In our Neurological Conditions class this past year, Rosemary showed us this video when learning about stroke patients and I was instantly intrigued. I have always been interested in doing international medical mission work but had not had the opportunity until now. In addition, this trip was completely PT related which made it even more appealing. Mallory Eggert, Maggie Watson and I all signed up to go because it fell perfectly on our week off between clinical and summer courses. The organization these camps are put on through is FORU (Friends of the Redeemer United) and was founded by Brooke Riley 10 years ago. There are now two American physical therapists working in Jamaica: Brooke Riley and Beth Wolffe.
I have really come to love working with this patient population through clinical experience and our course work because there is just so much you can do with them to improve their quality of life and function. To be able to apply everything I have seen and learned so far to these patients and to see the importance of individualizing treatment was probably my favorite take away point from this experience. For this specific Jamaican population, functional treatment is everything because many of them farm for a living to support their families. In addition, we learned so much from the relationships made with fellow students and PT’s that came from all over the country to do this camp. This was the first year there were also three Jamaican PT students from the university in Kingston, Jamaica! So, not only were we learning a ton from Brooke, Beth and the other therapists, but also, we had the opportunity to learn all about the amazing food, music, dancing, and Patois slang that is Jamaican culture first hand.
The stories from this week are endless but most impressive, were the functional gains made by patients in just 3.5 days of treatment. We learn about max practice and the benefits when working with stoke populations, but to see it first hand is an entirely different story. Our schedule was 8-4pm Monday – Thursday and Friday was a half-day for testing and graduation ceremony. Try and picture yourself working out for 8 hours straight every single day… yeah… not easy. And these wonderful people did it with a smile on their face because they felt so blessed to have this opportunity to get better. In just 3.5 days every single patient made multiple clinically significant improvements in areas of gait, balance, UE function, and cognition. This was probably one of the coolest experiences I have ever had the opportunity to be a part of and I highly recommend students, professors, and clinicians get involved in opportunities like this no matter what the location in the world or within the United States.