Greetings from Ukraine, where fall already seems to be on it's way out and the sun now sets by 5:15! We've already had several nights below freezing, giving us a good indication that winter is just around the corner.
Our rehab center continues to be busy and since we reopened after the summer break we have many new patients who are challenging our therapists in new and exciting ways. When our center first opened 8 years ago, it was done to serve people with spinal cord injuries. The leaders of our ministry for people with disabilities at Fimiam Church saw the need for such a center after Natasha became a quadriplegic in a car accident. But it was not long before the center received requests for rehabilitation from people with other diagnoses. Slowly, our therapists learned to work with children and adults with various diagnoses and our clinic became more diversified. But people with spinal cord injuries - and primarily those with quadriplegia who have no possibility of walking - have always made up the highest percentage of our patient population. I think all of our therapists would say that spinal cord injury rehabilitation is their favorite area of rehabilitation, mostly because they know it so well. But our current list contains only 2 such patients, which is why this time is both challenging and exciting!
Currently, we have more patients who are "walking" than ever before. Our adult patient population includes those with traumatic brain injury, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and transverse myelitis. With these diagnoses often come cognitive and language disabilities which factor into rehab too. So our therapists are facing new challenges and we have frequent discussions about individual patients and how we can maximize their rehabilitation in all spheres.
Here are some of our current patients:
Sasha is not a new patient, but he is one of our two current quadriplegics. He is always excited about coming to rehab, works very hard, and brings a lot of laughter to the center. Now he consistently attends church too and he is considering joining a home group. He attended Fimiam Church years ago and he knows many things about God and the Bible. Please join us in praying for his salvation.
Alexander is our other patient with quadriplegia. His injury was this past summer and he continues to be in a significant amount of pain, which hinders his progress in rehab. Please pray for Sveta as she works with him, advises and teaches his family, and seeks the best ways to help him.
Volodimir received his spinal cord injury when he fell out of a cherry tree this summer. We rarely have paraplegics come to our center, so Sveta is enjoying working with him. He is very motivated to walk and will try anything Sveta asks of him. She has invited him to church several times, but he consistently declines.
|Working on negotiating obstacles|
Andri had a massive head injury due to an aneurysm last spring. When he first came to us in mid-summer, he couldn't sit up, much less stand up. But in the past two months he has made tremendous physical progress and now walks everywhere with a crutch and a little help. We are also working on going up and down stairs. Alla (not pictured) was his original therapist, but she is no longer working due to her pregnancy. So Ira agreed to work with him, even though she had never worked with anyone with such significant cognitive, speech, and physical deficits. She and I have frequent training sessions and I am always with them during their rehab sessions. It has been a stretching experience for her, but we can all see Andri's progress and we are so grateful.
Sergiy also had a head injury and recently started rehabilitation. As you can see in the picture, when we work on gait with patients we have to deep squat or crawl on the floor behind them. Now that so many patients are walking, this is a more frequent sight than ever. But not for long - finally we have 2 rolling stools on order!!
Pavlo had a recent stroke and Sveta has been working with him for about a month. We do not claim to be occupational therapists or speech therapists. In fact, we are careful to tell our patients that we are physical therapists and then define for them what we do. But there are no occupational therapists in Ukraine and while speech therapists are said to exist, we haven't yet found any. So we offer our patients what we can, gleaning input and expertise from occupational and speech therapists back home.
I introduced Anya in a previous blog. She has been having rehabilitation for the majority of a year. She is now able to walk slowly with a walker on level surfaces and to care for herself. Unfortunately she lives on the 4th floor in a building with no elevator. Her brother (pictured) or father carry her up and down the stairs if she wants to go anywhere. But she is stuck at home if they are not available. So her final goal is to be able to negotiate 4 flights of stairs with help from her mother only. She is very close to meeting this goal and then Ira will have to discuss discharge. Please pray for Ira and Anya as this will be a difficult conversation.
Transitioning over to our kids:
Stasik also isn't a new patient, but working on climbing a flight of stairs with him is new. And what better way to do it than taking a huge basketball up and rolling it down to mom?! Stasik has been in Italy for the past month for medical treatment regarding his talking and swallowing deficits. We are looking forward to having him return and seeing what progress has been made!
We have a growing number of children with cerebral palsy, but Sveta is the only Ukrainian therapist currently working who has any experience with this diagnosis. So to give our other therapists training and experience, and to free up Sveta's schedule a bit, we implemented a pediatric group.
|Vladik (Ira), Mark (Vanya), Timur (Sveta)|
Vladik, Mark, and Timur spend one hour together on Fridays. Sveta plans and directs the session. Vanya and Ira learn how to facilitate, stabilize, guide, stretch, etc. And I provide the toys, take pictures, and encourage. Yes, there are 7 of us in the room together, but the boys seem to enjoy it as Sveta says they smile more frequently than in their individual sessions. And it gives the moms one hour of respite and a chance to just sit and talk with another adult.
|Tongue out - she's clearly working hard!|
Although Ana-Maria is also a long-standing patient, she is now able to participate in new activities following treatment in Israel this summer. She now has more range of motion in her legs and properly fitting braces. At about the same time as her return, our center received a shipment of equipment from Holland, which included a perfectly fitting reverse walker. So now she too works on walking at every session!
As you can tell, we are on the move in rehab! I am so thankful for all the patients God brings to us, for our therapists' willingness to grow, learn, and work with new patients, and for the progress many of our patients are making. And thank you for all who pray for our rehab center and team (girls pictured below)!!