Wednesday, October 22, 2014

MDP Mission Trip to Chiapas, Mexico--Post #5

 On Wednesday morning, we woke up a little tired, as the hard rains on the tin roof kept a lot of us awake for a portion of the night, although I think we all still felt thankful for such a nice place to stay compared to many of the buildings we’ve seen in the villages. 

We had a shorter day of clinic yet still saw 67 patients (including the ones from the day before).  Looking around the clinic and observing like I spent so much time doing this week from my post at the nurse’s station, I couldn’t help but still feel shock while noticing again how patient and content people are waiting in our clinic to be seen by a provider. They are so happy to simply have access to this and I’m sure realize that having a five hour wait to see a provider after a two hours trip up a mountain in the back end of a truck is so much better than having nothing at all. Imagine what people in the United States would do if that had to wait that long in a shed, sitting on a hard wooden bench with a numbered slip of paper, visit with their provider (not being able to choose which one they see) in front of the other 60 or so people in the shed, and having their private exams in a make-shift privacy area with a tarp, rope and some clothespins. Yet again, I can’t help but thank God to have the access to healthcare that we do and will never again complain or be impatient during a wait at my clinic back home.

Coffee in hand and ready for another day of clinic! 

This little guy was helping his mother sell rice pudding to patients coming to get care in the village

On the way home from clinic, our awesome driver, Vicente, stopped by the side of the road so that we could check out the beautiful Lagos de Montebello. The water was beautiful and blue, and again, I feel like pictures can't do it justice (are you sick of me saying that yet!?! Sorry!)

After returning to our hotel for a short rest, we headed out for a mini trip that was planned by Lia. We went to Santa Maria, an extravagant hotel, museum and restaurant. Despite being only 15 minutes from where we were staying, it seemed so further because it is so different from everything else around the area. The architecture was gorgeous and I was surprised and how old yet well preserved it was. The museum area was a room with walls covered in gorgeous original Catholic paintings of from various schools of art in Mexico. 

We toured the grounds a little more before dinner and saw the hotel’s Arabian Suite. From the outside, it looked like a giant white tent with walls that is used from graduation parties and outdoor weddings. The inside, however, was extremely elegant and had beautiful deep red linens on a king bed, red rugs and couches, beautiful stained glass lamps and a bathroom with a stone shower and deep tub. We then sat down outside for a dinner under a pavilion. It was nice to have a new menu to look at (although poor Lia had to translate the entire thing for us). I decided on spaghetti con hierbas finas and Grandma had a steak. Feeling tired and satisfied, we headed back to the hotel for a good night’s rest.

I would love to find out what these are. My favorite flower is the orchid, and these reminded me of them! 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

MDP Mission Trip to Chiapas, Mexico--Post #4

For our third day of clinic, we headed to San Antonio Buena Vista. This was 40 minutes away from where we are staying and involved a very bumpy ride up the mountain. We arrived a little early and got set up. Again, there was a pharmacy station, a nurse’s station, three provider areas and a privacy area for exams. I think we were all thankful for the cooler air that came with the increased elevation, and the huge bright space that was provided in the village’s community center.

The team took some time before patients arrived to explore the village a little bit, climbing further up the mountain and taking some amazing pictures. It’s so hard to capture the beauty of the landscape here, as pictures definitely don’t do it justice.

Clinic went well and we were able to see 73 patients from 7 different villages. A lot of the people that came were Mayan and had their own dialect, which required a second interpreter. This took a longer for each provider visit, so 8 patients had to be turned away. Because it was raining, it was important that we got out on the gravel mountain roads before it got too late in the day, We also had three more days of clinic that they could come back to. Again, there was so much gratitude here that it was humbling. Padre Miguel was around for this clinic today and it was great to see him interact with the community members. He has done some amazing things here, and you can truly see his compassion for living to serve through God.

As with every day we have here, we had a little fun, too. Dr. Don and Bridget were teamed up today as provider and interpreter. Both of them being alumni for St. Olaf College, they decided taught a woman in the community how to sing the fight song for the school: “Umm Yeah Yeah” J In pharmacy, Kyle continued to come up with new signs in his town time to give everyone on the team a chuckle as they came by.

True to form, we had a game night that was organized by Grandma Sara complete with a theme and prizes. We had a great time!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

MDP Mission Trip to Chiapas, Mexico--Post #3

We went back to Playa Azul for our second day of clinic. Set-up was much quicker and again, there were patients waiting to be seen by us when we arrived.
The privacy area for exams

I was still astonished at how patient everybody is while waiting to be seen, and how well behaved children are. It seems like a community effort to raise children, as other mothers are very willing to watch and hold children while their parents are being seen. The kids hardly ever whine or fuss and sit patiently without needing a lot of entertainment. They can be entertained by the simplest of things and are so grateful for EVERYTHING! 

We were able to see 82 patients and were done by 4:30. The community members were so grateful that we came to serve them. The clinic organizers thanked us numerous times, said that we have done wonderful things for their community, and said they wished they could repay us. They asked also that we not forget them, and I know we won’t. The MDP group is already planning a return trip in February to serve this community.

The group loaded into the van with gifts given to us by community members, including oranges, bananas and papayas—yum!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

MDP Mission Trip to Chiapas, Mexico--Post #2

Sunday morning we were served a breakfast of quesadillas and frijoles fritos (refried beans). We had a morning devotion and prayer in the garden before leaving for clinic for the day. Not knowing what to expect, and feeling a little anxious, I got into the van with everyone else and Vincente drove us an hour away to the village that we would be having clinic, “Playa Azul” (which by the way, did not include any “blue” or “beach”) of any kind. The drive there was gorgeous and I felt like I was in Ireland (although never having been there—it looks like what I’ve seen in pictures). There was green as far as my eyes could see and so many hills and mountains. Vincente let us know that we were so far south in Mexico that we were in Guatemala for part of our drive.

