Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Physical Therapy Begins at Hôpital Albert Schweitzer, Haiti

Joy Williams is a registered nurse from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and a four-time volunteer for Project HOPE , including serving on one of HOPE’s initial volunteer teams following the earthquake in Haiti. She has returned to Haiti to volunteer for HOPE over the next couple of months to initiate a care and transition program for the hundreds of prosthesis patients that were injured in the earthquake. Currently she is working at Hôpital Albert Schweitzer in Deschapelles. Here is her first blog from the site.

Hôpital Albert Schweitzer (HAS) is a world class institution that has provided medical care for the people of Deschapelles. Since the earthquake, it has fast become the number one referral center for patients requiring prosthesis, due to trauma sustained in the January 12th earthquake At the same time, it continues to care for patients with other medical and non-medical needs.

I arrived at HAS on March 19th, here my role will be that of initiating a sustainable case management program for Project HOPE, that will assist with the care and transition of the hundreds of prosthesis patients that were injured in the earthquake. Presently, this is a challenge as so many of the patients and their family members are displaced. Many are living quite a distance from the hospital and have no means of getting back and forth.

To assist with this problem, HAS has provided dorms for these patients and one family member. This allows patients to be available for their prosthesis measuring and fitting, making and the initiation of therapy in the use and care of their new limb. Patients are typically discharged in about one week but of course this can vary depending on the individual patient and family needs. Those patients that were displaced in the earthquake with no homes to be discharged to are accommodated by HAS with a tent. This greatly decreases some of the stress that is experienced by patients, and their family members as to where to go upon discharge.

Hanger Foundation has also stepped up to help, generously and graciously donating a prosthesis center and complete lab of equipment at the hospital site. Hangar's volunteer prosthesis technician Jay and his team are on location making the much needed prosthesis for these patients.

Observing a 6-year-old boy receiving his new leg was refreshing. He could not wait to get off the chair and start walking. Although somewhat awkward at first, he was soon mastering the whole process. What joy. When it was time to remove his prosthesis for his journey, he did not want to do so and became very sad. He could not wear his prosthesis home because Mom had forgotten his needed shoes at home!

To assist with the rehabilitation process in Haiti, there is a demand for physical therapists. Haiti had only one unemployed physical therapist before the earthquake. Project HOPE is now supporting HAS in this effort, as well as many other necessary medical needs.

HOPE volunteer Claude Hillel, a Haitian born, Creole speaking PT trained in Canada, will be assisting HAS for approximately 11 weeks. He is one of only a few licensed/credentialed PTs in all of Haiti and one of three Creole speakers, making him invaluable in communicating with patients and family members. Claude will be delivering classic HOPE capacity building whereby he will be teaching, coaching, mentoring the local medical staff while jointly providing the much needed physical therapy for the patients.

Help Support Project HOPE's long-term efforts to help the people of Haiti.


  1. Thanks for keeping us up to date as to what's happening and what you are doing! :) I look forward (as does Stella) to talking to you soon.
    Love, Donna

  2. You guys rock. What an exciting life to wake up and help people in need. I wait each day to read of your adventures at Hospital Albert Schweitzer.