Nwabesi's First Steps:
Bedford Hospital, Umtata South Africa

March, 2002

"Nowhere has the legacy of apartheid been more shocking than in the state of health care in the former Transkei region" -Nelson Mandella-

In Transkei, South Africa's poorest province, polio, tuberculoses and other debilitating physical conditions still afflict many children. Bedford hospital in Umtata is one of the few places where treatment is available. Physical therapist volunteers from abroad come to help.

Nwambesi sustained a left hemiplegia a few years ago in a road traffic accident. This sadly resulted in her becoming immobile. With Physical therapy her confidence grew dramatically and she managed to take a few steps quite early on in her rehabilitation.

Following intensive physical therapy, and the encouragement of volunteer physical therapists Siobhan Jones and Angela Hartmann, eight year old Nwambesi, who has been immobile for a few years following a road traffic accident, finally takes her first steps. " Look I can walk" was what she said to the other children on the ward in Xhosa (the native language).

Seven year old Java is Nwambesi's best of friend on the children's ward at Bedford and the two are inseparable.
Java, suffers from polio. She could walk short distances independently with her walker by the time we left Bedford, but found it far easier and quicker to walk on her knees, now with large callouses. Here she scoots ahead of Nwambesi, encouraging her to press on back to the children's ward.
Cerebral Palsy is a common condition found at Bedford Hospital. Since pediatric physical therapy is unavailable, sever contractures are frequently present, impairing children's mobility, development and independence. As the main orthopedic hospital in the Transkei, there is an overwhelming demand on Bedford's services. Professor McConnachie and his team face incredible challenges each day, but are committed and determined to provide the best possible care. At present there is no permanent physical therapist in Bedford, volunteers are urgently needed. If you are a Physical Therapist interested in helping at Bedford Hospital in Umtata, South Africa, contact Health Volunteers Overseas at www.hvousa.org