Saturday, May 14, 2011

Wheelchairs, wheelchairs and more wheelchairs....

This week has been all about wheelchairs. We had been looking forward to our short term specialist coming from Salt Lake City for several months now. Elder and Sister Schnebly have a medical backgrounds, he is a physical therapist and she is a long time nurse. They came with Eric Wunderlich who is, "Da Man" over wheelchairs for the church. He directs the short term specialists and came with the Schneblys so he could train them. He is also the person who meets with the manufacturers all over the world and works out costs and agreements with them for production and shipping.
We met with each of our partners or cooperating organizations and talked with them about future wheelchair projects. Each one of them wants more wheelchairs from the church. We learned about the training program that the church is implementing with all future wheelchair projects. Who would have thought there was so much that went into fitting someone in a wheelchair? But really there is. The name of the game is to make sure the wheelchair is a correct fit for the patient and something they really need instead of a walker, crutch or cane. The church also provides those products. An ill fitting wheelchair could do more damage than good. We will have a training session for each of our partners before they get a new shipment in. It will be similar to the Neo-natal training done by our short term specialist. We are excited to get them back here!
We love hearing some of the stories that our partners told us about why the wheelchairs are so important to the people here in Croatia and Bosnia. Apparently, the health care system that is socialized medicine, allows for patients to get a prescription for a wheelchair for certain disabilities. But there are others that they just say, sorry, you are not eligible. For instance, someone who has lost a leg due to diabetes is not eligible because they can use the other leg and a crutch. They don't take into account the general health of the person with advanced diabetes often does not have the strength to use a crutch. Another instance is in stroke victims. They are not eligible for a wheelchair, because they "might" get better some day. So you see it is going to be the elderly in both these two cases that are helped by the churches wheelchair program. Often, even when a wheelchair is approved, unless the person has money, (can you read between the lines here) it could be months before a patient actually gets their wheelchair.

One of our partnering organizations told us this story: "We often go to the homes of the people to give them their wheelchairs because they do not have the income, cars or health to come to us. On one occasion I was out in a rural area getting a lady fit for a wheelchair. We made sure it was the right size and when we were done she asked if we would push her out the door to the terrace. We did so. She was very emotional and started crying. We asked what the matter was, her response was, "I haven't been out on this terrace for 6 years, now I can.Thank-you,  Thank-you!” He said he was reminded how important it was, the work that he did. And we we're humbled to be reminded in such a wonderful way of how important the wheelchair and humanitarian program of the church is.

Eric Wunderlich told us that the average donation for the Church of Jesus Christ Humanitarian Program is about $10.00 per month/per family. Let's think about this, that's a trip to McDonalds, a couple of boxes of breakfast cereal, a couple of movie tickets. Wow! That was mind boggling to me to think that $10.00 per family/ per month could do so much good!!!! He reminded us that not one penny of the donations go to overhead, the church pays that cost out of other funds. I read a story the other day about a little boy selling lemonade to cover the churches cost of one wheelchair, it's another good story about how life changing a wheelchair can be,  HERE 

Erick told us that it's not uncommon for donations to come in from widows or others families that are struggling financially. Sometimes the donation is only $2.50, or $3.00  per month. Not all that donate are wealthy. We have wonderful, loving, giving people among us and I am so proud to be a missionary and be able to be a part of this great humanitarian work.

Last Saturday we went to our friends Slava Celebration. For those of you who don't know about Slava let me tell you.....Mostly it's about really, really good food! Slava is a celebration of the families’ patron saint. The Saint is of paternal origin, so it goes back centuries. So it is the father’s family’s patron saint. If you are female, you celebrate your husband’s Slava. You still go to the celebration of your childhood if you want, but it is no longer YOUR SLAVA, We enjoyed a wonderful afternoon and ate wayyyyy too much amazing food!

Sunday was Mother's Day and I think I had my first real bout of home sickness. It was just a little hard to be away from all my darling children on that day. But being around our little Bosnian family snapped me out of it and I have mostly recovered. Our Elders got to Skype their mothers from our little apartment in Varazdin. after we hurried home from Bosnia.  We loved seeing them so excited and nervous to talk to their families. I wondered if my boys were ever that excited to talk to me when they were on their mission?

Our host family.

This is the Slava table, It was so elegant and beautiful. The twins mother had just worked overtime to make everything wonderful. The Slava is three days. This was the second day. First day is family, Second day is friends and neighbors, Third day is for anyone who couldn't come to the first two days. Predrag is our translator in Bosnia and this is his girlfriends family/our friends :)

Border Crossing on Mother's Day afternoon. It was the last day of Slava and every one was going back to work in Germany and Austria. We got diverted off the main road and ended up in a line that someone told us was a three hour wait. We stayed about 15 mins. and then Jim just left the line, made a u-turn and wound around some unknown streets, ending up in a line that got us through in about an hour. I had been praying, so worried about getting home in time for the Elders to Skype. Prayers are answered! Even in traffic jams!
Our meeting with the Red Cross director in Banja Luka. Her deputy director is a physical therapist and between them they will decide what chairs they need and when/where the training will take place. We told them we would build into the project a wheelchair ramp up the stairs to the Red Cross building so reciepients didn't have to be fitted in the parking lot.
She was pretty happy when we left!
Zagreb was decorated with Red Cross Flags in honor of their anniversary this last week. I think is was like the 133rd.
Our meeting with the Red Cross in Zagreb.

Our meeting with the Ante Schola, the manager of Caritus (Catholic Relief Organization) in Varazdin. We are bringing a shipment of 250 wheelchairs into their organization arriving sometime in June. The Zagreb area will help with distribution.

Our new friends,  the Schnebly's, short term wheelchair specialists. Erick is teaching them how to enter a project into CHas. The humanitarian project computer program. We were so tired by that time that I think we were pretty much toast.
Our Salt Lake City guests at our church in Varazdin. It was a great week!

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