On January 10th, 2010, the Caribbean nation of Haiti was struck by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake; devastating the entire country and the lives of those living there. Over 300,000 Haitians were injured, 1.5 million left homeless, and it is estimated that as many as 250,000 were killed. During the days following the earthquake, reports coming out of Haiti were grim, with stories of the great suffering and utter loss millions of Haitian people had experienced. Along with the reports was a simple message, stating that medical personal were desperately needed to assist those affected during the tragedy. In the weeks following the earthquake, I felt compelled to help those who were hurting and in dire need of medical attention. At the time I was unaware that helping those injured during and after the earthquake would become a calling, but that it did.
My initial visit to Haiti over 2 years ago was to Fonds-Parisien, located in Ouest, Hait where an orphanage had been transformed into the primary surgery and rehabilitation site for the central portion of the country. Patients were flown in on military helicopters from Port Au Prince, and the surrounding areas, to Fonds-Parisien for surgery and the physical therapy required after. My assignment while in Fonds-Parisien was focused on the rehabilitation of children, specifically those living in a 10 tent area labeled “Unattended Minors”. These children had lost everything from their parents and families, to their limbs and mobility, and my job was to get them up and moving, all while educating them on daily activities to improve their functional mobility.
Over the past two years, physical therapy rehabilitation has become more structured. The “clinic” I originally volunteered in, a UN donated tent, has progressed and moved to a free standing building in the coastal town of Jacmel, Haiti. We eventually joined with Community Coalition for Haiti to provide collaborative help, specifically clinical support, and training for the therapists and staff in Jacmel. Ongoing therapist training is essential to the growth and development of comprehensive physical therapy care in Haiti, especially as we continue to see injuries and pathologies as a result of the earthquake of 2010. I believe it is my calling to continue this work and help facilitate the long term sustainability of physical therapy in Jacmel as well as surrounding areas in Haiti, and will continue to do so until I am no longer needed.
Scott Champagne, MPT