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Haiti article in the Lynn Haven Ledger

Two local physical therapists treat Haitian earthquake victims

By Donna Vavala

Following the earthquake that devastated Haiti in 2010 and left 250,000 dead, 300,000 injured and 1.5 million people homeless, Scott Champagne, a physical therapist with First Choice Physical Therapy, responded to the need for medical personnel to assist with crush injuries, fractures and amputations by volunteering his services.

“My Initial visit was to Fond Parisien, where an orphanage was transformed into a primary surgery/rehabilitation site for the central portion of the country,” said Champagne. “Patients were flown in on military helicopters from Port Au Prince and the surrounding areas to Fond Parisien for surgery and physical therapy. My assignment was to a row of 10 tents labeled ‘unattended minors.’ These were children who lost parents, family members and limbs. It was my responsibility to get these children up and moving, as well as educating them on daily activities to improve their functional mobility. Little did I know it would become a calling. “

Champagne returned to Haiti again in 2011 and 2012 and was joined by Wade Rinehart, PT, DPT, the founder of First Choice Therapy. They started out in a tent with a dirt floor, in Jacmel, and have progressed to a clinic there.

Rinehart and Champagne, who pay their own way for the mission trips, have been focusing on treating patients and providing clinical support and training for Jacmel’s only physical therapist and staff through an organization called Community Coalition for Haiti that raises money to help their citizens receive medical help.

“Now we have a new building and have an orthopedic surgery suite with it,” Rinehart said. “We probably see between 40 and 50 patients a day during the week we’re there. We start at 7 a.m. and work until 6 or 7 p.m., or until there are no more patients.”

Champagne said that, although the Haitian earthquake was three years ago, their work is still vital.

“Ongoing therapist training is essential to the growth and development of this mission as we continue to see injuries/pathologies as a direct or indirect result of the 2010 earthquake,” said Champagne. “My calling is to continue this work and help facilitate the long term sustainability of physical therapy in Jacmel and surrounding areas.”

The trips have been an eye-opener for Rinehart.

“I tried not to go,” he admitted. “But Scott said he really needed my services in starting a clinic. I prayed about it and went down there. That experience changed me. It taught me to appreciate all the blessings I have. Even if you live in your car in the U.S., you’re still better off than living in Haiti. Their day to day (activity) is finding their next meal.

“Medical services are few and far between, and our goal is to teach them how to help themselves” said Rinehart. “We are trying to set up some telemedicine, but the Internet is really poor there.”

After work, there’s no free time. Rinehart and Champagne spend their evenings visiting local orphanages handing out candy and training therapists

This year’s trip to Jacmel is slated for Oct. 19 to 26.

“God’s working in a real way down there,” said Rinehart.

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If anyone would like to donate funds to this effort, Scott has set up an easy way to do so online. Just go tohttp://www.gofundme.com/Physical-Therapy-in-Haiti