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Disability in Children: My experience in Cusco, Peru

 

Murphys’ experience is one that many endure yet cannot explain. The essence of education is to educate, and his voice genuinely opens ones eyes on the realities of the disabled world and educates the readers. Most importantly, he highlights the ongoing struggle of being “different,” in a place like America, if not the world. This article while being a research article depicting a specific health experience manages to touch on notions that are general facts of life. The work makes one realize the appreciation of our living breathing moving bodies and our at times indirect and unnoticed prejudices to people. This article hones in on the reasons for disabilities but it brings to life the first person perspective of what it is to be disabled and makes the readers realize they are guilty in taking forth on the actions that led to his “lowered self esteem…and the acquisition of a new total and undesirable identity.” He brings out the cold hard truth of America and their uneasiness to a world that is not to their perception “perfect.”

As an observer I have felt the experience that Murphy speaks about. I witnessed those I care, be treated with fear because of their disabilities. This summer I embarked on what you would call a blind-sided three-month research expedition to Cusco, Peru. With one suitcase and no actual thought into my research interests, I went on a search to find what I would do. Arriving to Cusco, I wanted to work with children and hospitals, a setting which was of my familiarity in the states. Curiosity led me to Clinca San Juan de Dios, a hospital specifically catering to children with cerebral palsy. While in the states, I was accustomed to children’s hospitals, accustomed to parents filling the lobbies on each of the floors, isolation rooms, and the whole tedious process of “gowning up.”  Clinica San Juan de Dios was different, it was out of the norm to see parents at the hospital, sanitation was minimal, and many of the older children (approximately 10 year olds) were abandoned.  During my time at SJD, to every miracle there were twice as many helpless and heart wrenching moments. This was my first time working with children with disabilities and in the beginning I had this notion of being afraid to hurt them. My first week, I was shocked at how the children were treated, which eventually I realized that these kids were treated like a normal child, just in a wheelchair. No special treatments and timeouts if they misbehaved. Eventually I proceeded to do so, inventing “wheel chair soccer,” and constantly being tackled by the little boys who had some abilities to walk. Additionally, this hospital was the “host” hospital for any tourist seeking to provide aid to “poor Peruvian kids” (a phrase which I heard from a particular person visiting). I witnessed the exact feelings that Murphy explains. My kids, who by this time I had developed closed connections with (I bathed them fed them in the morning, took them to school) where visited by the American volunteers. These children were looked on as if they were part of the circus. Pictures zoomed into their faces, squeamish teen volunteers not letting the kids touch their hand, and American girls running away from John, who was the most rambunctious and sweetest six year old year old with autism you could meet.  We could say that trauma comes from the actual surgery, which many children had to go through every six months, but one of the older girls, Yesenia would explicitly say how eventually when you no longer have the “cute” factor,  you receive the pity look from the foreigners, the official stamp that she will never have a “normal” future. Below I also provide a trailer to a movie which depicts the similar experience as Murphy, in the eyes of the disabled man himself.

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One response to “Disability in Children: My experience in Cusco, Peru

  1. downeyshay ⋅

    I saw the movie The Diving Bell and the Butterfly about five years ago during a high school field trip. It was such a different movie, specifically due to its style and subject matter, that I did not fully appreciate it when I was sixteen years old. Now, after having read Murphy’s article, I am able to understand this movie as an illustration of the metamorphosis the main character must make from a normal man to a man trapped in his own body and his own mind. I found Murphy’s description of his slow separation from his own body very relevant to understanding the way in which the main character in the movie must come to terms with the way his body is no longer functionally tied to his mind.

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