For the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic, our traveling surgical and diagnostic teams stayed grounded. Without teams traveling the in the traditional sense of the word, we never stopped reaching out to our partners on the ground and our patients with one clear message: we are still here for you, and we’re ready to reach you however and whenever possible.
Like many islands in the Caribbean, Antigua & Barbuda’s economy is widely dependent on tourism and the islands felt the strain of the shutdown particularly hard. Antigua opened its borders to international travel again in mid-July, with special restrictions in place to keep its population safe. A negative PCR test is required of all incoming passengers and quarantine or additional testing is implemented where necessary.
Dr. Chester Sharps, WPP’s Eastern Caribbean Orthopedic Spine Program Director, would have returned to Antigua for a diagnostic scoliosis clinic in April 2020. As Antigua opened its borders, we stayed in close touch with our partners at Mount St. John’s Medical Centre (MSJMC) who remained eager to host the delayed clinic as soon as safely possible. In August, the Ministry of Health and MSJMC formally extended the invitation for WPP to return for clinic. Our partners took the extra step of arranging a pre-screening clinic to ensure Dr. Sharps would be evaluating the patients who needed his expertise. All patients were given appointment times to adhere to social distancing guidelines and avoid crowding in waiting rooms.
Negative PCR test and extra masks in hand, Dr. Sharps traveled to Antigua in mid-October and evaluated 42 children along with our local partners, adult orthopedic surgeons Dr. Ravi Manur and Dr. Mukul Singhal. Nuvasive Spine Foundation, one of WPP’s primary partners in treating scoliosis in the Eastern Caribbean, sponsored costs associated with the trip. In addition, thanks to a partnership with Boston O&P and Richmond-based orthotist Ksenia Major, the Antiguan physical therapists joined the team at clinic and measured 8 adolescents for a scoliosis brace. Scoliosis braces are the only proven treatment for scoliosis, and some times prevent the need for major spine surgery.
All of these parties coordinated together to provide Antiguan patients with access to a safe evaluation, even amid seemingly insurmountable obstacles that have brought many of global surgery programs to a standstill. We are pleased to have provided knowledge and reassurance to these families. They remain our priority and we are still working hard for them and their children.
By The Numbers
42 patients evaluated
10 surgical candidates identified
8 patients measured for a scoliosis brace
New Ways We’re Collaborating – Boston O&P
A patient stands still as Rebecca Phillips, a physiotherapist at the hospital, uses an iPad with a specialized measurement tool to take a scan of his torso. The scan creates a 3D model that will be used to fabricate a scoliosis brace. Ksenia Major, volunteer orthotist who has traveled previously with our spine teams, guided the physiotherapists remotely and through training over Zoom. Boston O&P’s donation of the braces along with Ksenia’s expertise and the time and commitment of the local PTs made this important program component a reality this year.