Onwards & Upwards!
A Few Hours to Change a Lifetime...
For several San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency employees and other community volunteers, a few hours at the Hospital Infantil las Californias – a children’s hospital just across the border in Tijuana – provides a lifeline to children with disabilities and their families.
The employees work in the County California Children Services (CCS) program as physical therapists, and they journey to Mexico several times a year to donate their time working with disadvantaged children with physical and developmental disabilities.
“This is as rewarding as you can possibly have it,” said Patrick Wilkens, the supervisors of CCS’s North Medical Therapy Unit located in Kearny Mesa. “For many families, this might be the first time their child has had therapy or the first time they’ve had any type of equipment or braces.”
Wilkens recounts one such rewarding and life-changing story of a mother and her 5-year-old son, who was completely unable to walk. The mother had been unable to afford any type of equipment for her son so she carried him in to the hospital on her shoulders, which is how he always got around.
By chance, there was a donated wheel chair available and braces that fit the child. Wilkens and a volunteer handyman went to work and fit the child with the equipment and he was able to leave the hospital in his own wheelchair.
“He came in as a baby, and he leaves as a boy,” the grateful mother said.
The hospital itself has only one physical therapist, so the trips made by the volunteers are critically important to the young people of that region. The outings originated with Ellen Norton, a physical therapist at Rady Children’s Hospital.
“Ellen goes down once a week and brings donations,” said Wilkens. “The level of need there is so great.”
A lot of the donations of equipment come from generous San Diego County families who have disabled children themselves who have outgrown the equipment.
The volunteers are accepting donated toys for the children. They aren’t just regular toys though; they are toys that are used in therapy to promote physical development.
“They are therapeutic toys – toys that the child has to walk with for example,” said Wilkens. “They think they’re just playing and it’s fun for them, but they are getting a benefit from the toys.”
The toys often serve the same purpose as a piece of medical equipment, but are cheaper to acquire.
You can find the list of toys used for therapeutic purposes at www.toysrus.com, clicking on Wish List and entering wishlist #31255211.