Edith, twenty-four years old, was riding as a passenger in a tap tap when a barrel fell off of a truck and struck her, injuring her C6/C7 vertebrae and causing paralysis. She could not move her legs, she was not able to sit-up or balance on her own and she could barely move her arms. She arrived and was admitted to the Project Medishare field hospital after first visiting another hospital in Haiti. When the organization moved to Hospital Bernard Mevs in the summer of 2010, Edith subsequently moved as well in order to continue treatment and obtain further critical care.
Edith completed her rehabilitation program and returned to her home. Unfortunately, her return home was short-lived and only lasted for one month. On a follow-up visit to Edith, she was found without her wheelchair and living outside. She had developed a severe wound living in those conditions and was immediately brought back to Hospital Bernard Mevs Project Medishare.
Marty, a physical therapist with extensive experience in spinal cord injury rehabilitation was at Hospital Bernard Mevs Project Medishare for a six-week volunteer stint. When they first met, Edith had begun preparing for her discharge back home. She was leaving the hospital with the mindset that she would constantly require assistance from someone else in order to be mobile. Marty did not share this notion; she believed that Edith had the potential to push her own wheelchair.
Edith said that Marty “was crazy” to think Edith could push her own chair. She really did not think she had the strength or function in her arms and hands to hold the wheel and push her chair. Marty explained to her that by using different muscles she would be able to do so. After nearly two weeks of daily strengthening exercises, Edith was ready to try pushing her chair by herself. Marty found rubber tubing to attach to the rim of the wheels to help Edith’s hands grip the wheel. Once everything was set it was time for Edith to see herself the way Marty saw her; strong and with limitless possibilities.
Using her shoulder muscles instead of her arms and squeezing in on the wheels, Edith was able to push the wheel. With a smile on her face, Edith said that she was “very tired and very happy”. She really did not believe that she would be able to push herself on her own but surprised herself and was very excited by what she was able to accomplish. Marty of course was extremely proud and happy for Edith who now has the ability to move around her own home and not be dependent on others.
Below is footage of Edith pushing her wheelchair by herself for the very first time.Special thanks to Rachel Belt of Project Medishare in Haiti for providing the video and details of Edith’s story and to Xavi Manrique for assisting in the editing of the footage.