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Notes from Ghana Part II: A Physical Therapist Travels to Treat Children

HSS orthopedic team in Ghana

Physical therapist Jessica Graziano traveled with The Foundation of Orthopedics and Complex Spine (FOCOS) to Ghana this month to treat children and adults with debilitating orthopedic conditions. This is the second in a series of posts from Jessica documenting her work in West Africa. Read the first installment here.

More surgeries were performed this week on children with idiopathic scoliosis and neuromuscular diseases. These children underwent extensive surgical corrective procedures lasting eight to 10 hours. They showed tremendous tenacity and resolve throughout this ordeal.

Our team (physicians, physician assistants, nurses and physical therapists) would round in the morning, visiting the current patients and discussing their plans for care. From rounds I headed to the inpatient unit with HSS nurse Shawna Townsend and FOCOS physical therapist Saffour to start treating our patients. The patients are always excited to see us and very willing to get started with their therapy. Most patients on the unit know each other and are excited to be able to take their first steps down the hallway to visit their new friends.

This has been an inspiring week at the hospital so far. A 5-year-old boy from Sierra Leone took his first steps in rehab. A little boy from Ethiopia, who had been immobilized by excruciating post-op pain for the past few days, showed us his dance moves because he was feeling better, and a young girl from Ghana consoled another girl from Sierra Leone who was having surgery for a halo (stabilization tool) tomorrow.

These children demonstrated an incredible sense of community, despite coming from different countries and different cultural backgrounds. They were constantly looking out for each other, and cheering each other on, before and after surgery. It was very heart warming to see them congregate together at the end of the day to share stories and engage in friendly banter against the backdrop of the African sunset.

Jessica Graziano is a physical therapist in Hospital for Special Surgery’s Rehabilitation Department.

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