A physical therapist from Camden, Maine, will put his skills to work this spring at an amputee clinic in Haiti. Michael Rich, PT, is volunteering in Haiti on behalf of Physicians for Peace (PFP), an international nonprofit that sends physical therapists to work with amputees and disabled patients at the Hanger Amputee Clinic at Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Deschapelles. His mission is funded by a recent grant from ChildFund International in Richmond, Va.
Rich is the director of Home Care and Rehab Services for Kno-Wal-Lin Home Care and Hospice, an agency that works with patients in rural areas of mid-coast Maine. After the earthquake in Haiti in January 2010, he immediately began looking for volunteer opportunities in Haiti. Physicians for Peace’s need for trained, experienced volunteer physical therapists proved to be the best match for Rich’s skill set.
“I’ve been trying to learn Haitian Creole to pick up a few practical, medical terms so that I don’t have to rely entirely on translators while I’m at the clinic,” Rich said. “But I’m most excited to work with the patients. There’s instant gratification in helping someone walk.”
At the clinic, Rich will work with a team of healthcare professionals, including prosthetists, to provide care to patients. While many of the patients lost a limb in the earthquake, others have been waiting for a prosthesis for years.
Back home in Maine, Rich’s coworkers have come together to support his mission, and Rich says he’s especially grateful for their flexibility.
“We always try to be considerate and careful about scheduling time off, and the rehab team has done some shuffling and rescheduling to accommodate my time away,” said Rich. “I don’t think I know anyone in my field who doesn’t want to go and help people in this situation.”
Physicians for Peace is a founding member of the Haitian Amputee Coalition, a confederation of organizations including Albert Schweitzer Hospital, the Hanger Ivan R. Sabel Foundation, the Catholic Medical Mission Board, the Harold and Kayrita Anderson Foundation and the Shepherd Center, among other groups. Between March and November 2010, PFP volunteer physical therapists contributed more than 1,700 hours of service to Haiti’s disabled population. In that time, they completed more than 1,300 patient visits and helped 635 amputee patients learn to “walk free” with new prosthetic limbs.
ABOUT PHYSICIANS FOR PEACE
Physicians for Peace is an international non-profit organization that mobilizes volunteer healthcare professionals to assist developing nations with unmet medical needs and scarce resources. Through effective, hands-on medical education and training, clinical care and donated medical supplies, Physicians for Peace develops long-term, sustainable, replicable, and evidence-based programs to help partner nations build medical capability and capacity to help themselves. Since 1989 Volunteers for the 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization have conducted medical missions in more than 60 countries. With its headquarters in Norfolk, Va., Physicians for Peace has programs in 22 countries and offices in Manila, the Philippines and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. In 2009, the organization celebrated its 20th Anniversary. For more information, go to: www.physiciansforpeace.org