COVID & Clubfoot - Stories from the Front lines
Freedom from Clubfoot during COVID-19 – A global conversation of hope
Miss our online update on how COVID-19 is impacting the treatment of clubfoot? Watch the replay!
As an international non-profit charity, we are keenly aware of how small our world has become. For the most part, this global community benefits all of us. However, the rapid spread of COVID-19 also is showing some of the risks of a more connected world. In this new reality we’re facing, I want to share with you an insider’s look into the current situation at our Hope Walks partner clinics and how they are dealing with the pandemic. More importantly, I want to provide some hope in these challenging times and let you know how we continue to provide hope, thanks to people like you!
Patient and staff safety
There is nothing more important than the safety of those we serve and those who serve. Hope Walks operates in 16 countries across Latin America and Africa, and as you have seen, every country is handling its response differently. As partners with the government and national health system, we must work within this constantly changing environment.
For example, in Africa where, as of this writing, the spread has not reached the proportion it has in the US, a number of partner clinics remain open. Social distancing and other best practices for reducing the risk of infection have been instituted. Malawi just recently reported its first case and has instituted a state of emergency in light of the inevitable.
The countries we serve in Latin America (the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Honduras) responded earlier with strong restrictions, implementing widespread curfews and all of our partner clinics have been suspended.
Some of the challenges
Transportation — Many of our patients and staff rely on public transportation, often on packed buses and minivans, to get to the clubfoot clinics. It’s far from what we would call acceptable social distancing. We have discouraged clinic visits in these situations.
Distancing — For clinics that remain open and for those who can make it to the clinic, the hospital staff is using personal protective equipment and physical distancing with markings on benches to create safe working environments. Staff is taking temperatures of patients, families and fellow staff on a regular basis and directing anyone with a fever to receive proper screening for COVID-19.
Supplies & Treatment — The changing situation has made weekly cast changes, supply availability and brace distribution a challenge because of transportation issues and social distancing restrictions.
Casts — A rapidly growing baby can only wear a pair of casts for so long before it must be replaced or removed. Parents who are unable to come to the clinic are being told how to remove casts with water so further or additional complications aren’t created.
Post pandemic — Once clinics reopen, Hope Walks partner clubfoot clinics will face a backlog of new cases as well as all those cases whose treatment has been interrupted. The prospect is daunting, but with your continued support and the strength that God will provide, we are up to the challenge.
Because we have spent so much time pushing for and encouraging the early identification and treatment of clubfoot, asking families and staff to pause treatment is heartbreaking. The clinicians, staff and parent advisors continue to offer hope even though treatment is delayed because we know full correction can be achieved once it is safe to do so.
The work doesn’t end
Even though many of our clinics are suspended, this does not mean our work has stopped. Thankfully, Hope Walks has parent advisors in each of our partner clinics who have developed supportive relationships with the families they serve. They are a critical component of the work we do by educating the parents, making sure they keep appointments and providing spiritual love and support throughout the five-years of treatment and maintenance.
Today our parent advisors are calling and following up, educating families on stretching exercises, calming their fears about the pause in treatment and providing support and encouragement through the COVID-19 crisis. Social distancing can be isolating, especially for those who are already feeling the strain of social relationships because their child was born with a disability.
All of this gets to another key Hope Walks strategy. Our parent advisors, staff and partner clinicians are all nationals of the country where they serve. They know the language, geography and culture of the people. Once the threat of pandemic has lifted, they will be able to pick up quickly from where things left off.
You provide hope
We remain steadfast in our mission to see these children walk free from disability. When you make the decision to come alongside Hope Walks, you are our partner in providing hope to children and families in need. As we deal with COVID-19, hope is now more important than ever. It’s easy to feel as if we have no control over these situations. But as Christians, we have hope, and we are comforted knowing that God is always in control.
“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Because God is always in control, He will use this tragedy for the glory of His Kingdom. Like most things in this world, the reasons may not be clear to us now or even years later. But someday our faith will be sight. As for today, God has given us a unique opportunity to boldly show love and compassion to those around us. Don’t pass up this chance to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ. We aren’t!