Visit to Iceland
From May 28 to June 1, 2012, a delegation of MOTUS VITA Association and State Social Care Centre “Riga” visited Iceland on a working visit. This working trip was organized by the International Alliance of ALS/MND Associations (http://www.alsmndalliance.org/). Many thanks for that to its President Mr. Gudjon Sigurdsson and Mrs. Kristin Einarsdottir, Director of Occupational Therapy in the National University Hospital of Iceland.
The following persons participated in the trip: Mrs. Iveta Purne, Director of State Social Care Centre “Riga”, Mrs. Ilze Gaigala, Head Expert of State Social Care Centre “Riga” , Mr. Valerijs Rakovs, Chairman of the Board of MOTUS VITA Association, Mr. Arturs Gothards, Project Manager of MOTUS VITA Association, Mr. Vadims Malesko, MOTUS VITA technical equipment maintenance expert of MOTUS VITA Association.
The program of the visit was rather saturated, and the time limited, so we wanted to take the maximum advantage of it.
1. Technical equipment centre of Iceland
We studied in detail how the State program of provision of disabled people with technical equipment does work on practice in Iceland. After having visited Technical equipment centre of Iceland, we met there real experts in their field and saw their methods of work. We were amazed both by the broad offer of technical equipment and its high quality. The work of the whole complicated mechanism is so well considered and set, so it becomes clear that the system exists for the patient and not the opposite. Mr. Vadims Malesko found quickly common language with his colleagues and got the scope of information necessary for his work. We are sure that the acquired experience and information will help in an effective way when implementing a similar program in Latvia.
2. «Össur» Company
Our meeting with the «Össur» company (http://www.ossur.co.uk) exceeded all our expectations. This company is specialized in manufacturing prosthetics, bracing and supports. «Össur» company is one of the largest manufacturers in this field in the world, and it will not too much to say – one of the most innovative. We got acquainted with the Company’s work, saw all manufacturing stages, but the strongest impression we had was from the people who had lost their legs and now were walking easily with «Össur» prosthetics in the Company’s rehabilitation department without any crutches or other support. When talking to the Company’s management, we felt their interest towards the Baltic market. It goes without saying that «Össur» products could become a pass to a new life for Latvians who have lost their extremities.
We can not resist telling some words about the unique «Össur» products:
Using sophisticated artificial intelligence, it continuously learns and adapts to an amputee's walking style and environment. RHEO KNEE® uses innovative sensory devices (monitoring charge) to take measurements up to 1000 times per second. RHEO KNEE® can recognize and respond even better to the most subtle changes in walking speed and terrain.
The POWER KNEETM is the world’s first and only motor-powered knee module, designed to restore the power of lost muscles. It helps walking without too much effort and boasts an unprecedented performance. After having received all the necessary data from observation sensor of other, healthy leg, the transmission system can implement to life unique functions permitting to take actions where lifting force is needed.
The first foot in the world using an artificial intelligence which provides patient with amputated ankle unparalleled advantages. Thanks to an automatic ankle angulations its performance is the closest possible to performance of a healthy ankle. This device thinks for itself, sensing and responding rapidly to changes in ground level and other terrain irregularities. The resultant lifelike gait reduces stress on the whole body and maintains the amputee’s health.
3. National University Hospital of Iceland
Mrs. Kristin Einarsdottir, Director of Occupational Therapy in the National University Hospital of Iceland, familiarized us with her department’s work.
A person with neuromuscular disease in the course of disease losses his usual physical capacity and becomes unable to perform everyday activities, which causes a sense of inadequacy and dependence on other people. And at this moment exactly he needs an occupational therapist’s help.
Ergotherapy or occupational therapy is a scope of rehabilitation measures aimed to restore person’s everyday activities taking into consideration his/her physical limitations. Everyday activities include self-care, work and leisure activities, and connected interpersonal relations. Kristin showed and explained us methods and mechanisms used in Iceland in order to help people to acquire skills necessary to overcome such difficulties. Thus, a sense of satisfaction and adequacy is attained, and this is a crucial constituent element in person’s social adaptation.
4. Visit of the Parliament of Iceland
This was Gudjon Sigurdsson who took us to the Parliament of Iceland. It has to be mentioned that the bus we used is equipped at a state-of-the-art level, and Gudjon is fully independent in his movements. Upon a signal from the remote control the door is open, the lift goes down, Gudjon gets into the cabin and then changes his wheelchair to driver’s chair operated by the same remote control.
A secretary met us in the Parliament and got to an excursion in the whole building accompanied by an interesting story on the parliamentary history in Iceland. And than, exactly as scheduled, we met Mrs. Jonina Ros Gudmundsdottir, a deputy from the Social-Democratic Alliance in charge with social issues.
Jonina told us how problems of disabled people are solved in Iceland on legislation level, which problems are to be solved yet, and in which way parliamentary parties reach compromise when solving those questions. Jonina was very natural and open, answered freely all our questions, at the same time she showed a sincere interest in the situation in Latvia.
5. Visit to the Ministry of Welfare of Iceland
After having met a representative of a legislative power, we headed to the Ministry of Welfare of Iceland where we met Mr. Тhor Тhorarinsson, expert of the social security department. Mr. Тhor Тhorarinsson explained us in a very detailed way, in figures and facts, how legislative decisions in the field of social needs of disabled people are implemented into life in Iceland, which are problems to overcome, which are future plans in this field. Mr. Тhor Тhorarinsson told us about measures taken by the Ministry which helped to even economic crisis’s impact on people with disability. Than a serious and sincere dialogue developed between him and a high-class expert in this field, Mrs. Iveta Purne who herself occupied the position of Welfare Minister of Latvia in 2007-2009. The exchange of ideas turned out to be interesting and informative for both sides.
6. Meeting with Gudjon Sigurdsson
We spent last evening before our departure in Gudjon Sugurdsson’s house. Gudjon was very kind to show us in detail how an ALS-patient’s house is equipped. All premises Gudjon uses are equipped with technical aids giving him possibility to maintain an independent life and to get along without any assistants, though Gudjon has a wife and three daughters who are always here to help him. Both bathroom and sleeping room are equipped with electrical lift platforms operated by a remote control. Gudjon’s office is very comfortably equipped.
Altogether, Gudjon with his active and complete life proves that both with such a rare, incurable disease like ALS and very serious movement limitations one not just can, but must live and live an interesting and fruitful life.
Just see – Gudjon Sigurdsson works in the largest energy company in Iceland, manages the MND Association of Iceland, is the President of the International Alliance of ALS/MND Associations, and furthermore is the head of a big and united family. I am proud of my friendship with this person.
During the last day of our stay in Iceland we discussed with Gudjon and Kristin results of our visit, the implementation of MOTUS VITA project of creating a data base for ALS/MND patients supported by the Boris and Ināra Teterev Foundation (http://www.teterevfond.org), further plans of providing Latvian ALS/MND patients with so needed technical equipment. We also spoke about other future cooperation programs. We believe – if aims are clear and their implementation programs functional, it is possible to improve continually the quality of life of ALS/MND patients in our countries.