Benefits of Occupational Therapy by Betty Hearne and Lynn Novier
When Surgicorps arrives at the CURE Hospital in Lusaka, Zambia, families travel from all over the country to see surgeons that change the lives of their injured children. During that week, limbs that are contracted with scars from burns, snakebites or other injuries are released, enabling children to walk, and use their hands. In turn, they can return to school, play, and grow up to be a vital member of their community.
Healing takes months, and without correct positioning and exercise during the healing process the problem can return. What happens after the doctors leave?
Surgeons correct the anatomy, and it is the job of the Occupational Therapist/ Certified Hand Therapists to teach the patients and families what to do to get the best result from the surgery. The therapists fabricate custom splints to position a limb that had surgery so the contracture will not return. They may be called “hand therapists”, but they make splints for legs, necks and shoulders too. Last year over 80 children benefited from their expert services in Lusaka alone.
The OT’s work with the children and families a few times during the week to provide instruction in taking care of the splint, how to massage a scar to keep it soft, and in specific exercises to get the most motion possible. If needed, they can make assistive devices to help children with limited grasp, hold a fork or spoon, or write. They teach the staff at CURE how to do this for all children that come to the hospital. For those children who live too far away, the Surgicorps therapists provide email contact to answer questions, solve problems, and help guide the parents through their six-month journey to full recovery.
The success of splinting and home therapy is seen a year later when Surgicorps returns and familiar faces appear, showing off the triumph of their operations. It is heartwarming to know that such a dedicated team of people from far away continents can work together to bring life altering changes to the children of Zambia. It’s the smile on the faces of these children that keeps us coming back!