Palamaner: Physiotherapy and Rehab

On the second day we met Dr. Auburn and got to talk to him and his wife about the hospital and the school who his wife runs there. We also got a more in-depth tour and explanation of the physiotherapy and rehab centre. Joanna and Marsha, you would have really appreciated some of the stuff they do there. Most of what they do is pre and post-operative physical therapy. Leprosy can affect many different parts of the body, so there are different treatments to try to combat its effects. For example, it can damage the nerve that is responsible for innervating the muscle that causes your eyes to close. These patients cannot close their eyes, but do blinking and winking exercises to try to ameliorate this. There is also electrotherapy which can help stimulate the nerves and muscles. Leprosy patients also often have a claw-like appearance in their hands where they cannot straighten their hands because of damage to nerves and tissues. There is surgery to correct this, but before they do that, they have to stretch out their muscles and tendons in their hands so that they will be able to straighten out their hands. One treatment is to dip their hands into a paraffin wax mixture, which helps soften their hands. They also coat their hands in vaseline, then lay them on a table and stroke and press down across their fingers to straighten out their hands. After surgery they do various hand and finger strengthening exercises. I also noticed a poster on the wall recommending that leprosy patients not handle hard objects without a soft cloth. Since they lose the sensation in their hands, they will not know if they are holding objects too hard or too long, and will develop blisters which develop into ulcers. If these ulcers reach the bone, the bone can become infected and then it may need to be removed. If you’ve ever had sore fingers after writing too long or handling some bad scissors, just imagine if you couldn’t tell your hands were sore and continued without a break or massaging your fingers – that’s when you develop the bad blisters. As such, leprosy patients are always recommended to hold a soft cloth to cushion their hands when handling hard objects.

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