By Brad Heal, OTR/L, DOR, Desert Terrace Healthcare, Phoenix, AZ
This past October, Craig Johnson PT, the Lead Physical Therapist at Desert Terrace, traveled with the nonprofit organization Wheels for the World to the Middle Eastern country of Jordan. This is the 11th volunteer journey that Craig has made with this organization. Other trips have taken him to Peru, Brazil, Costa Rica, Haiti, Ukraine and Guatemala. Wheels for the World receives donated broken wheelchairs and refurbishes them through a program with the prison system. Those wheelchairs are then shipped to the country the organization is assisting. Then a team of occupational therapists and physical therapists customize the wheelchairs for needy people in the area.
Craig travelled with a team of 13 physical and occupational therapists to Jordan. In a span of two weeks, this team developed customized seating systems for 300 wheelchairs. Eighty percent of the wheelchairs were created for children. Most of these children had physical challenges from birth, including cerebral palsy and spina bifida. Most of these children had never had a wheelchair, much less a wheelchair fitted just for them.
While in Jordan, Craig and the other therapists provided wheelchair workshops for two days at orphanages. They travelled to the Syrian border and spent two days fitting wheelchairs near the Syrian refugee camp. They also customized wheelchairs for a day by the West Bank. By invitation of the Crown Prince, the team of therapists visited and performed wheelchair evaluations and customization at the Wounded Soldier’s Hospital.
In this time of change in the healthcare world, Craig Johnson and other volunteers, who donate their time and their talents, remind us why we became therapists. Their service shines as an example of dignifying therapy in the eyes of the world and the core value of love one another.