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Case Study - Adam Walsh

Earlier this year, one of our Physiotherapists swapped the state-of-the-art surroundings of the Therapies and Dietetics department at Royal Manchester Children's Hospital for a medical centre in Uganda. Adam Walsh, who has worked for the organisation for just over a year heard that our Chairman Peter Mount was looking for a volunteer from the Physiotherapy department at RMCH to go and work with MedCare, a charity organisation in Uganda. 

Group shotAfter a number of meetings with the charity and liaison with hospital staff, our charity fund kindly agreed to supplement the costs of this trip and Adam flew out to Entebee, Uganda in September. He was one in a team of six, consisting of a retired GP (now Chairman of MedCare), two current GPs, an Orthopaedic Registrar and an Engineer. They worked out of a small, but rapidly expanding medical centre in the Kamutuza district, around 20 minutes North of Masaka.

Adam said: "The therapy department itself was far from what we're used to at RMCH and consisted of a make-shift building constructed between two shipping containers. Here we were inundated by a vast number of children presenting with a wide range of complex problems which we worked to the best of our ability to treat and rehabilitate."

The team did this in conjunction with the resident staff and implemented care pathways for these children to be ongoing with the therapist, nurses and carers after they left. They also took the opportunity to deliver practical training and seminars on dermatological conditions, postural management, interpretation of X-rays, clinical reasoning and differential diagnosis.

Adam added: "By the end of the week we were all exhausted but able to reflect on what had been a busy, productive and rewarding week. The trip presented me with a new challenge but great experience, I would definitely encourage others to pursue volunteer work if they have an interest and I look forward to doing something like this again in the future."

Adam and IbrahimThe team stayed in a local 'hotel' organised by the volunteer group. Although Adam thought it was a good standard some members of the team were surprised when there was no electricity and that they had to shower with cold water and jerry cans!

Adam found the main challenges were around the lack of equipment available, both for medical diagnostics and for treatments but said: "It's amazing how far you can get with a few simple pieces of kit and a little imagination, improvisation and willpower!"

Although there were many highlights, Adam's stand out memory would probably be after assessing a young boy called Raheem with complex medical needs.

He said: "This young man was carried into our room and had an un-diagnosed neuro-muscular and condition with a two day birth history. He had multiple musculo-skeletal abnormalities including bi-lateral talonavicular dislocation and bi-lareral hip dysplasia. He also had a horrific kyphoscoliosis, increased tone globally within all four limbs and muscle contractures at both hands and elbows.

"After assessing this severely disabled young man the orthopaedic registrar and we were discussing how he was likely to have a poor prognosis and un-likely to ambulate, then his mother picked him up and he walked (with her assistance) over to us. It just re-affirmed to me the importance of determination within rehabilitation and how despite great obstacles meaningful gains could still be achieved."

JuliusAdam's interest in working abroad was fuelled by a previous trip where volunteered as a Physiotherapist in Nepal for 10 weeks. During his time there he worked in the national spinal injury unit and also at a local Duchene's muscular dystrophy centre.

He said: "As far as advice to others who'd consider working abroad I'd say go for it. Its a fantastic opportunity to learn about other cultures and to provide insight into their own clinical practice. It gives you a greater appreciation for the first world facilities we have and take for granted at our disposal. If its something you feel strongly about then do it, you'll only regret it if you don't take the chance."