The Lifestart Foundation’s Free Disability Community Centre has grown from strength to strength over the past year, welcoming a wonderful new Vietnamese Physiotherapist, Thuyet and more volunteers offering their experience and skills to help the service continue to thrive.
Thuyet and Sang ( our allied Health Assistant ) have learnt a number of extremely valuable skills to use including fire cupping, massage, the basics of occupational therapy, chirokinetics and paediatric specific physiotherapy skills amongst others.
Disability in children is relatively common in Vietnam but often goes undiagnosed and untreated for a variety of reasons. Whilst some are born with obvious problems, with others it is not so clear, becoming more visible as the child grows older. Some may suffer illnesses such as stroke or meningitis after birth leading to developmental problems.
There is often a very limited understanding of the causes and treatment of such delay, with little or no awareness of swallowing or talking problems. Consequently, many children become severely malnourished due to their inability to eat, or choke on food they are given whilst lying flat on their backs.
In March, our first paediatric patient was brought to the centre by her parents desperate for help. Despite not having paediatric specific equipment at the time, the need of the family and the possibility to establish a paediatric therapy service was recognised and the clinic’s staff embraced the family.
Beth, our physiotherapist volunteer at the time, experienced in paediatric physiotherapy, performed initial assessments and wrote treatment programs whilst using the opportunity to teach Thuyet and Sang the skills needed. We now have a small number of children seen by Thuyet and Sang while we continue to equip the centre with child friendly educational toys and therapy aids.
For children with disabilities, starting treatment as soon as possible is essential to help minimise complications such as deformities and delayed development in the future. Learning these skills has allowed Thuyet and Sang to offer this service to those in need through the Lifestart Foundation Free Disability Community Centre.
Treating children can be as much about support and education for their parents as it is hands on therapy for the child. Little information is provided for parents of children with disabilities, often leaving them confused and scared, not sure what kind of a future to expect for their children.
We’re now able to help explain the nature of their child’s disability, helping them come to terms with the long term outlook their child is likely to face, whilst equipping them with ways they can help their child improve and prevent further deterioration.
Customised fun exercise routines have been skilfully devised to the needs of each child, involving playing whilst practicing the things they find difficult such as rolling over, sitting, standing and walking.
The clinic is now better equipped to treat children, with more equipment on its way helping us treat the children currently seen and hopefully many more in the future.
Dao is four years old, an only child living with her parents and grandparents in a small home in Hoi An. Her father works as a chef at a local restaurant earning just $100 a month whilst her mother cares for her full time, unable to continue her previous work as a tailor.
Dao started life as a healthy child but at two years old suddenly lost most of the movement in her right arm and leg. Over the next year Dao had three more of these ‘episodes’, deteriorating more each time, leaving her unable to speak, swallow properly, sit on her own, crawl, walk or do anything with her hands.
This incredibly distressing time for the family was compounded by a household budget of just $3 a day meaning the family couldn’t afford extensive medical testing and were unable to discover what had happened to their little girl or seek any rehabilitation. However, from the presentation of her symptoms and their descriptions of what happened, it’s highly likely Dao suffered several strokes and could continue to suffer more in the future.
Dao’s parents were understandably in desperate need of help and reassurance when they came to the LSF Free Disability Community Centre for the first time back in March, clearly distressed and anxious about everything that had happened.
Despite not treating children at the time, the centre adapted to accommodate Dao, seeing her 3 times a week whilst also giving her father exercises to help his suspected rheumatoid arthritis they cannot afford medication to treat.
Dao now has a full physiotherapy exercise and occupational therapy treatment program written specifically for her to help build her strength, reduce spasticity, and improve coordination, all things that will hopefully help her do more for herself in the future.
We’ve been able to help ease her families anxiety, giving them a much better understanding of what might have happened to Dao and what they can expect the future to hold in terms of potential progress she could make while having realistic expectations for what she’s unlikely to achieve.
In the few months she’s been visiting the clinic her parents are very happy with her progress with Dao trying to stand and walk more than she did whilst having better use of her hands. The family who are very close and incredibly devoted to Dao are now able to do simple treatments with her at home with increased awareness of the risks of her being in certain positions, nutrition and potential eating problems.
However, with her family unable to afford educational toys or adaptive equipment, Dao has nothing at home to help her develop whilst any help her family can provide is frustratingly limited.
Simple things for Dao to use with her family could make a huge difference to her progress. A wooden table and chair (cost $10) will help her sit instead of lying on the floor and this will improve her sitting balance whilst bringing her into a position where she can play and eat safely at the same time as strengthening muscles and much more.
A range of educational toys (cost $100) to use whilst sitting at her table will help improve coordination, the use of her hands, balance, aid learning and most importantly provide lots of fun!
The Lifestart Foundation hopes to provide these things with your help alongside a ‘ custom made walker’ (cost $180) for Dao to use to move around on her own whilst strengthening her legs and getting used to moving them in certain ways, helping her prepare to hopefully walk again.
If you would like to help purchase any of this equipment for Dao and her family please donate here:
We are keen to set up a fund for Dao so as equipment can be purchased for her in the future. At this stage she will not be able to attend school so we are looking at how we can support her with educational activities at home. Would you like to be part of “Team Dao” and contribute $100 per year towards her care and educational support? Depending on how much we can raise for her this will determine what we can offer Dao and her family. I will keep you updated as to the amount raised and what we can achieve with it.
Lots of Love from Karen.
If you happen to be in Hoi An, Viet Nam, visit us at:
Lifestart Foundation Workshop
77 Phan Chau Trinh Street, Hoi An, Vietnam
For more inspiring stories about Lifestart Foundation work in the disability sector:
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