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Featured Staff Member - Rochy Pfeffer

WALKING MIRACLES FILL MESHI'S HALLS

Talia FarberRochy Pfeffer watches miracles unfold before her eyes each day. And to do her part to keep them happening, she carries a special screwdriver and toolkit through the corridors of Meshi. Poised and ready for action, the young physical therapy aide—and very deft "handyman"—is responsible for maintaining Meshi's 25 "Hart Walkers," the ingenious and incredible walking devices that transform the lives of toddlers with cerebral palsy.

"Kids with severe disabilities can't use a conventional walker, since they can't hold on," Rochy explains. "But Hart Walkers (invented by British engineer David Hart) are built to give mobility even to children with minimal or nearly no muscle function whatsoever. Amazingly enough, the first moment they are strapped into the Hart Walker becomes the first time many of our kids can actually stand, move and feel what it's like to walk. They have free movement of their hands, and can eventually scoot around independently.There's no other walker that allows this."

Unfortunately, the $9000 price tag has made the Hart Walker prohibitive for most parents and institutions to acquire. Yet, thanks to generous donors, Meshi has purchased 15 Hart Walkers for use by its children during the school day and for very low rental fees to take home after school, on weekends and holidays. Meshi holds the distinction of having the highest number of Hart Walkers available to children and their families of any pediatric rehabilitation center in Israel. This year, a special one-time grant from the Ministry of Health enabled another 10 children to receive the device, giving Meshi a full fleet of 25 walkers.

"This amazing invention supports a child from head to toe," Rochy explains. "It gives the kids a normal alignment and pattern of walking." The device consists of two components, a bracing system and a wheel-base. There are moveable joints at the hips, knees and ankles that help the children take proper steps.

"For some kids, it's like a miracle when they first go into the Hart Walker. Their eyes light up, but they don't know just what to do. I say, 'Come,' and they do! And suddenly they're independent, and can be released from their total confinement to a wheelchair.Plus, there's real health benefits that come with being upright and moving their limbs, like improving their respiratory and digestive systems."

Rochy emphasizes that Meshi's children—from age two and a half to 14—exercise in the Hart Walkers from 30 minutes to one hour per session. She is actively involved in each child's therapy, and is directly responsible for maintaining the 25 devices. "When I see a child struggling to walk, I pull out my tools to readjust the hardware," she says. "Even though they look relatively simple, each Hart Walker has up to 1000 working components. I'm the woman who knows each one of them!"

Rochy notes that Meshi is in close contact with the official Israeli Hart Walker representatives in Safed. Their professionals visit Meshi regularly, and are available at all times to confer on special cases and special requests. On a day-to-day basis, Rochy works together with Meshi's physical therapists in all Hart Walker therapy. "We have specific programs for each child, and if problems evolve, we solve them together.

"Once a child can maneuver in the Hart Walker," she declares, "they can really begin to explore the world. We take them outdoors whenever possible. When they take the Hart Walker home, they can go for walks with their families, to the synagogue, and other places.

For Rochy Pfeffer, the mother of two youngsters, her work at Meshi is the fulfillment of several dreams at once. "I chose to become a physical therapy assistant because I love kids and wanted to learn a profession that enabled me to change a child's life. And, I really enjoy technical work, especially where I have to invent solutions." All tailor-made requirements for her position at Meshi, where she's been working since 2004.

"The more that our very disabled children use the Hart Walker, the stronger their little-used muscles become, and then we can adjust the system to allow greater weight bearing," Rochy explains. "Unfortunately, the vast majority of these kids will never walk. But one of our four year olds who learned how to walk in the Hart Walker now walks independently today. I saw his first steps in the Walker, and watched him discover what it feels like to be upright and mobile. I think of him when I keep an eye—and often a screwdriver-- on all of our Hart Walkers."

Previous Staff Members
Esti Kushelevsky
For severely disabled schoolchildren, the ability to speak can be a powerful boon. Yet giving these children the gift of communication is a grueling mission that demands skill, ingenuity, and infinite patience. For veteran Meshi Center speech therapist Esti Kushelevsky, the job is her passion and joy.
Rochy Pfeffer
Rochy Pfeffer watches miracles unfold before her eyes each day. And to do her part to keep them happening, she carries a special screwdriver and toolkit through the corridors of Meshi. Poised & ready for action, the young physical therapy aide - & very deft "handyman" - is responsible for maintaining Meshi's 25 "Hart Walkers.
Talia Farber
Talia Farber, who heads the Meshi School’s Assistive Technology department, pioneered this field in Israel, harnessing technology to “substitute” for impaired functions of the body. Under her guidance, Meshi has become one of the most technology-oriented rehabilitative schools in the entire nation.
Chana Zolberg & Michal Yitzchaki
The women behind the organization and maintenance of Meshi kindergarten’s hundreds of pieces of specialized equipment are two young physical therapists, Chana Zolberg and Michal Yitzchaki, who take the daunting task in stride.
 
Keren Grant
By profession, Keren Grant frees children from prison. Not your average jail breaker, Keren's mission is to break through to disabled children who are completely unable to speak, and give them a means to communicate with the outside world.
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