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2 posts from June 2011


Handreach in Beijing

Yesterday was Hump Day for us here -- we reached the midpoint of our clinic here in Beijing!  Changti's surgeries took all day and were very successful -- the doctors did some very delicate work on both hands to release tendons and try to give him as much function as possible at this point, and released tissue under both arms to give him significantly greater range of motion.  Today, our rehab therapy team will work with our videographer to shoot a video about the rehab techniques he will need after his bandages come off.  We plan to shoot a detailed video (with Chinese narration) of each step of the process, and send DVDs to both him and the local hospital we are working with in Hunan that will support his long-term rehabilitation.  We are planning to go to this hospital (operated by the Hunan Fire Department) in Hunan's capital, Changsha, next summer to inaugurate the area's first rehab center for burn survivors, and we'll be excited to see Changti's progress by then!

Things have been so lovely with our clinic at the hospital this week!  We are all deeply in love with the children.  Our two toddler amputees, FeiFei and TingTing, both got new prosthetics yesterday and are walking around (and dancing!) with great panache.  Our team has been offering morning group activities (drumming and art therapy), working individually with each child to make needed splints and pressure garments, and making great progress psychosocially with each child, particularly a few that have shown severe signs of PTSD, like one little boy whose mother died saving him in a house fire.  The staff here in Beijing is asking lots of questions about psychosocial care, and our two amazing Child Life therapists (Jessie Hagerman from Shriners Springfield and John Chiang from National Chengchi University in Taiwan) are working hard to develop a culturally-relevant psychosocial protocol HandReach can provide to be included in each child's chart henceforth.  

One modality that has proven extremely effective here is Martin Isaac's vibedrum -- a little ovular metal drum cut with notes in a soft pentatonic scale which is played with soft mallets (actually, bouncy-balls on dowels, also produced by Martin).  The instrument is so soft and lovely -- and impossible to play in a way that sounds bad -- and we've been using it to provide soft music for painful procedures, which has been very welcomed by staff typically accustomed to deal with kids shrieking from being treated without pain medicine of any kind.  We are making significant inroads with surgery, nursing, and rehab in ways that will involve significant psychosocial training in all aspects of care at the unit.

Tomorrow will be the inauguration of our Prosthetics Unit!  The Air Force Hospital already has a very nice sign on the wall announcing the space as "Provided by the cooperation of the American HandReach Foundation," and we have plenty of hall space in which to place parallel bars, stairs, and other rehab items it will be nice to have close to the fabrication room.  We are all thinking of ways to keep the progress we've made this week going -- video training pods, cooperation on clinical trials of a particular kind of Chinese medicine the hospital here is using for scar treatment, supplying vibe drums and of course rehab equipment and supplies, developing a telemedicine relationship with Shriners Springfield, etc.   

So much to do, and what a team to do it!  Very grateful for the utterly amazing people joining hands in this Fire Work!

June 29th 2011


HandReach's arrival in Beijing

Our HandReach team is all settled in Beijing now after spending our first couple days in China serving as the focal point for China's "First International Trauma Congress" that drew China's top names in burn care to a conference set up for us at the same hotel where the first International Conference on Women (organized by Hillary Clinton) was held in 1995.  We presented and heard talks on all aspects of trauma and burn care, from surgery to rehabilitation to psychosocial care.  There is so much more that we can and want to do with a conference like this in the future -- setting up roundtables and hands-on trainings around pertinent questions of the day -- and the wheels are already turning to set up deepening substantive dialogue in ways truly make a difference in making effective integrated burn care available to kids who are in most desperate need.


On the way from the conference center to Beijing last night, we were taken to the Great Wall, and members of our team settled themselves with gentle vibe drums (developed and built by our BeatBrigade director, Martin Isaac) in an ancient stone guard tower of the Wall where we made music that attracted an international group of visitors to form around us with delight and questions.  The music was soft, gentle, uplifting, and blended perfectly with the natural green landscape and birds flying on current of heat rising from Chinese soil.  Our team has been gelling in unbelievable, delightful ways that we all agree is truly magical.  We are truly excited to work together, and in meetings team members have agreed that there feels like karmic connection that has drawn us here somehow, to work with these children.


Last evening just as we arrived in Beijing, a beautiful story continued to unfold.  One of the patients we met years ago in Hunan who we've brought to Beijing for our  clinic this week is He Changti, who has been limited by devastating injuries sustained making fireworks for the Beijing Olympics.  Our young Spanish videographer, Gabriela Jaime, had posted a video about Changti's plight on a Chinese website to try to draw interest and funding to support his care, and the video was discovered by a woman named Xiaodan in Shanghai, a burn survivor who flew with her husband to Beijing as soon as we arrived to meet us.  The meeting was magical.  Xiaodan, an impressive cosmopolitan woman who works for Nielsen, gave Changti ideas and inspiration for a brilliant life ahead, and played a song for him on the piano ("Bad Romance" by Lady Gaga -- ha!) that she'd been working on ever since her burned hands began rehabilitation months ago.  She had never played piano before but had always wanted to, and she encouraged Changti to pick a goal he'd always wanted and put his whole heart to achieving it.  Changti picked driving as his goal -- he said he wants nothing more than to have the freedom to go where he wants to go, and to take others with him.  Xiaodan and her husband (a Canadian Chinese working for Microsoft in Shanghai) gave Changti an iPod Touch and plan to set him up with wireless access in his home in rural Hunan.  We all talked about working together to form a Chinese arm of the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors here, with Changti (supported majorly by Xiaodan and her husband) as webmaster.   We all felt inspired and energized by the possibilities ahead.  Xiaodan and her husband expressed interest in joining HandReach's team at the World Burn Congress in Cincinnati in September.  She even asked me if I'd ever heard of Dan Caro!  I was able to show her photos of us with Dan at last year's Burn Congress -- she was thrilled.  She asked if she can help translate and release a Chinese-language version of Dan's book, "The Gift of Fire," since she feels his story is crucial for Chinese burn survivors to read.  We are beyond thrilled, and oh too happy to do whatever we can to help make this happen and get Dan to China for the inauguration for China's budding Phoenix Society.


It's time to meet the team soon and begin our clinic here at the Air Force General Hospital in Beijing.  We have bags bursting with supplies and instruments to open and organize, and plan to start with an engaging circle of drumming and activities for the children and parents at the hospital right at 9:00 this morning.  Kids have assembled here from all over China for this clinic, and our quick visit to the hospital yesterday drew hugs and tears and beautiful energy that's impossible to describe.  Team members Brock and Qi will be visiting local prosthetics factories and offices here in Beijing starting this morning to assemble the equipment and supplies we'll need to support the Prosthetics Unit Project we'll be inaugurating on Friday at the conclusion of our week here.


Thank you for all the prayers and support and energy you've sent to get us here.  Your spirit is with us, as ever, and we can't wait to be able to post photos and report back....



June 27th 2011



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