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Honduras Medical Mission 2010


The Following journal entries are from Kathy Stahlman...

Sunday

We went to church at 'Santisima Trinidad' Episcopal Church. The church was almost full – there were probably 50-60 people there. We enjoyed the service, even though Rick, Chris, Susan & I didn't understand much of it. The regular priest is out of town this weekend so we had a visiting priest from the town of Tela, about 1 ½ hours from here. He was enthusiastic, but spoke too fast for us to pick up more than a word or two.

Marco, our driver, drove us up to see the clinic. We had moderate rain showers most of the way there and back. The road runs along the Cangrejal River. There were many people in and along the river; they were bathing, swimming, doing laundry, washing cars, having barbecues and picnics, and just enjoying the day. The rain showers didn't seem to affect their activities much.

The clinic was clean and ready for us. We brought in the supplies that had been stored at the La Ceiba church, then drove back down the mountain to La Ceiba. Rick will probably be very busy; he may be the only medico for much of the week. The nurse we had hoped could help all week will not be available till Thursday.

We had dinner by the Caribbean Sea, which was a wonderfully relaxing way to get ready for a busy week. Marco then drove us to a Bed & Breakfast place called “Paradise Found”, just a short distance from the restaurant. We had coffee on the deck overlooking the sea when the power went out. It's Honduras – losing power is not unexpected. The B&B didn't have a generator, so we relied on candles and flashlights as we talked and watched the lightning over the water.

Depending on what happens with the power, it could be an interesting week. The clinic in El Pital runs on electricity for the lights, the fans, and the lone air conditioning unit in Rick's exam room. I'm not sure how we'll handle it, but keep us in your prayers.


Monday

The electricity went on late last night, so things are back to normal here in La Ceiba. We started with devotions this morning, and Fr. Chris asked us to really think about why we came on the medical mission to Honduras. It was a provocative thought to start the trip.

When we arrived at the clinic, there were a lot of people waiting for us. The clinic was not open last week. I guess that the nurse who regularly works there, Santos, had to work in La Ceiba last week, and the group that was supposed to be working in the El Pital clinic didn't show up. There were several rather sick patients that needed to be seen as soon as possible, so Rick got right to work.

The rest of us unloaded the buckets of medical supplies. It took a while to figure out what we had and where it was. There really wasn't a need to rush, Rick was seeing several sick kids which took quite a bit of time, so they wouldn't be ready for their meds for a while. Rick ended up seeing over 50 patients. His patients included a kid with a heart murmur, one with serious asthma, a girl with a serious infection on her side (which had to be lanced), and a 16-day-old baby with a fever. The oldest patient seen was an 82-year-old man who still worked in the fields and complained of dizziness if the sun got too hot while he was working. We gave out at least 7 pairs of reading glasses. I was surprised that quite a few of the older people didn't read at all but some of the women needed the glasses to sew and mend.


Tuesday and Wednesday

There were even more people waiting for us when we arrived at the clinic this morning compared to yesterday. It was standing room only both in the clinic and outside. Fr. Chris and one of our translators checked in the patients, but they had to limit the number of patients Rick could see. When they hit about 50 patients for today, they started giving out numbers for tomorrow. Some folks weren't really happy about that, mainly because some lived far away and had to walk to the clinic. We did our best to accommodate them, but then again, it's sometimes hard when you want to be fair to everyone.

Rick ultimately saw over 55 patients. Most were young kids. Moms or grandmothers or relatives or neighbors would bring in 3 or 4 kids at a time.

The first case Rick had this morning was a 9-year-old boy who had a large, deep cut on his forearm. He'd been cut by a machete while working in the fields. Having machetes in the home is not at all unusual the local men use them to clear the dense growth from the fields. We checked to see that the nerves to his hand were okay, and stitched up his wound. He is to come back in a couple of days so we can check it.

Most of the patients today had coughs and aches, and a fair number come in with intestinal parasites. The aches are largely due to the hard work they do, and the coughs are a natural result of the humidity and the indoor fire pits. The parasites, well, the sanitation here isn't up to the standards to which we are accustomed.

We gave out many pairs of reading glasses today. It sometimes is a challenge to figure out what strength the patient needs. Since many don't read, and many have cataracts that glasses can't help, we just try to see if we can give them glasses that improve their vision.

It rained quite a bit this afternoon. Usually it pours for a few minutes, then stops, but today it rained for an hour or more. The kids who like to hang around the back door (where we gave out the meds) went back home, as did the people who like to socialize with all the folks who are waiting to be seen. The patients who were waiting didn't give up their seats in the waiting room, however; many had been waiting all day to be seen.

We left the clinic at about 4:30, and we gave 4 people a ride down the mountain to their village. They had been waiting all day to be seen and it was still raining lightly. It would have taken them at least an hour to walk to their village, and then they would have quite a climb up the mountain to their home.

We'll be going to the clinic a bit later tomorrow morning. Honduras will be playing Chile in the World Cup Soccer tournament tomorrow morning at 5:30, and I think the country will pretty much shut down at least until the game is over. You can't imagine how soccer fever has taken over the country! There are people in our hotel who have already started partying in anticipation of the game, and I doubt they'll be sleeping tonight. The people of Honduras would dearly love to see their team win; it would be a real morale booster for them.


Thursday

We were hoping to have Carla (who was the nurse at the clinic 2 years ago) help us in the clinic today, but she wasn't at our pre-arranged meeting place on time (and she is always very punctual). We guessed that she'd been called in to work today. She always looks forward to going up El Pital to visit with her former patients, so we knew she was disappointed that she could not go today.

