Lessons on Activism from Haiti

By: Morgan Denny, DPT

“Say yes more often.”

I found these exact words written on a tongue depressor in my friend, Aron’s, flat in Wellington, New Zealand. It was buried in one of those drawers that houses everything, and yet nothing at the same time. I believe it had been assigned

Physical therapists volunteer to provide treatment to a patients in Haiti.

to him at a party long ago; he made it his motto, his agenda…that fortune cookie (or at least its innards) that he actually thought might hold some worthwhile wisdom. It became his practice to say yes more, to things that would make him uncomfortable and things he wouldn’t normally consider ”his style”because he believed that it would help him grow.


My partner, Justin, and I founded and run an organization called STAND: The Haiti Project. STAND (Sustainable Therapy And New Development) takes large groups of medical volunteers to our clinic in northern Haiti and treats around 1,800 patients three to four times per year. Our volunteers are primarily physical therapists, but we also take general medical practitioners, prosthetists and orthotists.

The people of northern Haiti have little to no access to medical care. When we are in town, patients come in with fractures, dislocations, chronic pain, infections, wounds, neurological conditions…the list goes on and on. We provide care to this population because we’ve found that we can dramatically improve people’s lives and function by decreasing their pain and allowing them to move more freely and ably within their community. In Haiti, movement is life!

When giving presentations or speaking at conferences, people often ask me: why Haiti? Why not Zimbabwe or Venezuela?

While there are a plethora of good reasons that it should be Haiti…the real answer is that I said YES to an opportunity and have not yet changed my answer.

Before becoming involved in Haiti, I was looking for that thing, that purpose Sure, my life was full of adventure and fun and people, but I wanted a focus. It seemed there were so many just causes, so many things I cared about giving back to or building in society. I was struggling to find my reason for being, something beyond my J-O-B!

Many of us are so hesitant to commit because we’re just not sure this is “the thing”, that one element we want to put our energy towards. We’re only interested in the project that can make the most difference, that thing that we are convinced we were meant to do…though we couldn’t identify “it” in a lineup with other fugitives. Don’t get me wrong, I have been that person, the one in limbo because you think that one day your great life purpose will simply dawn on you.

But what happens while you’re waiting for the right thing? Nothing. Just a whole lot of thumb twiddling…and maybe some hacky-sack if you’re lucky.

So say yes! When I committed to my first trip to Haiti, my mental commitment was layered into those two weeks and no more. But after working in Haiti, after seeing the extent of a difference I could make with my skills, there is no way I could ever say no again! Over the years, that one simple YES has grown and grown. Now, instead of being a random band of foreigners who land in town twice a year, we are a consistent medical presence that the community relies on. We have become the Kevin Bacon of northern Haiti: seven degrees of separation or less between anyone and our clinic 😉

Morgan with a one of the many children that come in for treatment.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not all happy stories, ponies and butterflies frolicking into the sunset hand-in-hand. It’s hard work with no shortage of obstacles. There are days I want to change my answer, to stop saying YES. But then I remember how lucky I am to simply have a choice, to be able to say yes or no, and how completely changed for the better so many lives are in Haiti because we are there. Then, there’s only one right answer.

I found my thing, my purpose, that really big good I can do and be in the world. But I never could have picked it out of a lineup. I had NO IDEA during my first trip to Haiti that it would become my second home, my international Cheers Bar!

So say YES more often, because the stagnation that comes with inaction, particularly due to indecision, will eat your soul and benefit the world around you 0%.

Say YES to opportunity! Particularly when it can help others. Say YES to changing the world for the better, to standing up for what is right!

It is better to do a good small thing many times over than to wait your whole life for the best big thing that may never come.

Guest Blog: PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma): Why the Buzz?

Guest Blog: by Dr. Russ Riggs, Reflex Clinic

Reflex Tag

If you’ve ever injured a knee, Achilles, or anything that involves movement, you know that healing can be a long, drawn out process, especially if you had to get surgery. During that time you’re in pain, inconvenienced, and just wish it would end. Well, if you’re someone that doesn’t want to experience that long wait again, there’s good news: a new treatment has arrived called platelet rich plasma therapy. Doctors claim that it can speed up the healing process by manipulating your body’s own restorative abilities. You probably know the process better as PRP.

What Injuries Can PRP Be Used For?

The limit to which injuries and diseases PRP therapy can treat have yet to be found. Currently there are studies that support its use for treating a whole bevy of ailments. PRP is rapidly emerging as a treatment for ACL and MCL injuries such as tears, knee pain, osteoarthritis of the knee, spine injuries, rotator cuff tears, pelvic pain, jumper’s knee, back and neck injuries, and tennis elbow.

As PRP therapy is a fairly new treatment here in the United States, there aren’t as many studies as experts would like. Within the next few years we expect to see several randomized, blinded, placebo controlled studies to give the treatment more validity. However, there have been several cohort studies – as well as anecdotal evidence –that’s showed the treatment is effective. Based on the success we’ve seen with our patients we expect this treatment to grow in popularity rapidly over the next couple years.


