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Spring 2008 Medical Mission

It was a great mission.  The team really bonded, and we had our usual little rounds of excitement. This time, the bus caught fire on the last day...

The dental sealants were a hit.  Erina ordered enough sealants for 250 children, and we could have done more.  One of our volunteers, Gavin Kelly a pre-dental student, was trained by one of our dentists, Jennifer Kelly (yep, his mother) to do the applications, and it worked well.  We now have 250 children who will not be losing their permanent molars to decay in the next 5 years!  As a pediatrician, you have no idea how happy this makes me!  We continued to do fluoride varnish to the teeth of the younger children.  This combination can really make a difference.

The lab in a suitcase worked very well too.  Bill Loeb, who is a lab tech, did a great job.  The equipment was interesting: the centrifuge was hand cranked with a gear mechanism.  He had ordered the reagents from another supplier and was able to do CBC's, electrolytes, BUN, U/A's, glucose and pregnancy tests.    He found that some reagents do not work well at 94 degrees, and had to rig up a fan over ice to cool his little "lab".  I think that we will be expanding some of the testing in the future.  Hgb A1C and TSH have been requested, and we will need to see how difficult this will be in the clinic environment.

Other highlights: We worked with Rotary on their Pure Water for the World project.  For starters, they set up 2 water filters in the clinic, and we used the water there and the patients got to see how it worked.  We will be expanding this next spring to bring water filters to some of the villages.  We are hoping to do a small study to prove that it reduces diarrhea, and thereby reduces malnutrition.
We worked for the first time with "health promoters" who are assigned to the villages to be sure that children receive immunizations, pregnant women get folic acid, children with diarrhea get seen by public health, etc.  We hope that they will be available to teach about the water filters when they are installed.  They were very enthusiastic about learning and asked that the filters be installed in the village schools.  I discussed malnutrition with them, and gave them each the mid arm circumference tape that was designed by the WHO to easily determine which children are at risk for malnutrition and which are actually malnourished.
A PA who volunteered with us taught trauma assessment to the "Bomberos" (fire rescue personnel), and we taught the midwives about malnutrition and diarrhea as well.  I saw a great many seriously malnourished children this time.  What they say about the world food shortage is very real, I am afraid.


On the last day, I visited some clinics in Cuilapa.  One was the public health clinic for the city.  The power went out (as usual).  I was shown the delivery room (about the size of a bathroom), which had no windows.  A woman was in stirrups, pushing.  It was pitch black in there except for a nurse holding a taper candle...delivery by candle light, so romantic!

SPRING 2007 MEDICAL MISSION

 

With a larger-than-life team of 46 volunteers, the 2007 spring medical mission was off and running upon the arrival of the team members at the Guatemala City airport on April 20th, 2007.

 

The five-member pre-mission team had arrived on April 16th to begin the fundamental task of distributing medical forms to the people in the remote mountain villages surrounding Nueva Santa Rosa, the small town where the team would open their free medical clinic only days later. The pre-mission team traveled in the bed of a pickup truck to reach distant villages, enduring crude roads consisting of little more than a worn path over boulders and ruts in some cases. 

Upon reaching a village, the pre-mission team ‘sat up shop’ wherever a central gathering place could be made accessible to the local people. They began the critical process of assessing multitudes of people in order to determine the most medically desperate. Those patients received medical forms which would become their ‘tickets’ to visit the clinic once opened. The pre-mission team finalized the patient selection process the same day the remainder of the team arrived.  

A significant change was awaiting this mix of novices and veterans. A complete reversal of the patient routing within the clinic compound was implemented during this mission. At first glance, it appeared the new system was being met with a measure of discontent and uncertainty. A couple days into the routine, a few minor adjustments resulted in agreement that the experiment had definite vantages. By the end of the week, it was receiving a unanimous ‘thumbs up’ from team members. The new system proved successful insofar as enabling the team members to provide more medical services to more patients than in the past, and in a more effective manner.    

A couple needed improvements during this mission included the replacement of the older, heavy, bulky exam tables. Due to successful fundraising and generous donations from local supporters, it was possible to purchase portable, foldable exam tables. Plastic storage totes (color-coded for error-free clinic sorting) were provided to stow the team’s supplies between missions, making it possible to ensure a dry, clean storage option.  

Guatemalan firemen and midwives were given opportunities to attend classes. Proper tooth brushing was demonstrated to children while receiving fluoride treatments. Neonatal resuscitation certification, using international standards, was offered to the public health doctors and nurses.  

The team was fortunate to have an opportunity to stop at a girls’ orphanage, bringing donations to assist them in their struggle to house, feed, educate, and prepare the girls for entry into the outside world one day. The orphanage receives no funding from governments on any level. The orphanage survives on donations, which determines the number of girls accepted. 

The “Connie Fund” was directed towards a teenage boy, Raul, to offset the costs of his impending surgery to reverse the colostomy he received to correct a birth defect when brought to the U. S. several years ago. Raul has become a ‘special patient’ of the medical mission. 

In conclusion, the Spring 2007 Medical Mission was a resounding success. Without a doubt, the credit goes to the team members who worked tirelessly during the long days in less than ideal conditions, never complaining, and remaining upbeat with positive attitudes in providing unconditional care and concern for each and every patient seen in the clinic. At teams go, this was without a doubt, one of the best! 

The Executive Board of Directors extends a very sincere thank you to each and every team member for your contribution and commitment towards making this mission a successful and memorable one. We can only hope we will get the chance to share another unforgettable experience with each of you on a future mission, and that you returned bringing with you a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction, along with the pride you deserve for having been a volunteer for Project Guatemala.

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