Handing out hope

Debbi Goodhart, left, with patients and colleagues in the Dominican Republic.

Debbi Goodhart, a Matheny occupational therapist, certainly lived up to her name recently. She was part of a 36-person medical team that  spent five days during February  in the Dominican Republic with a group called Handfuls of Hope.

Handfuls is a non-profit organization  founded by a group of individuals who had been involved in a series of short-term mission trips to the Dominican Republic. Working side-by-side with a local church, they were able to refurbish and revitalize a school building, construct a library and establish a medical clinic in an area where such resources were not available.

The organization is now supporting a medical clinic in the village of Catalina, about an hour from Santa Domingo, and regularly sends doctors and other medical professionals there to provide care and treatment for the local residents. Goodhart went on the most recent mission.

“A friend of mine, Robin Sigley, also an OT, had been there once, and asked me if I wanted to come,” Goodhart recalled. “The team treated 1,546 patients in three days. We saw a lot of arthritis and some pretty deformed body parts. In some cases, people had taken casts off broken limbs too early. Also, the people in this area do a lot of carrying of heavy objects over long distances. They have a lot of hip, arm, shoulder and neck pain. We taught them about body mechanics, about how to carry things equally on both shoulders. We also did the best we could to teach them exercises, and we provided them with elastic bandages to give them the support they needed.”

Goodhart was greatly moved by “the resiliency of these people. As poor as they are, they are interested in doing what they can to stay as well as they can in the future. I plan to go back next year.”