A lot of high priced athletes who make a living from the health of their bodies swear by the treatment. Tiger Woods received four injections of PRP therapy after knee surgery in 2009, and Kobe Bryant went all the way to Germany for a similar treatment in 2013. The reason Bryant – and other stars like New York Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez – go to Germany for treatment is because the United States Food and Drug Administration says that any procedure like PRP can only be used minimally, whereas places like Germany allow a more enhanced experience, such as the inclusion of stem cell use.

PRP Explained

PRP therapy is a lot simpler than you might expect. When you go to the doctor’s office for the treatment, a sample of your blood will be drawn from your arm into a vial. The blood is then spun down in a special type of centrifuge that concentrates the blood’s own platelets.

centrifuge PRP

PRP centrifuge imageBlood platelets are an important part of the healing process, they attach to the injury and release growth and healing factors. These are all a part of what our body normally uses to heal injuries.

After the platelets are separated during the spinning process, the doctor will usually use an ultrasound to pinpoint the injury and inject the platelets directly into the injured area.

The patient will then have anywhere between two to eight times more platelets to heal his/her injury with. The treatment is enhancing the body’s own healing process; it’s really just that simple.

Are You A Candidate?

If you’ve failed traditional non-surgical treatments like HA injections or physical therapy and are hoping to avoid surgery, PRP therapy could be just what you need.

PRP can treat injuries to your knee(s) from activities such as playing basketball or football, jogging, weight lifting, or even everyday things like climbing stairs or walking.

You may also want to consider PRP therapy if you have nagging pain from previous injuries like tripping and landing on your knee, or being involved in a car accident. Schedule a PRP consultation with one of our physicians or your primary care doctor to determine if you’re a good candidate for this new procedure.

Risk Factors

PRP therapy uses the patient’s own blood, and because of that there is very little risk for any kind of rejection. Although there are a small amount of patients who may have an adverse reaction to their own blood, it is very rare. Because it is only a simple blood draw and injection, there is no need for anesthesia, opening the wound, or a hospital stay. Highly convenient, the procedure is done in our office, and lasts about an hour.

PRP lab tech centrifuge

Some patients complain about a dull ache in the spot of the injection, and because PRP uses a needle there is always a chance that an artery or vein could be damaged and cause a blood clot. If that happens, the clot is treated like any other clot with blood thinners, but risk factors like these are very low and should always be discussed with your physician before moving forward with the procedure.

If this sounds like something you might be interested in, online chat and message health boards with people who’ve already completed the procedure can give you a firsthand account of their results and are an excellent resource. Also, ask around to see if anyone you know has had it done, you might be surprised. There are a lot of variables – including cost – so you can never ask too many questions. If you live in the Portland area give us a call for any questions you might have about the procedure, and schedule a consultation. Living with knee pain just isn’t worth it, and new treatment options are now available.

Guest Blog: Treatment Options for Knee Osteoarthritis

 Reflex Tag

Guest blog: by Reflex Clinic

According to the CDC one out of every two people in the United States will develop symptomatic knee osteoarthritis (OA) by age 85. Factors such as age, weight, gender, activity level and genetics can increase or decrease the likelihood of developing OA in your lifetime. Although there is no cure for osteoarthritis of the knee, there are more treatment options available than ever before, especially if detected in its early stages.Continue reading

Guest Blog: What Is Hyaluronic Acid And Why Is It Good For You?

Reflex Tag

What is Hyaluronic Acid (HA), and why is it good for you?

If you’re experiencing knee pain, but haven’t injured your knee recently, it could be caused by a depletion of Hyaluronanic acid (HA or Hyaluronan), a naturally-occurring protein in our synovial fluid. Our knee joints are surrounded by the synovial membrane, which forms a capsule around the ends of the articulating leg bones. This membrane secretes a liquid called ‘synovial fluid’, which is mainly comprised of HA. Synovial fluid is a viscous fluid with the consistency of motor oil.


What does HA do?

• It lubricates our joints, making them work more smoothly.
• It is a shock absorber, preventing our bones from bearing the full force of impact when we walk.
• It improves overall cartilage health, flexibility, and mobility.

As we age, the concentration of this protein in our joints decreases and becomes thinner. As a result, it doesn’t cushion our bones as well. This decreased concentration of Hyaluronan in the joint is thought to significantly contribute to the progression of osteoarthritis (chronic joint inflammation with progressive cartilage loss), the most common cause of chronic knee pain.
To counteract the effects of osteoarthritis progression, injections of HA can be administered directly into the affected joint. This has the effect of decreasing inflammation in the joint, improving cartilage health, and potentially preserving existing cartilage. The injections supplement the viscous properties of synovial fluid of the knee, restoring elasticity, lubrication, and mobility of the affected joint. Best of all, HA is highly effective in alleviating chronic knee pain. Hyaluronan injections are FDA approved, safe, and minimally invasive.

What’s the catch?

Accurate placement of the Hyaluronan injection is essential. These injections are generally administered in a series — usually 3 to 4 injections 1-2 weeks apart. If your physician isn’t using ultra-sound or X-ray guidance there is a 30% chance, every time you get an injection, that the needle will not be in the correct spot, meaning you aren’t getting the medicine inside the joint. So, if you’re looking into getting HA injections make sure you find a doctor or clinic that uses X-ray or ultrasound guidance, to ensure the best possible outcome.

Written by the physicians at Reflex Portland. For more information about Reflex, check out their website! https://www.reflexknees.com/