[A] speech and language therapist from Cumbria has recently returned from a trip to Burma where she has been training local therapists.
Lindsay King, who works with Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust’s Acquired Brain Injury team,(ABI) spent three months volunteering in Myanmar also known as Burma .
She was involved in teaching local physiotherapists about communication and swallowing problems in adults with neurological conditions such as a stroke or epilepsy.
Currently, there is no training programme for Speech and Language Therapy there, and only a handful of overseas therapists working in Myanmar. It remains under Military control, with many areas of the country closed to tourists. However, in recent years the country has become increasingly accessible and the people of Myanmar enthusiastically embrace visitors from overseas.
Lindsay said: “I spent some time at the Eden Centre, a school for children with physical and learning difficulties. In 2015 legislation changed to entitle all school aged children to an education. The school was a special and joyful place where the children expressed their delight at finally having a school to call their own in which to play, learn and make friends.”
Lindsay also visited the Royal Asia Hospital, where a newly created Neurology team were desperately trying to set up a stroke service for in-patients, against the challenge of very limited funds.
“There were challenges along the way. I have never spoken through an interpreter before, and as well as the language barrier our cultural differences made some exercises challenging. Amazingly, this ‘live communication problem’ unfolding before my eyes became the ultimate experiential learning moment that I was able to refer back to time and time again to help delegates understand the impact that our role in aiding communication can have on our patients.
“Medical services are very fragmented in Myanmar. There is no consistent treatment for most medical conditions, certainly not for an acquired brain injury. Those who can afford to pay for physiotherapy rehabilitation would receive this at home. The extended family become the sole providers of medical, social, psychological and spiritual care.
“It was a deeply rewarding experience for me and the feedback from the delegates indicated that they had found the learning experience valuable. I felt like I wanted to give something back. My parents and grandparents were there during the 1930s and 40s and I remember my grandmother telling me so many stories.
“I feel privileged and honoured to have had the opportunity to visit such an amazing country, work alongside some exceptionally talented clinicians and to leave behind some useful materials and knowledge regarding communication and swallowing – which, incidentally, I already have evidence that they are using. However, I know that I have taken away so much more from this nourishing and enriching Speech and Language Therapist opportunity than I ever left behind in Myanmar.”
Linda Coulson, Team Manager ABI said: “Lindsay is passionate about patient care. She has taken her skills and knowledge to a very different culture and shared her skills. Her energy and enthusiasm motivates others to learn. She demonstrates the Trust’s values of kindness, fairness, ambition and spirit in her work.”