OT Students Speak

OT students group photo

The 2012 cohort of occupational therapy students from St. Catherine University.

Hola amigos! On Thursday in Puerto Maldonado, the Eleanore’s Project team was able to provide support to ten different individuals and their families. We wanted to share one story from today about an individual named Aldo.

Aldo is a 17 year-old who has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy and epilepsy. He arrived with his grandparents to receive his first specialized wheelchair. Previously he was seated in a handcrafted wheelchair consisting of a plastic lawn chair attached to bicycle wheels that was inappropriately supporting his body. After a full day and a half of work, he looked great in his chair, and we could see that it was worth all of the time and effort that was put into it. His grandfather repeatedly told us how much he loved the chair and how beautiful it was, saying that, “he is now supported; he is no longer sitting on air”. His grandfather was referring to the lack of support that the plastic chair provided, and how comfortable he now looked in his new seating system. As students we also noticed increased participation using his arms, eyes, and hands. As you can see in the photo below, his eyes are glowing, and he was all smiles.

Aldo’s face expressed pure joy in his new, customized wheelchair

As students we have been blessed to be a part of this project. We have had the opportunity to gain skills and experiences that would take years to obtain in the states, and the ability to work with professionals who are experts in their field and wonderful teachers. Most of us came here with little knowledge of how to use a sewing machine, or even what an allen wrench and a ratchet were. But now, at the end of our second week, we feel comfortable evaluating a client, offering suggestions to the team about their needs, and adjusting the wheelchair accordingly. As students of occupational therapy, we feel that this experience as a whole is the epitomy of what OT is all about: adapting and being open to ambiguity, thinking on our feet, using available resources, establishing rapport, understanding client and family individuality, teamwork, and helping people take part in meaningful occupations. This hands-on and creative experience teaches us more than a classroom ever could, and has provided us with relationships and knowledge that we will carry with us for years to come.

Brittany, Kristin, Hayley, Allison, Leslie, Cassie, and Theresa