CAMTA 2019 Mission – Physiotherapy in Ecuador

Author: Raj Dhillon

The “Ripple Effect”

For the past few years, I had been looking for an opportunity to offer my time, energy and skills toward an overseas cause for those less fortunate.  I believe it’s our responsibility to influence those around us in a positive manner, and this was a larger opportunity to do that.  One of my good friends, confidantes, and inspirations is a dentist who has been involved in many international missions with dental brigades over the years.  He often talks about a “Ripple Effect” or “Butterfly Effect”.  In his own words he maintains that the intent put forth and actions taken lead to a series of unpredictable positive changes in our circles of influence.   Those influences will, in turn, lead to further rippling of conversations, thoughts, and actions.  This is only one of the many reasons why I wanted to be involved in this type of very important work. 

CAMTA 2019

In February 2019, I was offered the chance to join a group of Canadian volunteers as part of the CAMTA (Canadian Association of Medical Teams Abroad) medical brigade traveling to Quito, Ecuador.  While CAMTA has been serving this community for 16 years prior, this was my first chance to be involved.  The Mission has grown considerably since its inception.  The 2019 group included almost 100 volunteers and served over 70 local patients.   Service includes clinical screening, surgical correction when indicated, and continuing education.  I was involved in pre-surgical education, liaised with local physiotherapists for ongoing care, post-operative mobilization, and discharge planning.

Facts and Stats:

X-Ray of Hip Dysplasia
  • Around the world, one in every 1000 babies is born with a club foot. In Ecuador, the majority of these children are never treated at birth, making learning to walk difficult or impossible.
  • Ecuador also has a particularly high incidence of hip dysplasia, a birth defect that can cripple a person by the age of thirty.
  • Poverty and limited access to medical assistance often means that children born with these conditions live with pain and limited mobility their entire lives.

Pre-Surgical Clinic

Our first day in Un Canto a la Vida Hospital consisted of pre-surgical screening, education, and served as the first chance to meet some of the families we would be working with over the course of the next 7 days.

Surgical Cases

Some of the pathology we saw during this week was very complex, much beyond anything typically seen in the Canadian Health Care system.  This particular patient had an 8-year history of hip infection and ultimate erosion of the joint integrity.  In a typical Canadian System, this would have been caught and addressed well before the need for hip replacement.  The picture to the right depicts his post-operative joint shape and position. 

Rehabilitation

As physiotherapists, we spend most of our time with patients after surgery.  This is a special time during which they take their initial steps, re-learn how to weight bear through a new joint structure, and start to explore the potential impact this will have on their lives.  We’re extremely lucky to share this time of celebration with them.

Patient Story

While each patient story is unique and important, I’d like to share one story that stood out for me personally. 

Rosa Luismila is the eldest of 9 siblings, the youngest of whom is Nestor Eduardo (both depicted here).  We had the chance to meet both of them, and help them with a total hip arthroplasty and associated post-operative rehabilitation.  Rosa had an 18-hour head start in her recovery, but Nestor was convinced to show her up.  Sibling rivalry is indeed a beautiful thing.  Using crutches for his first steps on the hospital ward, he was peeking into each room looking for his eldest sister.  When he finally had the chance to meet her in her room, he hugged her close to his chest and whispered in her ear “We’re going to be alright sweet sister.  We’ll go through the recovery together”.  It was a very heart warming and tender moment.  As part of their recovery journey, I encouraged them to commit to walk to each other’s places for espresso and social visits over the coming weeks.  I look forward to re-connecting with them next year. 

Nestor Eduardo and Rosa Luismila

After 7 days of mission work, we had a day to ourselves to enjoy travel in and around Quito before heading back to Edmonton.  One of my favorite memories of Ecuador is appreciating expressive emotional art throughout the hospitals, streets and markets.  

CAMTA offers both “medical” and “lay person” positions. It’s a brilliant chance to see a different part of the world, experience a new culture, and make an influential impact on a population in need. I strongly encourage everyone to consider their own “Ripple Effect”.  Do something good whenever and wherever you can.

Team Picture CAMTA Mission 2019

Written by Raj Dhillon BScPT Owner, Physiotherapist

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