Posted by Natalie Gilbert at 1:42 pm  Costa Rica
May 072015

When I got to school this morning, my supervisor sent me to the “other building” on the school grounds. There I was met by Paulo, one of the OT’s that works at the school. (His parents spent 2 years in Wisconsin so he speaks broken English, finally an English-speaking coworker!!!) As soon as I walked into the building, I thought Paulo was lost because we were literally in what seemed to be a workshop. There was wood, rolls of fabric and Velcro, a saw and saw table, metal pieces, and so much more. In my head, I’m thinking… “I know I don’t speak perfect Spanish, but this is definitely NOT what I signed up for.”

As soon as Paulo saw how confused I was, he explained that every Thursday, the OT’s at this center take old used wheelchairs and rebuild them, and reconstruct them to accommodate the next kid who needs a custom wheelchair.

The amount of children in Costa Rica that require special care, including custom wheelchairs, is astounding! A wheelchair that they need can cost a family anywhere from $6,000 to $10,000, which is a more than a lot in Colones, the Costa Rican currency. When I heard that, I thought he was kidding! $10,000 for a wheelchair!
Also, there is a wait list type of thing for kids to receive chairs. Paulo told me about a patient he started tending to when she was only 9 months old. Her family applied for her to have a wheelchair because they were anticipating her needs, and the little girl didn’t end up getting a chair until she was 6 years old.

Her family had to carry her everywhere for 6 years.

My heart breaks for the children in this school, and for the families of these children that dedicate their lives to doing everything they can for a kid that will never have a normal life. To me, that is what love looks like.

The employees of this center do things, like build wheelchairs, that are way beyond their call of duty as Occupational Therapists. You will not find one OT in the United States that is building a wheelchair for one of his patients. The crazy part is that these doctors don’t know that what they are doing is as impressive as it is. I tried to explain to Paulo that his work was crazy and so abnormal, and this is what he said:
“This is what I love to do- I do anything I can for these children and their families that makes their lives easier”.

After today, I believe that there are people who are living out love, whether they know it or not.


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