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Taking Care

Healing Spines in Antigua

Eastern Caribbean
3 Minute Read

From Harper Lorencki, International Teams Program Manager

For the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic, our traveling surgical and diagnostic teams stayed grounded. Without teams traveling 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.
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Dr. Sharps (bottom) and Dr. Singhal, one of our partner orthopedic surgeons in Antigua, examine a patient's x-rays during clinic.
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 efficiently focusing his time on the patients who needed his expertise the most. 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 sometimes prevent the need for major spine surgery.

All of these parties coordinated together to provide Antiguan patients with access to a safe evaluations, 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. Reaching children in need of WPP's healing network remains our utmost priority.
By the numbers

42 patients evaluated

10 surgical candidates identified

8 patients measured for a scoliosis brace

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A patient stands still as local physiotherapist Rebecca Phillips uses an iPad with a specialized measurement tool brought by the team to scan 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 the braces, Ksenia's expertise and guidance, plus the time and commitment of the local PTs made this important program component a reality this year.
Special Thanks To:
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