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Presidential Handover Lunch

25th June 2024
Venue: Kent and Canterbury Club
The Presidential Handover lunch is being held at the Kent and Canterbury Club on Tuesday, 25th June. Retiring President Rosemary Doyle will handover to incoming President Maxine Blades. The bar
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Final of the Innovation Competition,

26th June 2024
Venue: Old Sessions House, Canterbury Christ Church University
The Rotary Club of Canterbury welcomes you to the final of our 2024 Innovation Competition being held at Canterbury Christ Church University. Eleven young people have reached the final and will be
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Lunch talk: Chloe Baxter: LION project – hand therapy in Malawi

Back in September our club donated some funds to support hand therapist Chloe Baxter with her voluntary work in Malawi on hand therapy, so it was a delight to hear from Chloe now that she’s back.

Chloe spoke to us at our meeting at the Victoria Hotel – the room was packed with members and guests keen to hear all about her work.

At the start of her talk, Chloe, a Clinical Specialist Occupational Therapist, gave us some background about the Hand Unit project she was involved with and told us about the British Society for Surgery of the Hand (BSSH) and the British Association of Hand Therapists (BAHT).

Chloe also introduced us to the concept of hand therapy – a skill recognised in the 1940’s (during the Second World War) following the severe injuries to hands, faces and limbs suffered by servicemen. Specialist rehabilitation units composed of plastic and orthopaedic surgeons and occupational therapists and physiotherapists were established to help with hand rehabilitation.

We learned that a hand therapist is a registered occupational therapist or physiotherapist who specialises in the rehabilitation of patients with conditions affecting the hands and upper limb. The therapist’s high level of specialisation requires advanced postgraduate education and clinical experience, which enables him or her to help patients return to a productive lifestyle following injury, disease or deformity affecting the hand. Chloe spoke briefly of various hand-related projects around the world – including one in Ukraine (Hand In Hand with Ukraine).

The LION (standing for the Lilongwe Institute of Orthopaedics and Neurosurgery) Project that Chloe is involved with is an exciting partnership that allows global hand surgery to be offered in Malawi – a country with a great need for such skills as it’s a poor country with one of the highest rates of road traffic injuries and deaths in the world. “For each death, there are 25 injuries causing permanent disability,” said Chloe. “One person having a permanent disability often pushes a whole family in to poverty,” she added. Unfortunately, only a tiny minority of any hand injury in Malawi will get any treatment at all, let alone surgery. This is something the project aims to change.

We learned from Chloe that Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe is the leading public health service referral and tertiary care facility for the central region of Malawi (which hosts 43% of the population). The hand project kicked off in 2022 with a visit to see how local surgeons, nurses and therapists worked, and to find out what they needed.  A five year plan was then established (for 2023-2027). Under this, a continuous rotation of volunteers was to be sent to Malawi to set up and staff the hand unit; as well as treatment, their focus would be on training and teaching so that local staff become sufficiently skilled at the end of 5 years to run the Hand Unit autonomously.

The LION Hand Unit Team consists of a BSSH Hand Consultant volunteer, a BSSH Hand Trainee volunteer, a BAHT Hand Therapist volunteer plus LION staff – including an orthopaedic fellow, rotating medical interns, a hand therapist, visiting therapists and trainees and clinic and theatre staff.

Chloe ran through the weekly timetable and shared lots of interesting photos of the work, before telling us more about the volunteers like her. Each does a 4 week to 6 month spell; their airfare, visa, insurance, accommodation, transport in Malawi and food is covered by the project.

Chloe also outlined how the project’s yearly budget of £86,000 (around half a million over 5 years) is spent. It was interesting to learn about some of their generous in-kind and financial donors – but they still have only reached just over 25% of their 5-year target.

During her talk Chloe showed some amazing pictures from out there – highlighting the local culture and scenery as well as the work on hand rehabilitation.

At the end of her presentation Chloe thanked us for inviting her and for providing support for her work. She answered a number of questions from the floor before receiving a warm round of applause.

If you wish to find out more about the project and how you can support it, you can visit the JustGiving page here.

Picture: Chloe pictured with some of her colleagues while in Malawi. Picture credit: Chloe Baxter (published with permission).

Please note: the publication date of this article has been backdated due to a website upgrade.








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