Alex, a child with cerebral palsy, lived most of his life on the floor. He would be lifted up to a sitting position three times a day while being fed. Now, he sees the world from an entirely different perspective because of the new intermediate wheelchair he received after the intensive training provided by LDS Charities. A certified technical specialist took his measurements, made specifications and custom fitted a wheelchair specifically for him.
Last May 24-June 1, the Latter-day Saint Charities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints conducted a two week training on “Assessing and Fitting a Physically Challenged Person to an Intermediate Wheelchair.” This project held at De La Salle University Cavite particularly focused on children with cerebral palsy and hydrocephalus.
Twenty participants coming from a mixed group of physical and occupational therapists, MDs and even those from non-medical background received clinical and technical training from Jaime Noon, a rehabilitation technology and wheelchair specialist who has spent 23 years on seating and mobility services and in developing innovative designs. He is also a contributor to the development of International Wheelchair Guidelines for developing countries coordinated by the World Health Organization.
Unlike the standard wheelchair, children with body deformation challenges need additional features like body harnesses and a head rest to help keep them upright comfortably and securely. Intermediate wheelchairs also have trays in front of them where food can be placed to facilitate feeding and where tray top activities can be done. Technicians also need to do client follow-ups to determine if additional modifications are needed, thus, a tool kit is also provided along with being trained on how to modify the chair.
Dr. Ramona Luisa Pablo-Santos, MD FPARM, who is the Vice Chancellor of De La Salle Health Science Institute which is the umbrella entity for both the Medical & Rehabilitation departments made the offer of using their resources to extract the medical terminology used in the curriculum and to replace it using common language to identify the concepts. She is also planning to integrate the training as a part of De la Salle’s curriculum offered to physical and occupational therapists.
Elder Smith, Wheelchair Program specialist of LDS Charities, hopes to be able to offer an Advanced Level program this year to help technicians assess and fit wheelchairs to persons in extreme cases.
The impact of the project was summed up by one of the mothers of the beneficiaries who said, “We can be a family now. We used to leave our child at home because it was difficult and physically exhausting carrying him with us during family outings and activities but now with the intermediate wheelchair, we can do things together as a family. We can stroll at the mall together, eat at a restaurant together and go to church together.”
The Wheelchair project is just one of seven global humanitarian initiatives of the Latter-day Saint Charities to include emergency response, providing clean potable water, neo-natal resuscitation training, vision care, food production and immunization.