Hi everyone! I am back from a long blogging hiatus and can’t wait to share with you something very close to my heart: Ghana, Africa.
As both Jessica, Kimmy, and Raisa have explained, every spring the second year students in the MAII program and those in the MAI program complete a “leadership externship” in the two weeks prior to spring break. I chose to be a part of the annual trip to Ghana, Africa, where we promoted OT, collaborated with other healthcare professionals to learn how we could work together, participated in school readiness assessments, and gained cultural competency. Perhaps everyone’s favorite part is spending time with the kids at the boarding school we stayed at. The school, Mephiboseth Training Center, is for children with disabilities. Our team came from many different backgrounds and countries. We had occupational therapists, physical therapists, a language pathologist, teachers, and even an actor! Learning from this team of woman made me excited to go out into practice and make a difference.
Everyday looked different from the next, making it fun and full of surprises. We had the opportunity to try the local food that the cooks made for us, explore a local jungle, visit a former slave castle, go to the beach, and visit an artisan market. Did you know that it was the first Africa country to gain independence from colonial rule in 1957?? Cool huh?!
This experience was something I looked forward to for four years. I first heard about this opportunity when I came to an info session; it was there that I knew I wanted to go to USC for OT and go on this trip. Yes, this trip was a factor in my decision to choose USC. I had never been to Africa, or that far away from home without my family, but it was something I knew I had to do.
One of my favorite memories from the trip was from beach day. The kids live a few miles from the beach, but there is not enough support to take all of them unless our large team is there. We all piled into the TroTro (which is a combo of a bus, taxi and van. Not a helpful description) with kids on our laps and headed to the beach. Since Ghana is so hot and humid being close to the equator, we all look forward to the beach as a chance to cool off, but for the kids, who are used to the temperature, think it’s cold! Seeing their faces as they splash and dive into the water was the best.
OT is in its infancy in Ghana as they are just now graduating their first students. However, they do have Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR), which reminded me of OT and social work. They go out into the community and find people who would benefit from services. The CBR students that my group worked with were stationed at the Salvation Army in Daukwa for what was similar to a Level II fieldwork in OT school. This specific Salvation Army center specialized in children with cerebral palsy. There are children and families who would stay there for around a month to receive more intensive services that we were able to work with. They also made a lot of the assistive devices for the kids there in the workshop. They used the workshop as a vocational training center as well.
The CBR students we met were assigned to clients in the community and we were lucky enough to meet some of them. The children would be assessed for their needs and see if they would be a better fit for the educational route or the vocational route. We met a few clients to see how they are doing and if they needed additional supports. One girl we met (pictured below), was learning how to make silk flowers through an apprenticeship in hopes that she could be independent and make these on her own.
One thing this trip taught me was to lean in. I really had no idea what to expect there and had no idea what I was getting into. All I knew is that it was going to be insanely hot and I needed to get shots. I cried packing because I was so nervous. Ghana was such an incredible experience and I can say I cried more saying goodbye to the kids than I did saying goodbye to my mom. I’m not afraid to go out into the world and let life happen now
I think it’s hard to fully describe the experience, so here are a lot of pictures.
We had a float in the Rose Parade and it was the coolest!
In case you missed it, there was a float in the 128th Rose Parade on January 2nd celebrating the centennial of occupational therapy. You read that right, the centennial. Occupational therapy was founded in 1917. We have been raising money for the float for a long time now and it was rewarding to see the finished product. The float featured images of OTs working with patients. One image featured our very own Erwin with another USC student who sustained a spinal cord injury and lives in the OT House! There was also a replica of the Hull House where OT was born. Those riding the float were occupational therapists, including the former chair of the division, Dr. Florence Clark, and those who have received OT services.
I was able to volunteer to decorate the float on a very rainy New Year’s Eve. It was an exciting day with lots of commotion between volunteers, tours, and judges. I brought my parents to join in the fun and we helped glue the eucalyptus leaves on the roof of the Hull House. We also were able to see some of the other floats up close. It’s amazing to see the detail and the fresh flowers are beautiful!
My parents and I also went to the Rose Parade to see the float in action and the USC Band! What a great day to be an OT and a Trojan with that win at the Rose Bowl!
This past Friday, I volunteered at the USC Veterans Day Appreciation Reception hosted by our division on UPC in Town and Gown! It was a great event and a wonderful opportunity to say thank you for all of the work our service men and women do for our country every day. The guest speaker was Dr. Jennifer Hermanson who is an OT and a veteran herself. Here at the Chan Division, we feel a strong connection to our veterans as the profession bloomed during World War II when so many hospitals needed occupational therapists to help in the war effort. Still today, many OTs work with veterans in a variety of settings. We cannot thank them enough!
Kimmy and me with our festive tiny hats!
Fight on! from our veterans in attendance!
This past week was what we like to call fieldwork week. With each immersion (adult rehabilitation, pediatrics, and mental health), there is an accompanying level I fieldwork in that practice area. Normally we only go one day a week for the full day, but last week we did not have class and only went to fieldwork. Level I fieldwork is a great opportunity to observe and maybe apply skills we learned in class to the OT real world.
I am in adult rehab this semester and my fieldwork placement is in an outpatient hands clinic. I have been learning about different conditions and interventions related to the upper extremities. We have seen many different prefabricated splints and exercises commonly seen in hand therapy. We enjoyed learning about the benefits of different physical agent modality (PAM) techniques, including paraffin wax, which I can now say from personal experience that it feels great.
This week in class, we are learning all about PAMs and hand therapy! In lab, we were able to try all of the different techniques I see in the clinic and read about the different diagnoses I have become familiar with. We even made our own splints! I have a much greater appreciation for the work that hand therapists do.
Hard to believe we are already entering week six and almost at the halfway mark! This semester has gone by so quickly! During this first half of the course, Adult Physical Rehabilitation, we have been learning about different assessments we may administer when we meet our clients. This past week, our focus was on sensation testing on the upper body. Sensation tests look to see if clients can feel things like touch, temperature, or pain on their skin. Without sensation, a person may be at an increased risk for injury, among other thing, and is very important to address. Clients who often have decreased sensation are ones who are recovering from a stroke or a spinal cord injury.
Our professors brought in all sorts of tools that could be used to test our clients’ sensation! One of the coolest tools was called a “pinwheel” and was used to test for pain. This test is commonly administered along the arm.
Another fun assessment to try out was the one used for stereognosis, which is what allows us to find objects with touch alone; the classic example being finding your car keys in your pocket or purse.
We also tested on each other for two-point discrimination, which measures how close two points can be to each other and still recognize them as separate points.