Many healthy babies are born in Macedonia. Sadly, however, some of these children suffer serious disabilities due - reportedly - to unchecked fevers and high temperatures, which were unrelieved, undiagnosed and untreated at an early age. This may result in growths and tumours pressing on the nervous system with profound and avoidable long-term impact. The situation outside the capital is often dire, with a lack of relevant services, but the city also has its own stories.
One such story involves a daughter of a widow who sews. This lady has been part of our Operation Mercy down-town program and she received help for stress and grief issues stemming from the death of her husband 20 years earlier. Since then, she has been trying to make ends meet with sewing, looking after her elderly parents, serving guests, changing nappies, and looking after her 27-year-old daughter Shpresa* who has a mental and physical disability. Shpresa functions at the developmental level of a 3-year-old child.
Her mother keeps Shpresa clean and feeds her, but Shpresa is pale and stays at home and doesn’t go out. Playing on the telephone is the only thing she does during the day.
Our staff physiotherapist has a big heart for children with disabilities. This year she has had some open space in her schedule. She has started exercising with Shpresa. For the first time in years, perhaps since she was a child, the physio took Shpresa walking between the centre and her home, a 500 meters walk. She plays with Shpresa and strengthens her weak legs and feet. Shpresa has pain because her ribs press into her organs and she may have an operation soon. Shpresa can be aggressive at times, but our physio is very patient.
Unfortunately, Shpresa’s situation is not an unusual case in Macedonia. Often services such as “defektolog” are not free and many parents cannot afford to get help for their children. There is a school for children with disabilities in the capital, but it has limited staff capacity. Children like Shpresa often remain at home, and when they reach adult age opportunities for interaction and stimulation and services are even more limited.
Operation Mercy has engaged with Shpresa as an extension of the Hope and Health presence in the down-town area of north Skopje. Here Hope and Health offers fitness and massage support with medical oversight to women with degenerative back conditions. Shpresa´s situation, along with invitations to address similar predicaments from the villages between Skopje and the northern border, have prompted us to consider plans in support of children with disabilities in a new project. We will explore this work for the future.
This encounter with our physiotherapist through our Operation Mercy Hope and Health project has made a big difference for one girl with a disability. Shpresa now, for the first time, has something to look forward to!