Antigua, Part Two

Shari Berkowitz says:  Here is another blog post about the trip, from Julianna Bastone.  She and Lauren were a great team of SLP students and learned a tremendous amount in a sort visit.  Collaborating with the OTA students added a priceless interprofessional opportunity, rarely offered to undergrads.

Trip to Antigua: March 28, 2016 to April 1, 2016

There aren’t enough words to adequately describe my experience in Antigua and how eternally grateful I am, but I will try my best. Growing up, my parents constantly told my siblings and me, “You better always surround yourself with people who are better than you.” When you hang around people who are smarter, kinder, and more optimistic than you, all you can do is better yourself. I feel that during the 5 day trip to Antigua I was around some of the most passionate and skilled people I have ever come across. Dr. Berkowitz, Professor D, Lauren, Clarence, and Tom are full of energy and brains. I was honored to even be grouped with such a crew. They really did bring out the best in me; I was so eager to learn, to make people smile, and to try my best to keep up with them. The first few days of the trip consisted of meeting new people, acquiring knowledge of Antiguan culture and traditions, and developing interdisciplinary skills between speech language pathology and occupational therapy. It was the third day of the trip that meant the most to me.

On day three in Antigua, our entire crew went to the NSA Medical and Surgical Rehab Centre in St. John’s. The setting from the outside appeared run-down and tiny, but as soon as we stepped foot inside we noticed the professionalism of the facility. It was clean, filled with up-to-date medical equipment, and with a friendly staff. Dr. Berkowitz, Lauren, and I had the opportunity to work with two clients who were referred to receive speech therapy services (there are currently no working speech language pathologists on the island, so the staff at NSA seemed very open to the idea of having us there for the day). The first client we speechies saw was a woman with an unknown diagnosis. I don’t want to get into too much detail (because I honestly don’t even know the true details) but basically, she showed signs of having a cerebellar stroke, though there was no evidence to support the claim. Doctors from New York and Antigua did not know what exactly happened to the client, all they knew was that she lost the ability to walk and partake in activities of daily living independently. Her speech was unintelligible to most, and she struggled with every syllable she spoke. Her voice was hoarse, incredibly choppy, and the muscles in her neck were tense. It appeared as if it was physically painful for her as she pushed with all she had to let out every sound and syllable in a word. Dr. Berkowitz brilliantly evaluated and eventually treated the client as best as she could, given we were not equipped with any formal tests or therapy materials (aside from a tongue depressor).

At one point during the session, Dr. Berkowitz asked the client if she liked to sing, and if she had a favorite song. After the client replied with, “Jesus loves me,” (which sounded like /dʒi/ /zʌ/ /lʌ/ /mi/, for those IPA lovers out there like myself) we smiled and asked her if she and her husband would sing it for us. The client soon belted the song as she looked up in her wheelchair at her husband and then at the ceiling. “Jesus loves me, this I know. Jesus loves me, the Bible told me so!” came out of her mouth almost effortlessly, and boy was it loud. I have never in my life been a part of something that powerful and eye-opening. Goosebumps covered my arms, and I sensed the huge lump in my throat that comes moments before a good cry. What I felt in that moment is exactly why I chose to become a speech language pathologist. My heart was so full. Helping people find their voice and communicate effectively is what I want to do for the rest of my life, whether they are singing a song or doing something a bit more functional. I cannot thank Mercy and Dr. Berkowitz enough for giving me that moving moment in the rehab center. At the end of the session, the client thanked Dr. Berkowitz several times, and asked if she could come back to New York with us. That entire day was a true eye-opener and I know for a fact I will never forget it.

The remainder of the day in the rehabilitation center was remarkable too, for I got to see first-hand what it is to be an occupational therapist (OT). If it were not for that day, I feel as if I would never truly understand the meaning of occupational therapy (unless I worked in a setting down the line where physical and occupational therapists work directly with speech pathologists). I have such a deep appreciation for OTs and OTAs after seeing the services they provide for individuals who need assistance in more functional aspects of daily life.

I will use everything I learned from our trip and apply every bit of it in my future, not only clinically, but every day. Stay humble, be grateful, show empathy, and always make an effort to help those who need it….even if all they need to see that day is merely a smile!


-Julianna Bastone




About Shari Salzhauer Berkowitz

Shari is a speech language pathologist and assistant professor of communication disorders at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, NY.
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