Physical Therapist Returns from Haiti

The Bellingham Herald
Sunday May 30, 2010
Out And About by Julie Shirley

Bellingham physical therapist Julie DePaul tells me she provided care to victims of the Haitian earthquake as part of an emergency medical team sent by Children of the Nations. She worked at the field hospital in Fond Parisian, outside of Port au Prince, operated by Harvard Humanitarian Initiative out of Boston. She also helped start a physical therapy clinic at the American refugee camp.

Julie says rehabilitation medical care is the priority, now that the emergency is over. HHI closed its field hospital and trauma center, discharging the last of 2,000 patients on May 5. The new physical therapy clinic at the American refugee camp is a large, open-air tent with a smaller supply tent alongside. Each day, treatment tables and supplies are moved in and out for therapy.

Volunteer teams of therapists from the U.S., sent by the nonprofit organization Hands of Light in Action, will provide care into August. Physical therapy included exercise, gait training, nerve mobilization and back care using minimal equipment, translated teaching, and hands-on skills. Many patients had broken bones, amputations, injuries caused by falling objects, or nerve injuries from being pulled out of the rubble by an arm. Julie specializes in orthopedics and women’s health physical therapy at her clinic, Healthy Focus PT, 1400 King St., Suite 102.

She says her favorite memory from Haiti was singing a hymn in English, along with Haitians singing it in Creole, while providing physical therapy.