Four years ago, 11-year-old Rudy collided with a family member who was carrying a pot of hot cooking oil. Rudy suffered traumatic burns on his face, neck and chest. His injuries twisted his muscles and mangled his skin. At Benjamin Bloom Children’s Hospital in San Salvador, El Salvador, emergency interventions saved his life, but by October 2012, Rudy needed follow-up surgery and rehabilitation to enhance his range of motion and reduce his terrible scars. Rudy just wanted to go home and play with his friends. The nurses and therapists wanted the same thing for him – a normal life – but they knew Rudy faced a grueling path.He isn’t alone. Global health experts estimate 6.6 million people are burned each year.
Many of these victims are women and children. Caring for burn patients requires specific skills and a range of materials and equipment – compression garments and face masks that minimize scars, among many other resources, some as “basic” as plastic and plaster. These supplies dramatically improve a patient’s healing, and allow healthcare teams to work more efficiently.
Unfortunately, in impoverished regions, these resources can be impossible to find. That’s where Physicians for Peace steps in. “Burn units depend on material support because they quickly run out of essential rehabilitation materials due to the high volume of burn patients,” said Kristin Koch, MS, OTRL, a Physicians for Peace International Medical Educator (IME) who worked with the Bloom Hospital team to care for Rudy. Rudy directly benefitted from supplies from Physicians for Peace, including pliable material for his splints, compression garments and age-appropriate therapeutic toys that make rehabilitation like a game.
“Rudy has had a tough few years but with the Bloom Hospital team’s skills and donated supplies, he will be playing with his friends soon,” Koch said. We’ll highlight recent material donations, and tell you more about how those supplies help make our world a healthier place.
Enhancing Partners’ Capacity
Since 1989, Physicians for Peace has mobilized millions of dollars in shipments of high-need equipment and supplies for partners in underserved areas, including countries in Central America, where burns remain a grave health concern. By combining materials with training and education, Physicians for Peace empowers local healthcare teams to reach more patients with tools and techniques that lead to better outcomes, including safer surgeries, more advanced rehabilitation and fewer emotional and physical scars.
While providing training in El Salvador, Kristin Koch, MS, OTRL, taught therapists at Bloom Hospital to use donated strapping materials and compression garments to manage scars and improve range of motion, so that patients could return to their everyday activities, including work and school. For instance, she used Aquaplast, a pliable material donated by Patterson Medical, Bolingbrook IL, to splint 10 pediatric burn patients during her training program. IMEs like Koch, Jonathan Niszczak, OT, and Michael Serghiou, OTR, often use material donated from U.S. supporters, including plastic and burn garment material, alongside locally sourced supplies, like bamboo or leather, to craft creative, low-cost solutions that raise the level of care in ways that are appropriate to the resource limitations of partner sites.
Innovation and creativity are also bedrocks of our work in Haiti, where Hanger Inc., one of the world’s leading providers of orthopedics and prosthetics, joined with Physicians for Peace after the January 2010 earthquake to form the Haitian Amputee Coalition. For nearly three years, coalition partners have collaborated to provide both direct care to Haitians injured in the disaster and training tracks for healthcare professionals who work with the country’s disabled population.
Here again, materials and supplies are a pivotal part of our work, and 335 Hanger locations from 45 states have mobilized donations for our efforts in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. In both countries, Physicians for Peace is leading efforts to provide distance learning to orthotic and prosthetic technicians to help nurture a new generation of providers in underserved areas of the Caribbean. Donations from partners like Hanger add a vital and practical component to students’ hands-on workshops and training.