A trip with a purpose

By Mary Mason

When Muscatine physical therapist Paul Kraushaar recently visited Haiti, the trip was not for recreational purposes. Kraushaar spent just over one week working with physical therapists, orthopedists, and rehabilitation specialists from all across the country.

The group travelled with the Sustainable Therapy and New Development (STAND) Haiti Project. Time on the island was spent time in Port-de-Paix treating local residents with various medical and orthopedic problems.

The group of 19 physical therapists, two nurse practitioners, and two orthopedics cared for between 150 and 170 patients each day.

Due to poor health care in the country, many injuries are not treated at the time they are obtained.  Kraushaar says the group worked with people ranging from those who needed to have a limb amputated and be fit with a prosthetic to children suffering from cerebral palsy who are issued a walker to help them with walking.

Kraushaar says he was surprised at the number of patients he saw who had fallen from their roofs and suffered various spinal cord injuries. In addition, the area is very agrarian in nature, and many residents suffer from the aging affects of a difficult lifestyle, including various forms of arthritis.

Many of the patients wait to see the American doctors due to limited or no medical access.

Kraushaar tells the story of an individual who had previously broken his leg. He sought treatment at a local hospital, where his leg was set in a brace with rods into the broken bone to hold the pieces in place. The man was to return to the hospital at a later date to continue care. However, before the return appointment could be set, the hospital closed its doors for good, leaving the man with the rods still connected to his leg.

The patient was able to see the visiting medical team and have the equipment removed, and his ability to walk restored. Kraushaar says it had been close to nine months since the man’s ordeal began.

STAND takes teams to Haiti three times per year, for approximately two weeks each time, though this was Kraushaar’s first trip with the group.

Kraushaar says one feature that sets STAND apart from the other approximately 3500 non-government agencies and charity organizations that work in Haiti is the long-term plan. The organization has helped to create a local nursing school to educate local residents on how to care for their community.

More information on STAND can be found at standhaitiproject.org.