Emotional patient testimonials given at launch of Rehab Week launch


National volleyball player Kristoff Shepherd and beneficiary of the national hearing aid programme Nikita Browne gave emotional testimonials on Sunday to mark the start of Rehab Week 2023.

Rehab Week is being held from June 11 to June 17 under the theme “Diversifying, expanding coverage and optimizing care for all through rehabilitation”.

Shepherd, 23, and national table tennis champion and Olympian Chelsea Edghill were among three persons injured in a vehicular accident in February 2022, at Mandela Avenue, Georgetown. The accident involved the car Shepherd was driving and a motor lorry.

He was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit of the Georgetown Public Hospital where he spent a month and 10 days receiving treatment because he was in a coma. He was discharged from the hospital on March 17 and soon after he started therapy to re-claim a normal life.

With the assistance of the therapists and his determination, Shepherd was able to regain most of his motor skills and even achieved his goal of being able to walk without assistance.

Attendees at the launch of the Ministry of Health’s Rehab Week (Photo: News Room/ June 11, 2023)

“I started therapy, and I progressed. I went from using a wheelchair to a walker to walking unaided. I’m a very stubborn person – if I tell myself that I have to do it, I will do it. I really wanted to get better, I wanted to get back to where I was so I pushed myself to that limit.

“I could remember saying that one of my personal goals was to walk across that stage [after earning his Bachelor’s Degree] unaided because I was using a walking cane,” Shepherd said, noting that he achieved this.

He said there are many goals that have been set and already he is seeing progress through the help of a rehabilitation team.

At this time, one of the goals is that by August this year, he would be able to run up to 100 meters in less than a minute. He proudly announced that in May he ran up to 100 meters in 12 seconds and another 100 meters in 28 seconds. He has moved on to another goal which is to play an effective game by December.

Meanwhile Browne, 36, said she was ashamed of her hearing disability for many years but with the government’s hearing aid programme, her life has changed significantly.  The woman developed the disability after being in a car accident when she was just 5 years old. The woman said as time passed, she started losing hearing in both ears.

“Over the years I began using my hearing in my right ear. Going to school and college sitting in the classroom trying to listen to the teacher has been a struggle I developed a skill of reading lips to try and understand what was being said,” she explained.

Director of the Rehabilitation Services, Ariane Mangar

She was emotional as she said that from time to time when she didn’t hear she’d nod and smile or ask people to repeat themselves. Then in 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she could no longer read lips because people wore masks. It was then that she applied for the public assistance programme and she qualified to receive the hearing aid.

“I’m very grateful that I was successful on the list and I received my hearing aid last year. My life has changed significantly since then I can attend training seminars at my job, I can attend meetings and I can return to school,” Browne said.

According to the director of the Rehabilitation Services, Ariane Mangar, the Ministry of Health has made significant progress in getting these services to all parts of the country.

“For the first time we now have at least a physiotherapist in every single region helping to improve and expand the services in the regions in Guyana,” Mangar said.

Through collaborative efforts with the University of Guyana and other partners, programmes are available for persons to become certified in physiotherapy, speech and language/audiology therapy, and occupational therapy.

There are now ten occupational therapists, nine speech and language therapists, 51 physiotherapists. Three doctors and a physiatrist also now support the department of Rehabilitation Services.


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