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Roots and Smiles

09/04/2014, 2:15am EDT
By Efosa L. Guobadia, PT, DPT

The Strength of Children will Inspire

Today marked day two in Guatemala. We spent our morning in a burn clinic for kids. The unit was very impressive and the layout was functional.

The team seemed to work very well together and included: physicians, physical therapists, psychologists, nurses, garment workers and students working in tandem. It was a model of what interdisciplinary care could and should look like. The physical therapists on staff gave us a tour of the site.

They had a full array of equipment for different symptoms and functional limitations. They reported that they do their best as a team to provide a specialized treatment plan for all of the patients that they see. We also had a chance to meet some of the patients.

Some of the burns that the children experienced were a result of problems that have their roots in socioeconomic issues. Those in the lower income bracket in Guatemala often cannot afford electricity for light or other appliances. Thus the families utilize candle light as a replacement. One mom left her two sons home (five and infant), and once the candle went all the way down to the base and ran out it spread fire to the adjacent furniture, which travelled to the bed that the baby was laying on. He suffered burns on his face and body.


There was another instance of a mother cooking in a pit in the ground in her home and her daughter fell from her high chair and landed on her hands in the fire. She has now lost most of her fingers.

As glad as we were for the comprehensive care these patients seem to be getting, you can’t help but wonder how the deeper root cause could be addressed. What can be done so the mother doesn’t have to leave her kids for as long as she did? How can the family avoid resorting to higher risk methods to survive and function? Even after all of that, what I leave remembering the most about today was the realization that the fire can’t take away from the sweetness of the kids’ smiles and the kindness of their eyes.

You are also reminded that a parent’s love in New York City is no different than a parent’s love in Guatemala City. In this tough time for the family, you can feel their worry for the unknown; yet you sense their hope for the future; they know that their child needs their strength and courage.

It touches your heart. It’s human and family life playing out before you. Again you can see this in many hospitals at home and abroad. As health clinicians, these reflections remind you that your job goes beyond the physical; there is the emotional and psychological component as well.

In the afternoon, we went to an Infant Hospital (Juan Pablo II). We worked again mainly with pediatric population and some adults. We worked hand in hand with students.

Many of these students have been practicing for years and have recently come back to school to do a transitional PT Masters degree. Their skills were impressive and their curiosity to know even more was highly present. Between the brainstorming and the teaching it truly was a global collaboration.


Tomorrow will be similar, yet the patients will mostly be adults.

Thanks for checking in, check out the pictures to add some visual. Remember to chat with us via #globalPTconnect.

Sponsored by Efosa L. Guobadia, DPT

Efosa L. Guobadia, DPT

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Efosa is the Founder of Physical Therapy Haven. He received his B.S. in Kinesiology from Umass-Amherst, and his Physical Therapy Doctorate from the University of Scranton. He is driven by his love for this profession which allows us to use our hands and words to help others. The site contains rehabilitation resources geared towards rehab clinicians and it includes videos, study guides, as well as links to other useful sites. 

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