Physical Therapy Mission in Africa- by Ashley Sparks THERAPY 2000 PT

allieWaking up to “home health” in West Africa is a little different than what we experience on a daily basis here. Well, maybe it’s a lot different, but that’s just the environment. When you strip it down to the basics, it’s still what we all love — watching people gain the independence that they and their families have longed for.

The quarter mile walk to “Allie’s” house is nice with kids and women greeting me each block I pass. Sure it’s hot, as is ALL of Sub-Saharan Africa, but the lack of humidity makes it bearable. I’m praying for my day as I go, and for the people around me, that I’ll have wisdom in decision making in a place where there is no doctor, and that they’ll see God’s love demonstrated in my actions. My flip flops are full of sand, but I’ve grown to love the dusty feeling on my feet in the three months I’ve been walking this road.

As I turn to enter the gate that opens up into Allie’s yard, I greet her husband, and announce my entrance, as is customary. Allie smiles up at me from her old mat on the ground. She tells me about what’s been happening in the few days I was visiting another village while offering me the food they were cooking. Her house is small with two rooms for three adults and countless children. They cook and use the restroom outside and have a small area for their four goats and sheep in the corner. I ask her how her body is (one of the customary greetings) and she responds “it’s better.” They always say it’s better. Even if they’re dying, they’ll tell you that it’s better.

kidsI don’t know what happened to Allie, but when I met her, people had to assist her to the house I was staying in. She couldn’t walk more than a few feet with crutches and assistance and she had to crawl over the threshold into her room. From all that I could gather, she had some type of cyst or infection in her thoracic spine eight months previously. They had no name or description for it and weren’t even able to tell me what the problem was, except that her legs were sick and she couldn’t walk. From my evaluation it became clear that some injury had happened in her thoracic spine, although there was no reported accident or trauma. Her abdominal muscles and her legs were terribly weak, to the point that it was a task to get sitting up on the edge of her small bed. But that was the first week. After three months of working hard and gaining strength, she was standing up and walking eight feet across her room without assistance and walking in her sandy yard with only two canes. She no longer has to crawl anywhere and has been able to resume some of her previous activity.

When the time drew near for me to return home, she repeated over and over “it’s not good” and tried to persuade me to marry a local man so I could stay. After all, my brother was getting married soon, so my mother would have a new daughter and not miss me, right? Despite their pleas, my time soon came to an end, and with sadness I left a people who had won my heart and become my friends, as I sought to love them and bring hope to the hopelessness they speak of, through sharing God’s love and therapy.


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