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Physical Therapy students traveled to the Dominican Republic/Haitian border to aid earthquake victims. They documented their trip in a Journal from the Road.
By Ruth Longoria Kingsland
of the Journal Star
Two Bradley University professors and seven physical therapy students returned Sunday after about a week in the Dominican Republic and Haiti helping survivors of the Jan. 12 earthquake.
Physical therapy instructors Cheryl Sparks and Dawn Hall and the students arrived in the Haitian border town of San Juan de la Maguana in the Dominican Republic on Feb. 27.
Sparks has been on two previous Northwoods Community Church mission trips to the Dominican Republic in the past year, and recruited Hall and the students to go with her on this trip, also with the church group, in response to an obvious need for physical therapists, she said.
"The need for physical therapy is the same here as in the U.S., only much greater with so many types of injuries and a lack of modern equipment," Sparks said.
Although it was a long excursion from Peoria for the Bradley students and staff, the treatments also involved a strenuous trek for many of the injured. Some patients traveled for three or four hours, riding over rough roads, by motorcycle, car or in the back of a pickup truck, Sparks said.
Injuries varied. In addition to earthquake wounds, they saw those from farming accidents and some inadequately treated injuries that had been sustained weeks or years before.
Being part of the project was voluntary for the Bradley students. They received no credit for participation, and paid for their own transportation and expenses.
However, the trip was beneficial to the group as a learning experience.
"Coming down here was one of the best choices of my life," Ellen Hanson, a Bradley student, wrote in an e-mail to the Journal Star.
"After arriving and working with patients, a spark has been ignited in me; I am so happy to give my unique services to people who are in need. This kind of work has made me appreciate the life we have in the states and (realize) that I should never take anything for granted," she wrote.
Once in the Dominican Republic, the group broke into two teams.
Sparks, Hanson and three other Bradley students remained in the Dominican town of San Juan de la Maguana to work with the Solid Rock Missions, a Christian American organization that operates a small hospital there. Sparks' team is staying in a guest house built by the organization and working in a primitive hospital facility staffed by the missionaries.
Hall's team went across the border to Fond Parisen, Haiti, where they are working with an organization called Love A Child Inc., which operates an orphanage and medical clinic. Bradley student Caleb Walk wrote on his blog that the clinic "resembled more of a refugee camp than a treatment facility."
At the Haitian site, the patients and their families are housed in tents. Patients are treated on cots or mattresses on the ground. Many earthquake victims have amputated limbs. The Bradley students work with physicians, nurses and other volunteers from across the world to help the patients regain mobility, be it through walkers or other assisted movement.
Hanson told of treating a patient with a 3-year-old gunshot wound and another with impairments from a stroke 17 years ago: "Christine (Tabb, a Bradley sophomore) and I practiced the new skills we learned in our neurological class as part of (the stroke victim's) examination."
The students see about 20 patients each day. With the help of translators, they assist patients with brain injuries, neurological problems and other injuries.
During the week, the Dominican team worked with a 20-year-old man who traveled two hours to the clinic, where he was treated for a farming accident two weeks earlier, Sparks said. A machete had sliced through his shoulder. His family had stitched the wound, which appeared to be healing. However, when he arrived at the hospital, the man was sore and very weak, Sparks said.
"He's going to be OK, but it's a good thing he came in," she said.