Sunday, May 14, 2017

Busy spring!!

Spring seems to have arrived in our part of the world...FINALLY!!! We continued to have many cold and overcast days throughout the month of April and even had snow near the end of the month, but now we seem to be turning a corner to warmer temperatures and more sun. May reminds me of March in Oklahoma - minus the tornadoes of course.  Soon I hope we will be wearing flip-flops, t-shirts, and capris and leaving the jackets at home!

The work at the Agape Rehabilitation Complex continues. The waiting lists are long for both pediatric and adult rehabilitation and the schedule remains consistently full for all of our therapists. We welcomed a new member to our therapy team in March. Natasha joined us as a speech therapist in training. She previously worked as a caregiver at Agape, but expressed a desire to become a therapist and agreed to fill our need for a speech therapist. She is praying about and pursuing opportunities for speech therapy education in Ukraine. Because her schedule is not full, she also helps Veeka keep up with all the secretarial work.

All nine students in the second class of the PT Training Center returned for their second session at the end of April. We began with a test over the previous session before jumping into a large quantity of new information. What a joy to see their progress in learning the material and hear how they have utilized the knowledge and skills they learned during the first session. Most of the students serve in ministries that do not yet provide rehabilitation. But that did not deter a couple of them from conducting educational sessions with moms of children with disabilities on topics such as properly lifting and transferring their growing children and performing passive range of motion. I rejoiced to hear that after completing only one session, they went home and found ways to impact the people God has put in their ministries. And then they returned for this second session with eager anticipation and expectation of the new knowledge and skills they would gain!

We had a guest lecturer spend a day with us. Dr. Sarojini Budden is a developmental pediatrician with more than 45 years of experience! We were privileged to have her share a fraction of her knowledge with our students and also to spend a day consulting some of the families whose children receive rehabilitation at our center.   

Some of our topics for this session included normal gait...

Learning the phases of the gait cycle in small groups
Fitting patients for assistive devices and training in their use...

Analysis of posture...

Spinal cord injury and spina bifida...

Students attempting various methods of transferring from the floor to a wheelchair
And various special tests...

We covered quite a bit of material and had an enjoyable time together in the process. 

We look forward to welcoming this class of students back for their third session in August!

May 7th marked the 10th anniversary of our rehabilitation center! The first time I came to Lutsk was in September 2007, just a few months after the opening of the rehabilitation center. So I have had the amazing privilege to be part of many of these ten years of rehabilitation. Sergiy and Natasha Bolchuk invited our therapy team to their house for dinner and celebration to mark this anniversary. Unfortunately, not everyone was able to attend, but we enjoyed looking back at God's faithfulness over the past ten years of rehabilitation and looking forward to what God might do in and through our center in the coming years.

The most recent exciting news for our ministry was yesterday's wedding between Veeka and Sergiy! This marriage was quite exciting to witness as it is the first for our ministry between a person with a disability and a person without a disability.  Veeka has been involved in the ministry since her early teenage years, beginning with crafts and camps for children with disabilities. She has been working with our rehab team since last August, overseeing the secretarial work and also in training as an occupational therapist. Sergiy goes to a daughter church of Fimiam and began helping at our camps for adults with disabilities as few years ago. Currently, he is a caregiver at Agape and is in the second class of students at the PT Training Center. We rejoiced to witness their love for one another grow over the past months and their union in marriage yesterday! 

The wedding party

We continue with our busy schedule as we anticipate the final session of the first class of students beginning June 7. Please join us in praying for the preparation and translation of the material for that session. And camps, which begin in July, will be here before we know it. We are praying that many of the patients we have had this past year will be able to come and hear the good news of the Gospel. Thanks for joining us in prayer! 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Marching Forward

The first class of students returned for their third session at the PT Training Center in March.  It amazes me that we only have one session left with this class! Most of these students work with us every day at Agape, but two of them come from other cities in Ukraine, so we were excited to welcome them back.

Once again, God blessed our time together! We reviewed and tested over previously taught material, covered quite a bit of new material, and learned new therapeutic techniques. We focused on physical therapy for adults with neurological diagnoses, including stroke, traumatic brain injury, and multiple sclerosis.  We started each new topic with pathophysiology before moving into specific therapeutic considerations and treatment approaches.

This class is rather small now with only four physical therapy students and one occupational therapy student. So we did most of our practical skills work together as a group.  
We worked on various facilitation techniques:

Following the lecture on orthotics, we pulled out as many different types of orthotics as possible from our storage (and we have quite a few thanks to donations over the years!) and the students walked around in them to get a better understanding of the functions of the various types. 

