Working together with hospital staff in rural Cameroon - Central Africa
In May of 2015 - a colleague of mine in Cameroon, the CEO and Founder of a not-for-profit organisation in Cameroon approached me, asking if Massage Therapy can assist with chronic back pain and numbness in the legs and hands.
This was how the conversation started, of what is to become a life changing program, for many people in the villages of North-West Cameroon - Central Africa; as well as for my husband and I.
Further discussion ensued, and we decided to go and do some research in the village, to see if the symptoms of so many are able to be alleviated with Massage Therapy and Exercise Therapy.
The village is called Awing and the population is 40 000. There is 1 doctor and several nurses, 2 lab assistants and 1 lab technician.
These people do it all; and the doctor, Dr Ben, is an amazing man, contributing to the village in an extremely profound way, every day.
With having 1 doctor for 40 000 people, Dr Ben told us his medical history interview barely exists and he is treating symptoms, primarily with pharmaceuticals.
He welcomed us with open arms, as the did the rest of the hospital staff.
Instantly, we were a part of the medical team!
Our initial thoughts of fact finding and seeing some patients morphed into training the staff in some basics of Rehabilitation Therapy and Exercise Therapy.
At our first meeting with the staff, this was their request - and so, the program was created.
That night, we created training curriculum for the next day, and for the subsequent weeks - incorporating Yoga Therapy, pillow positioning, postural education and manual therapy techniques.
Awing is a village of farmers and people are working in the fields 10 to 12 hours a day, for many, many years.
The village is situated at 1400 metres above sea level and has beautiful sunshine 7months each year (the other months have torrential rain) - the temperature drops after sunset to a moderate 16 degrees, from 28-30 degrees during the day.
Several of our patients were between the ages of 70 and 93! The climate and the soil provide longevity amongst the population.
The treatment room was on the top floor of the hospital (see photo), and the primary complaints from patients were low back pain, pain at the front of the upper legs, numbness in the legs and hands and neck stiffness.
Upon assessment, the objective findings were not too different than what I see in clinical practice, nor what my husband sees in the yoga studio.
- Pillowing to ensure a neutral spine, prone and supine
- Massage Compressions of the back
- Therapist stances, with neutral pelvis and spine for the therapist
- Joint distraction
- Lymphatic drainage - the neck)
- Joint distraction
- Myofascial joint release
- Exercise Therapy:
- Yoga participation
- Chair yoga
- supported yoga postures
At the end of our time in Awing, the nurses decided they would see patients on the Massage table 2 times each week; and exercise therapy classes would also occur 2 times each week.
We left a massage table and some yoga mats at the hospital for everyone to use.
This has been incorporated into the staff schedule, and as emergencies occur at the hospital often, these treatments are then re-scheduled.
Our vision for expansion of the program ‘Rehabilitation Awing’ is to train nurses and doctors at surrounding Health Centres and hospitals in similar techniques, and to do this collectively with the nurses that are already working with this in Awing.
The staff are committed to decreasing the amount of pharmaceuticals being prescribed, and they have a whole new aspect of their commitment to their patients! These messages are clear and were printed on t-shirts for all the staff!