Monday, November 19, 2012

SLU PT Alumni Meghan Robben's Experience in Haiti

Meghan Robben, SLU PT alumni, has made several trips to Haiti since October of 2010 to serve the population in Port au Prince affected by the earthquake that devastated the country in January of 2010. Read Meghan’s article below to see how she began volunteering in Haiti, how it impacted her, and what it has shown her as a PT.

    What were you doing on January 12, 2010? I was at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago where I work, having a pretty average Tuesday. When I got home from work I flipped on my TV and started to see early reports about an earthquake in Haiti, but it wasn't until the next morning that I realized the extent of the devastation in Port au Prince. The hospital was abuzz with chatter about the earthquake and the chatter quickly turned to action. Days later Rush sent a team of physicians to Port au Prince where the facilitated emergency care and upon their return they knew there was more that would, could, and should be done.

     In October of 2010 The Rush Global Health Program called for volunteers to return to Port au Prince in order to begin to set up primary care clinics. I jumped at the chance and joined physicians, nurses, and a medical student not knowing how or where I would be useful, but I didn't care. I was prepared to act as an intake worker, a baby sitter, a public health educator, and a urine dipstick checker, whatever was needed I was ready to be that girl! Much to my delight, I was so busy being a PT I didn't have to check one dipstick (pfewwww)!  During that trip I evaluated patients from six days old to ninety-six years old. I educated patients on the dangers of hypertension. I provided gait training with canes and crutches I brought with me. I got up on a very very large soap box and preached about "tummy time" to any new mother who would listen to me. While my team was stomping out primary care diseases, I was stomping our musculoskeletal impairments! That trip made me fall in love with being a PT all over again and it made me realize how gifted physical therapists are outside of the clinic.  We are problem solvers and listeners and touchers and healers and we are REALLY hard workers.

    Upon my return home I couldn't stop thinking about my experience in Haiti. Haiti became a part of me. The Rush Global Health program has since sent six more teams to Haiti, each with a physical therapist. I have been lucky enough to return in October of 2011 and 2012. Last month our team, made up of physicians, nurses, medical students, PA students, and a community volunteer, saw over 200 patients daily. Despite the hustle and bustle of busy clinics, I found a sense of peace in "just doing my job". My patients ranged from a few days old to one hundred and two years old; the one hundred and two year old man thanked me for offering him a shiny new properly fit straight cane, but chose to leave clinic with his "walking stick" which was taller than him and at one time most certainly a tree branch. I saw patients with neurological impairments and babies with developmental delay and of course, I continued to stomp out musculoskeletal impairments. This year I was also able to meet with a Haitian nurse at one of our clinics an discuss the role of a physical therapist in her community and how she could promote functional mobility in her patient's post stroke or brain injury.

   Every time I leave Port au Prince, I think about when I can go back. My friends and family have asked me why I keep going back. Isn't it sad? Isn't it dangerous? Wouldn't you rather go lay on a beach in the Dominican Republic? Nope! My decisions to return to Haiti are driven by something bigger than me. Saint Louis University taught me a lot about the Latin word Magis and why we should do more for God and others, but despite all of my A’s in theology I didn't get it. My experiences in Haiti have taught me how to put the word Magis into action. These trips and the people I have met during these experiences have taught me to better appreciate what I am capable of and what I have been given and to whom much is given much is expected.

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