A local physical therapist from Regina Hospital recently spent a week in Chiclayo, Peru, distributing wheelchairs to people in need.
Anna Mangan was part of a team of mechanics, therapists, support staff and seamstresses who served 208 people in the last week of October.
"I saw many individuals hadn't walked or moved from their small home for months or years due to their disability become overjoyed by their new 'device,'" Mangan said.
It was a scholarship through the Allina Health Global Fund that allowed Mangan to take on the opportunity to travel to Peru with the Wheels for the World organization.
Mangan first learned about Wheels for the World when she was attending the University of Iowa in the physical therapy program. One of her professors introduced her to the organization and she began collecting wheelchairs that would be sent to people in need. After the initial exposure to the program during school, Mangan said that she always hoped to go on a mission trip with the program in the future. The Global Fund and timing in her career made it possible.
Mangan said wheelchair access in Peru is not as easy as it is in the United States. People are placed on a waiting lists with hundreds or even thousands of names. The government hands out the devices as they become available. Many people don't receive a wheelchair as soon as they need one leading families to carry their loved ones around, Mangan said.
In addition, there is a black market for wheelchairs in Peru. Mangan said that she learned of the black market first hand when she paid a patient a home visit. She learned the story of an 86-year-old woman and her 101-year-old mother, both in need of their services. Mangan learned that the 86-year-old in particular had been using a cane to help her walk when someone came up and stole it right from under her, causing her to fall to the ground.
"I felt hopeless at that point just knowing what they were going through," she said.
Despite the feeling of hopelessness during the home visit, Mangan said she came away from the mission trip with so much hopefulness.
One patient in particular who left Mangan with a great reminder in her line of work. There was a man she was helping who had not been able to walk for several years after he suffered a stroke. The man tried a walker at first and it was a little difficult for him. Then Mangan suggested that they try a cane. She said that the man's eyes completely widened in shock that she wanted him to try walking with a cane. He tried it and him comment was, "It's difficult, but not impossible."
Mangan said that the man's quote has stayed on her mind and she now remembers it while she is working with patients at Regina. She said she has thought about sharing the man's quote with other patients as a way to encourage them to give something a chance.
"It might be difficult, but not impossible," she said.