Telehealth ministry aids the hurting in South Asia during COVID-19
By Tianna Haas | South Asia
Ingrid working with her stroke patient via WhatsApp.
Though the COVID-19 lockdown in South Asia prevents Ingrid from her usual physiotherapy work, she has continued using her God-given gifts to treat a stroke patient through WhatsApp.
Ingrid provides homebased physiotherapy with an SIM ministry that enriches lives through spiritual and physical care. She and her husband, Neil, have been in South Asia with SIM for 15 years.
Before COVID-19 struck, Ingrid visited and worked with children with disabilities twice a week. Neil said of Ingrid’s work: “My wife has a lot of courage … I don’t think I could handle this emotionally! I am glad that she loves this work. She is making a difference in the lives of a number of children and their families.”
"My wife has a lot of courage … She is making a difference in the lives of a number of children and their families."
But her new telehealth patient does not fit into this demographic. An acquaintance of Ingrid’s contacted her at the end of March, when the shutdown began. She asked if Ingrid could treat her father who had recently been discharged from the hospital after his stroke six weeks prior.
Ingrid agreed to meet with him over video, although it was her first experience treating a stroke patient through telehealth. Her previous telehealth appointments and video consultations focused on orthopaedic therapy rather than stroke rehabilitation. Though it is not an ideal venue, it helps close long distances and bypass traffic complications through the crowded city – which can take two hours to cross.
The sessions require four people: the patient, his son, another family member to hold the phone, and Ingrid. The current regimen of therapy occurs five times a week, but she’s transitioned the patient from hour-long sessions to 15-minute ones. She said: “Right now, I am just adding in more difficult exercises as the patient progresses. Some days I review the previous exercises to make sure they are being done correctly.”
These meetings differ from Ingrid’s customary work, but during this global pandemic, little remains the same. Fortunately, the Lord has equipped Ingrid with adaptability and a heart for the hurting.
Ingrid said: “Doing things by telehealth takes about double the time as it does in person, but at least this man is getting physio during this crucial period of his recovery.”
Ingrid has been able to see participation from family members and improvement in the patient. She said: “The son has written down the exercises in a notebook and does them with his father once or twice a day. The patient has made great progress. I look forward to meeting them when the shutdown is over.”
Neil has also been able to minister to those with physical ailments over WhatsApp in a different capacity. He has been meeting with people who have various sicknesses, from infections to aches and pains, and praying for their healing.
Around the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, the couple was preparing to return home for a period to connect with donors and prayer supporters. When the situation worsened, they decided if their flight was cancelled, they’d stay in South Asia and would not attempt to find an earlier flight.
Neil said: “If we had to sit somewhere, it seemed that we could be more useful sitting in the city rather than sitting in Toronto. I also thought that by staying here we could be able to encourage the team.”
They have made do with the adjustments to ministry and are creatively enacting the Great Commission through technology.
• Ingrid’s physiotherapy work to continue helping many recover or develop mobility. Pray her telehealth and regular ministry work would open conversations about the gospel.
• Neil as he prays over those in need of healing. Pray that God would transform people’s hearts through salvation as well as bring physical relief.