We arrived at the clinic and found out that the power was out. Apparently, someone (the government, maybe) had been cutting trees and clearing the vegetation around the power lines, and one of the lines was damaged. This presented a unique set of challenges at the clinic. Some were minor – the fans we used to keep the air moving didn't work and we didn't have much light in the back room where we gave out the medicines. Rick was the one who was affected the most. His exam room is the only one with air conditioning, and without it he had to open the wooden window shutters to the room to get some air and let in light so he could examine the patients. (There is no glass in the windows; most people just have wooden shutters to protect against the weather.) This worked okay for the most part, but since there were no curtains on the windows, Peter had to chase away the kids that were hanging around the side of the building so that the patients had some privacy.

We were happy to see Rosario (the embroidery/quilt lady) and her sons come in today. They brought some of her work for us to see (and buy). Both of her sons needed some care. One had an infected finger, which we were able to treat easily. The other, well, if you're squeamish you may want to skip this part. He had been bitten right above his pelvic bone by some sort of insect 2 weeks ago while clearing a field, and it was badly infected.. Santos, the nurse in the clinic, said that the last time he saw such an awful bite the guy ended up in the cemetery. The medical folks took the man in the exam room, lanced and drained the wound, packed it, bandaged it, and sent him off with a lot of antibiotics and strict instructions to see a doctor if he developed a fever or the infection got any worse. We'll certainly wonder about him until we return next year.

Chris was asked by Rosario to bless some water for her house. She likes to wash her house with holy water and brought in a jug of water for Chris to bless. She even brought a fern which Chris used to sprinkle a bit of the blessed water in the clinic.

The rest of the day included rechecking a few patients we'd seen earlier in the week, and all were doing well. One kid needed an asthma treatment, but we couldn't do it since the power was out. We left some medicine for him and asked him to come back when the power came back on – which will probably be next week.

Even in the heat today, Rick saw over 50 patients. As was the case earlier in the week, people would come with several of their kids to be seen. We mostly dispensed vitamins, parasite medicine, and ibuprofen, but there were a couple of sick kids later in the day who needed antibiotics.

We finished up around 4 PM today. We had to pack up all of the supplies so we can use them again next year. We left quite a few items and medications for Santos to use, and he was very pleased. He has to use some of the money allocated to the clinic for supplies, which means there is less money for medications and other more important items. We left some meds that would expire before next June, bandages, extra plastic bags, and an assortment of items that he will be able to use to help the patients.

It has been a very busy 4 days in the clinic, and I know we're all very tired. There probably are a few more patients who would like to be seen, but there are other places in La Ceiba that the Episcopal church supports that we'd like to visit tomorrow. We helped 250+ people in El Pital these past 4 days.


Friday and Saturday

On Friday we visited the clinic that is run by the Episcopal Church in Le Ceiba and an Orphanage which Peter and Elisabeth have supported for many years. We also were given a tour of a new Rehabilitation Center in La Ceiba. (C.R.I.L.A.) It is apparently the only one in Honduras for physically and mentally handicapped people. The director of the project told us that rehabilitation of this kind is largely a new concept to Honduras.

We were able to relax on Saturday after a long (and hot!) week at work. We went to the Lodge at Pico Bonito for a hike and lunch. (Pico Bonito is a national park, with a protected rain forest.) Rick, Susan, & Chris hiked down to a pool and waterfall while Peter, Elisabeth, and I relaxed on the porch. The most notable sightings on the hike were 3 snakes, one of which was muy poisonous.” We had a wonderful lunch at the lodge, then drove over to see the Episcopal Jubilee clinic in El Porvenir, which was built with funds from an Episcopal Churchgrant. We stopped at a little cantina on the beach to watch the waves and some native fishermen braving the waves in little dugout canoes. On the way out of town we visited with a friend of Peter's & Elisabeth's who took in 6 or 7 kids when they were orphaned in Hurricane Mitch in 1998. He said most of the kids are on their own now. That's how it seems to be with the Hondurans they take in other people's children and raise them as their own when necessary. This man had a small shop and he seemed to be doing well.

The medical teams from Resurrection have made a difference over the years, and we saw evidence of it this year. A few years ago, a boy came to the clinic who had some sort of muscle weakness that rendered him unable to walk Poor nutrition played a part in his condition, so for several years the medical team and folks from Resurrection made sure this boy, nicknamed 'Rubber Boy' had vitamins, protein, and calcium. This year we saw him along the road near his house playing soccer with other kids and he was running Last year we saw a different boy who had something wrong with his muscles, whose older brother was confined to a wheelchair due to polio. This child was 2 years old and still not walking, and we were afraid he might have something like polio too. We talked to his mother about nutrition, vitamins, and exercises and this year he was walking and his leg muscles seemed stronger The woman we saw last year for infected C-Section sutures came in to be seen by the team, and her sutures look fine. Unfortunately, she has had some sad circumstances in the past year and still needs our prayers.

Many of the folks we saw in El Pital, Montevideo, and El Porvenir recognized Peter and Elisabeth and greeted them warmly. They really do know almost everyone in the area! We really were off the beaten path this year. Most of the places we visited (El Pital, Montevideo, CRILA's new site, Pico Bonito National Park, El Porvenir) were accessible primarily by incredibly rough dirt roads Marco was a great driver on the bumpy roads, but it must have been hard on his car's suspension I doubt these roads will ever be paved.