Working in Puerto Maldonado

Tambopata River

Rio Tambopata as seen from the wheelchair clinic area

Today we seemed to hit our stride in Puerto Maldonado, being more familiar with the space and set up. Our work space at the Don Carlo Hotel has a beautiful view of the Tambopata River, part of the headwaters of the Amazon River. The building is tropical style construction with open windows and metal roofs, but our rooms have screens and air conditioning. I am not usually a fan of AC but here, after working long days in the heat and humidity I am grateful for the coolness in which to sleep.

We can see boats on the river, homes of regular folks, and there is a plethora of motorcycles and mototaxis but relatively few cars. At the moment we are in hour two of a huge rain storm complete with thunder and lightening. January, February and March are the rainy months in this part of Peru, and while the rain cools everything down, it also brings everyone to a standstill. As I write this at 7:15 p.m., a mother and her son are downstairs waiting to go home with his new wheelchair. The taxis are not responding to calls, and so they wait.

This week we are working with Equip KIDS and their new partner, the Lions Club of Madre de Dios. The Lions Club has made a commitment to facilitating long term follow-up for the wheelchairs in this area, including creation of a developmental center in Puerto Maldonado. This would be a wonderful addition in this area which is lacking in services for individuals with disabilities. Only the most basic of folding and “lawn chair” wheelchairs have been available in Puerto Maldonado until now and we are glad to be part of this big step forward for people with mobility impairments.

Diego enjoyed playing with a toy computer while sitting upright in his wheelchair

Today we worked with a wide variety of children and teenagers. Diego (age 5 with spina bifida) goes to a regular school for kindergarten but got around by crawling until today. He had never had a wheelchair before but by the time his ultra light chair was fit for him he was ready to roll. Diego’s left side is weaker than his right and at first he was awkward in propelling the chair. But after one hour of practice we could see him using his left side more than he was before and expect his continued improvement with mobility as motivation.

Mitzi is 15 years old and spent the entire day with us while a very special chair was created for her by a large team of people. I also spent time with her and her mother developing a postural care plan for positioning while she sleeps. At the end of the day she and her mother went home in a mototaxi. I watched as her wheelchair was carried down the 17 step entrance to the hotel. As it was lashed onto the back of a mototaxi I ran inside to ask Rick to take a photo. We all agreed that it is easier to transport a wheelchair this way than by disassembling the chair and putting it into a regular taxi – as long as it is not raining!

Mitzi and her mother observe as Mitzi’s wheelchair is readied for the ride home.

Mitzi’s chair is ready for the trip home – lashed to the back of a mototaxi