Mark Koehler‘s vision of a Massage Therapy Clinic in Chornomorsk for children with physical disabilities became a reality in March 2004. Children in Ukraine with physical disabilities often don’t get the rehabilitation services that would improve their condition, partly because professionals have not been trained and encouraged to work with this population.
The clinic began in 2004 with four children and a massage therapist. Over the next year, 35 children received massage therapy; 40 children were on the waiting list. The clinic is conducted at the local day hospital, which offered a room at no charge. MUCH refurbished the room and purchased basic equipment. The children are referred by two organizations of parents of children with disabilities, Little Star and House of Hearts. Beginning in 2010, the neurologist at the same Polyclinic referred infants for massage treatment.
The success stories are heartening. A ten-year-old child spoke his first word, “Mama,” after four massage treatments. His seizures were reduced and drooling eliminated. A child, who could only drag himself across the floor, now uses a walker and attends school . A child smiles for the first time and makes her first efforts to say words. In most cases, the progress is slow, but each success brightens not only the child’s life, but that of his or her whole family.
As a result of a contact that Mark made with Joni Eareckson Tada’s Wheels for the World, their team brought pediatric wheelchairs to Chornomorsk. Eight children from the Massage Therapy Clinic were fitted with wheelchairs, including one ten-year-old whose mother had carried him everywhere.
The directors of the two parent organizations and families whose children receive services through the Massage Therapy Clinic often express their gratitude to our manager, Ira. She wrote, “They ask me to pass “thank you” to Mark and his team in America. It isn’t only words, because I see the light in their eyes.”
In 2016, MUCH stopped giving massage therapy in the polyclinic because of conflict with their administration. Instead, MUCH found that home visit massage therapy treatments were a better solution. Ira, our massage therapist at the polyclinic, very easily transitioned to this idea.