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Clinic Day 6: Bapwe, Zacapa!

Our last day treating patients was bittersweet, but what a great note to end on! The morning began with rain, which we had not yet seen in Guatemala. It was pouring, not just the typical Seattle drizzle, so we rode back to the nutrition center with windows closed. The rain cooled Zacapa down, bringing the high to just 90 degrees. Nevertheless, the sun came out just before lunch time and we got to appreciate the landscape! This was Megan and Becca’s first time at this location and they absolutely loved it! Today was also special because we got to help with a feeding at the nutrition center where they gave beans, rice, bread, and horchata to more than 50 hungry children! We met them at the gate one by one, washed their hands and found them a seat in the lunchroom. They all were adorable and very well behaved.

For treatment today, many of us were able to follow up with patients who visited earlier in the week. Jason and Ashley worked with their BPPV patient again, noting that her symptoms had improved significantly since the last treatment- KUDOS Jason! We made sure to get a video of the maneuver this time for those that are curious.

Diego and Becca had an interesting case of knee pain after a motorcycle accident that required some critical thinking! Diego found that when the knee was pushed into varus (imagine a bow-legged position) the pain was significantly less. He strategically applied elastic Thera-bands to keep the knee in this position throughout the exercise program. Becca set him up with a knee brace that held him in slight varus, allowing him to put weight through his leg without pain for the first time in 6 months! The patient was very grateful and said that he couldn’t wait to play soccer again.

Becca also handcrafted a pair of foot orthotics for a little boy with foot pain using a heel cup, a heat gun, foam and tape. Getting a big hug at the end the made the hours spent well worth it!

Megan enjoyed working with a young girl who had experienced weakness in her right lower extremity secondary to a vaccination years ago. Strength has returned to all muscle groups except for the plantarflexors. Today, Megan worked along side Nancy and Ashley to strength the right side plantarflexors playing catch, jumping on the mini trampoline, and ne leg balancing to reach magnets off the door. The young girl was such a good sport. It was amazing to see and hear about the progress this young girl has made over the visits to the HIM clinics. This is just another one of their miracle stories of success!

Ashley had quite the experience today when she was literally gait belted to one patient to help with postural support in a seated position. She used her hands to support the head while using her legs to support the back while Jason worked his therapeutic magic. Definitely not something she had done before, but it showed how creative we can be when necessary! Ashley’s favorite part of the day was co-treating a young women (who used to live in Maryland!) whose family had been told previously that she didn’t need speech therapy. She received therapy for the first time after three years, communicating solely by using pointing motion in fingers. Megan Becca and even Diego set her up with positioning splints to reduce the contractures in her hands and prevent bed sores on her legs. The speech team developed a better method communication technique using written words and larger, more distinct hand/arm pointing movements. We were amazed by the fact that this was her first therapy session and the whole team helped her family realize the potential for improved quality of life. 

To finish off our final day in Zacapa we went back to the hotel and had a fiesta! Everyone shared their most memorable moments from the week and the HIM staff thanked us for coming, informing us that we have touched hundreds of lives this week (the official count is to come!) We want to extend that thank you to all the people who supported us and made this experience possible! We cannot count the number of smiles, hugs, and happy tears that we received this week. The Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) preceptors gave each of us a paper plate award and a little handmade Guatemalan masks! It’s the UW group tradition.

For our group: Jason was given the “Big Dipper” award for being a big guy with a big heart and a Big Dipper pattern in mosquito bites on the back of his arm.

Diego maintained his reputation and was given the “Child Whisperer” award for being so wonderful with the all the kiddos!

Ashley was given the “Have bikini, will treat” award for her outstanding performance during our after-hours pool therapy session.

Becca was given the “I can make that” award for spending hours with patients, rigging up braces to make them functional  and comfortable (...even if it meant holding up the group!).

Last but not least, Megan was given the “Best Co-treat” award for a very memorable experience co-treating with the SLP group. We learned so much about each other this week and wish we had the opportunity to do this more in the states!

Though we are excited to play in Antigua for a few days, coming to Guatemala and treating this population has been a life changing experience. We will begin our next quarter (Megan and Becca’s last!) with inspiration and a newfound perspective. Among all the great knowledge and insight that we gained this week, we picked up a few Guatemala terms as well, including “bapwe” (bop-way). Ashley informed us that in Korean it translates to “rice why?!” but here in Zacapa it means goodbye.

Bapwe, Zacapa!! Gracias por los recuerdos! (Thanks for the memories!)

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