From the first moment I walked into the ROMP clinic in Zacapa Guatemala, the air buzzed with possibilities. From my previously set expectations, I knew local amputees would be wheeled into the clinic and we would work tirelessly to help them walk out on a new prosthesis. What I didn’t realize is the personal impact I would walk away with. The people of Guatemala are fearlessly motivated in their pursuit of mobility. At one point during a new patient evaluation, a woman discussed her daily commute of pushing her wheelchair 4 miles to her job. Not once did she complain about the length of her commute, rather how excited she was to walk it again. The local Guatemalan community seems to experience disability differently than my modern day society. Residual or phantom pain, a phenomenon experienced by 100% of my American patients, was an unknown experience to them. The only residual pain they expressed was mourning the loss of their ambulation, and the distance they would traverse to overcome it. The Guatemalan patients opened my eyes towards the importance of gratitude in the face of adversity, and how effective it is in the hearts of the physically disabled. Their positivity will resonate with me for years to come.
As an Orthotic and Prosthetic student embarking on this weeklong journey, I knew my head, heart, and hands would be put to the test. This whirlwind of an experience not only pushed me far outside my comfort zone, but also redefined my sense of belonging. Belonging is a value many, if not all of us, pursue relentlessly- just as the Guatemalans pursue their mobility. Experiencing the full essence of belonging is a rare moment, something I had not faced until joining the ROMP volunteer team. To be apart of a team so cohesive and symphonic with one underlying goal is simply hard to describe in one short blog post. What is easy to describe is that joining ROMP in their October event was quite possibly one of the smartest things I’ve done in my life. The lessons I took home with me, both academic and life encompassing, is exponentially greater than the rigorous work I put in. Take my advice; get involved with this wonderful cause. You won’t regret it.