As has become our tradition, we played "Brain Ring" a couple of times to give the students an extensive review over the material we covered:

We are very blessed to have one treatment mat at Agape that can be elevated.  This mat was obtained a couple of years ago through a humanitarian shipment, but the motor was broken so we used it at it's lowest level for a long time.  A few months ago, though, our guys were finally able to install a new motor. Now this mat is highly prized by our therapists and it is perfect for Veeka as she can raise it above the level of her wheelchair and get close to her patients.  During this session, we crowded as many students as possible on it so that they could practice new skills with good body mechanics.  We hope one day we can have another high/low mat in our center. 

I'd say we maximized our use of the available mat space!
We also used patient scenarios as a teaching tool.  Each students was given a role as a patient and received some coaching from Sveta.  The student therapist was then given specific tasks to accomplish while the other students observed.  It was an good opportunity for them to integrate the knowledge and skills they were learning, to work on critical thinking and to receive feedback:

We had the privilege of having a guest lecturer on the topic of pressure ulcers. Kristina is an American nurse who has been a missionary in Ukraine for 17 years and is a specialist in wound care. She had to leave Crimea 2 years ago due to the Russian takeover and her missionary work in Ukraine transitioned away from nursing as a result.  Her friend told her about Agape, so she decided to ship us her leftover wound care supplies. What a blessing to learn of her presence in Ukraine! Sergiy and Natasha Bolchuk invited her to come to Agape to train our medical staff and to consult with former, current, and prospective patients with wounds. In February, she came for 4-5 days and had a huge impact! As a result of her knowledge and recommendations, Vasya (who was baptized in December) learned that his pressure ulcer was down to the bone and required surgery.  He has since had that surgery and is back at Agape recovering, lying only on his stomach 24 hours a day for over 4 weeks now.  Kristina agreed to come back to oversee his initial wound care treatment upon his discharge from the hospital and since that time corresponded with our session, we invited her to talk with our students. Our students are still not wound care specialists, but they now have specific recommendations they can share with their patients which can help in their prevention and treatment of pressure ulcers.  We are excited to see how God continues to use Kristina and her expertise at Agape in the future!

As always, students took tests on the first and last days of the session. Passing the test day on the first day is required to officially pass the previous session and receive a certificate of completion. The last day's test involves written and practical components and is the first requirement for passing the current session. Some students require more than one attempt to pass the written component and/or some coaching on the practical component, but all are showing progress and we pray for their continued growth and development as therapists.

Thank you for those who pray for the PT Training Center! We are in a busy season and have some particular prayer requests:

- The second session for the second class is April 24-May 5. Please pray for the students as they finalize try to finish learning muscles; for me as I finalize preparation, including rearranging and rewriting some of the lecture material as well as developing some new lectures; and for Tanja who will be the full-time translator again (for physical and mental stamina and recollection of the specific terminology).

- The fourth and final session of the first class is scheduled for June 5-16. At this time, no material is prepared for this session and the time available for preparation is very short. Please pray for wisdom regarding what topics to teach and efficiency in preparing the material.

Thank you again for supporting this work! 

Saturday, February 11, 2017

A New Class Begins...

The PT Training Center welcomed the second class to the program on January 16, 2017 when nine students from five different cities across Ukraine gathered at the Agape Rehabilitation Complex for their first session.  We were not previously acquainted with the majority of these students, so we were eager to meet them and begin our session together.

For the first time during a PT session, rehabilitation continued on the 3rd floor, so Tanja (between Krista and I in the above picture) was our primary translator instead of Sveta.  God graciously answered our prayers for her for physical and mental endurance, recall of the PT terminology, and clarity of translation.  We are so grateful her willingness to participate and joke that she is becoming most knowledgeable non-therapist in Ukraine!

The majority of the teaching for this session was done by Krista and I, but Sveta, Pasha, and Ira also taught one lecture each and assisted intermittently with small group practice sessions:

Henry, our skeleton, again played a vital role in teaching anatomy: 

Because patients were still receiving rehabilitation on the third floor, we had less opportunities than during previous sessions to move upstairs for our practice time. So we often adapted our classroom to create space for the students to practice their skills on each other as well as on Agape workers and residents:

When they arrived, these students knew much less than our first class of students because their backgrounds have generally not taken them near the sphere of physical therapy.  But they listened attentively, studied hard in the evenings, were eager to learn, asked questions, willingly helped one another and had a good time together along the way!

On the final day, they all demonstrated that they had indeed absorbed and learned a good bit of the material. What a joy for us all!

Next on the schedule for the PT Training School is the third session for the first class in March and then this second class returns at the end of April for their second session.  

Please join us in praying for:
- All students as they work on their home tasks and study the material that has already presented to them. 
- Clear direction for students as to how God would have them use the knowledge and skills they are gaining in the future.  
- Preparation and translation of the teaching material for the third session in March.

Thank you for standing with us in prayer!