When we pulled into Playa Azul, there were so many people waiting for us to arrive. They were on the basketball court, the road, and the building where we were going to set up clinic in. I did everything possible to keep from crying as we pulled up as I have never seen people so excited for something that I take advantage of at home: healthcare. There was so much hope in their eyes. It was the most humbling experience of my entire life and is something I will never forget. It’s so hard to put into words, but I know that I don’t necessarily have to because it will be with me forever.

We had plenty of help unloading and quickly set up our stations to get to work. Three provider stations sat in the back of the clinic, a pharmacy on the side, a “privacy room” made of tarps and rope for private exams, a nurses station at the front of the room for intake and initial assessment of vital signs (I quickly learned how to say “Le voy a tomar sus signalos vitals—I’m going to take your vital signs).

Nurse's Station

The MDP team was able to see 79 patients. It takes so much longer in this setting because the interpreter sits by the provider and communication takes twice as long when you go through a third person. Some patients even needed a second translator, as they spoke a different dialect. The provider would then need Spanish instructions for the medication, which needs to be written out.

I was in shock at how patient everybody was in waiting to be seen. Some waited 7 or 8 hours to be seen, each of them given a number by the clinic organizer and brought in as we had openings.

The community members came for a variety of reasons and were diagnosed with parasites, gastritis, tuberculosis, UTI’s, arthritis, diabetes, and so much more. Some of them were able to be treated, and some unfortunately were not. The providers are so good about diagnosing and treating despite their lack of diagnostic tools available. They had tools for urinalysis, blood glucose checks, fetal heart tones, and pregnancy tests. However, there was of course no ability to do CBCs, imaging, or anything that requires more resources. Padre Miguel is also available to handle referrals, which is so helpful for the continuity of care!

The patients that we saw were so thankful for everything that we did for them. A lot of the patients came through the clinic on their way out, shaking hands with us and thanking us. It was a great first day!

Monday, October 13, 2014

MDP Mission Trip to Chiapas, Mexico--Post #1

Hola & Greetings from Trinitaria by Lagunas de Montebello!

For those of you that don't know, I was lucky enough to go on a medical mission trip with my grandma to Chiapas, Mexico. We left with a group out of Minnesota early in the morning on Friday, October 10th. I've written down some of our trip so far to share, so here goes: 

We have had a busy first few days of our trip. Friday morning we started out very early to the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport where we took off for Atlanta. From there, we flew to Mexico City and finally, on to Tuxtla Guiterrez. All of our flights went well and were smooth.

It was a very sudden transformation upon arriving in Mexico. Everything that I took for granted—being able to read signs for instruction and direction, or understand conversation around me—was no longer a convenience that was just “there”. It’s a very uncomfortable and frustrating feeling to not be able to communicate your simple wishes or questions. It’s very strange to sit down at a restaurant and try to pick out a meal based on the few Spanish words that I know (pollo=chicken, aroz=rice, frijoles=beans). Luckily, we have some amazing interpreters with on the trip that are more-than-willing to help us out!

From the airport in Tuxtla, Lia’s cousin, Padre Pablo and the other wonderful people from the Oasis de la Cruz retreat center picked us up. We loaded into vehicles for a forty-minute drive to the center. On the way, we got stopped a couple of times by the Mexican police, who were doing routine stops looking for migrants coming from Honduras and Guatemala, weapons and drugs. It was very intimidating for someone never having experienced that before, but thankfully Lia, Bridget and our driver, Freddy, talked to them and we were able to continue on without opening our suitcases.

Once we arrived at the retreat center, I think we all felt a sense of peace and calming. It is a beautiful place and we felt very welcome. Dona Tita made a wonderful dinner of quesadillas and black beans, which was much appreciated by our group of hungry, tired travelers. We were blessed with a special guest a dinner, Don Layo. He is a widowed electrician from Coapilla, Chiapas who is raising both of his daughters by himself. Don was in an unfortunate electrical accident in the past and lost his left arm. We were able to bring with us his prosthetic arm, made and donated by Prosthetic Laboratories out of Mankato, for a secondary fitting. When the team returns in February, they will bring the prosthesis for him.  Don traveled quite a ways to join us, involving a bus ride and a three-hour walk.

Saturday morning, feeling well-rested and refreshed, we were served a wonderful breakfast, again prepared by Dona Tita, We were greeted by Vicento, our driver for the week, who pulled up in our 14-passenger van. After he and Dr. Aaron Johnson carefully and strategically loaded up our 20-something suitcases, which involved turning them every which way and strapping them on top of the van. I felt like I was watching a game of Twister combined with Tetris! Of course, a few of us snapped pictures for evidence!

After an hour and a half in the van, we arrived in San Cristobal for a few hours for lunch, sightseeing and shopping. This was such a unique experience seeing the streets flooded with men, women and children trying to make money by selling homemade goods, or performing a service like shoe-shining. It’s very hard to say no to some these people that are trying to make a living and work so hard for their money.

Vicento brought us safely on our three hour journey to our “home” for the next seven nights, “Cabanas Ensueno”. After unpacking, we joined together for a dinner with plenty of laughs. We then headed to bed for a good night of rest before our first day of clinic.

Thanks for your support and prayers for our team! More to come :)