) and Jill (OT student) working together.

Mary Beth (OT) and Jill (OT student) go at it with tools.

Dana is a new PT at Yancana Huasy and also helped a lot with translation.

Dana is a new PT at Yancana Huasy and also helped a lot with translation.

Laura entertaining two  of the many kids who wait many hours while a wheelchair is being adjusted and made perfect for their siblings, aunts or uncles.

Laura entertaining two of the many kids who wait for hours while a wheelchair is being adjusted and made perfect for a sibling, aunt or uncle.

Chris and Liz, OTs and Rufino - who can make or fix just about anything - at work on a chair for Jerson as he rests in his postural care supports on the mat.

Chris and Liz, (OTs) and Rufino – who can make or fix just about anything – at work on a chair for Jerson as he rests in his postural care supports on the mat.

Pam (PT) and Jenna (OT student) plan the finer points of a seating system.

Pam (PT) and Jenna (OT student) plan the finer points of a seating system.

Brandon (OT student) working on a wheelchair frame.

Brandon (OT student) working on a wheelchair frame.

Placida first had the pleasure of sewing wonderful children's clothes at home and now was able to give them to darling children in Lima!

Placida first had the pleasure of sewing wonderful children’s clothes at home and now was able to give them to darling children in Lima!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After all that we were packed and ready to go, when we were summoned to another area of Yancana Huasy where they had set up a surprise 10th Anniversary fiesta for Eleanore’s Project! Complete with toasts, a cake and other tasty treats, we were caught totally off guard. It was immensely touching (Tamara’s tears were proof of that). The banner below included photos of our work together this year and such good wishes. Our hearts were full.

This banner greeted us at the surprise 10th Anniversary fiesta closing our Friday at Yancana Huasy.

This banner greeted us at the surprise 10th Anniversary fiesta closing our week at Yancana Huasy.

 

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Thursday In Lima at Yancana Huasy

Thursday morning

This is Rick writing.

We have just started our clinics with kids from Aynimundo – a project started and led by a Dutch architect named Warmolt. Aynimundo demands a lot from their parents – but they get extraordinary results. They do not work with kids if parents are not involved. For example their therapy sessions have three kids at a time – one with the therapist, the other two with their parents. So the parents learn to work with their kids therapeutically, and also learn from and support each other. It was clear that the parents supported one another in our workshops. The therapists who work at Aynimundo are very good. They really pitched in and taught the parents the postural care principles they themselves had learned from Tamara and Sammie last week.

I must tell you about the people who are on the team with us this year. We have an exceptionally good crew. Everyone is very solid technically, and has no ego problems. We all work very hard without complaint. We help and support each other – asking for advice when needed, and giving it when asked. Truly a wonderful group of people.

Our partners at Yancana Huasy are equally amazing. They have learned so much, and taken so much initiative. In the last year, the Peruvian National Children’s Hospital has started referring requests for wheelchairs to Yancana Huasy. We found out this week that, on their own initiative they have started to put on workshops on topics such as measuring children for wheelchairs. We applaud their efforts. The seven years that we have worked with them have been extremely rewarding.

Later Thursday afternoon

One of the really thrilling events that we have the privilege of seeing is the first time a child discovers that if he pushes the wheels of his new wheelchair, his body moves. These kids are so used to being carried everywhere. That is how they move. So a wheelchair presents a whole new set of possibilities and a very different way of being in the world. The first time a new wheelchair user says to himself,  “I want to go there”, points his wheelchair in the right direction, and pushes with all his might to arrive at a destination is magical. The look of satisfaction and wonder on his face pays for a lot of hours of preparation. The look on the faces of the parents as they watch their child do this for the first time compensates for even more hours of work.

Today Alexis, a precious three year old, had his first opportunity to be in a wheelchair. He was so serious, and had to work so hard to move the wheelchair. His mom was so great, not coddling him at all, but subtly demanding that he do the work himself even if it was hard. To see him move about very slowly and tentatively at first, but less so after even an hour, filled my heart. He seemed quite bright. I hope that the wheelchair changes his life for the better.

Alexis learns that he can move.

Alexis learns that he can move.

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Our Wednesday

After two nights with no internet access we are back online at least for tonight! And back at the hostel in time to post some photos and stories. Unlike previous years,  we must fend for ourselves for dinner when we arrive “home” after working all day, and in this case it was 8:20 PM tonight – half an hour later than usual because of extra traffic. We don’t know why. Eating out a restaurant takes too much time, so tonight several of us bought empanadas at a shop down the street and brought them back to eat at the hostel.

Our clinic space at Yancana Huasy is set up with 7 mat table “stations”, 3 for Yancana Huasy therapists and 4 for Eleanore’s Project therapists. Sammie and Tamara do a lot of “floating” around and consulting. The team is incredible this year and today was proof of it. On Monday and Tuesday together we completed wheelchairs for 19 kids and young people, with two remaining who will return for completion at later dates. Today we saw 12 kids and completed every wheelchair including some very complicated ones. This was only accomplished through wonderful Yancana Huasy/Eleanore’s Project teamwork – what a group!!

Taken on Tuesday, this is a view of the clinic in action from the floor above.

Taken on Tuesday, this is a view of the clinic in action from the floor above.

Sammie and Nikole made a  good connection over the hours they worked together today.

Sammie and Nikol made a good connection over the hours they worked together today.

Jill and Laura, OT students from St. Kate's, hard at work adapting a unique wheelchair for a unique child.

Jill and Sarah, OT students from St. Kate’s, hard at work adapting a unique wheelchair for a unique child.

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The gang is all here!

In the wee hours of the morning everyone arrived safe and sound…no missed flights, no lost luggage…we are grateful! This morning we gathered for breakfast and introductions – a great group!

Our group of 17 (minus one behind the camera) at breakfast this morning.

Our group of 17 (minus one behind the camera) at breakfast this morning.

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Waiting for our team to arrive…

Sammie and I have had two lovely days of combined rest and productivity. We have gotten our laundry done and learned a few key things about the lavanderia next door in the process! We re-did orientation and welcome documents for the team, ran (that is walked in order to do) several errands, saw several interesting sites and ate a good mid-day meal. Later on we met friends for delicious ice cream.

We saw a chess tournament today with people of all ages playing.

We saw a chess tournament today with people of all ages playing.

We have been buying fresh fruit from similar carts to this one, selling fresh squeezed orange juice.

We have been buying fresh fruit from similar carts to this one, selling fresh squeezed orange juice.

San Marcelo church was built in the 1500s.

San Marcelo church was built in the 1500s.

All this as our comrades travel here from around the United States and Canada. This year the states/provinces represented include Montana, Idaho, Colorado, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Minnesota, California and Quebec. Their rooms are ready for the teams arrival in the wee hours of tomorrow morning – Tamara will rise to meet them when a phone call notifies her that they have left the airport. Sunday will be a rest/sightseeing/settle-in day with a team meeting in the evening in preparation for working Monday morning.

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