Organizer, educator, guide, translator, trouble-shooter, runner, ‘could you find…’, medicine dispenser, registration taker, infrastructure coordinator (telling community folks if we need chairs, tables, more rope, etc.), baby holder, ‘…could you get … ‘, latrine escort, child entertainer (aka chaos calmer), excel spreadsheet creator, copy maker, treasurer, payment provider, tub organizer, inventory taker, label maker, schlepper of goods, mama, other duties as needed …
I chose not to have a ‘permanent’ duty during the Medical Delegation. And it is a good thing.
What a blessed week. 14-dedicated people comprised this medical delegation. There were doctors, nurses and support staff. They were all incredible. All left behind their family and jobs. Not only did they give up their time and salary, they actually PAID their own way to participate in this mission endeavor.
Prior to our arrival in El Salvador, the Pastoral Team arranges and organizes all of our clinic visits. They meet with and discuss logistics with each community. They evaluate the ability of any given community to be active and organized participants in the work. They arrange our transportation, plan our meals (the communities also help with this effort!), help us create a budget, organize with the local doctors to purchase the medicines we need, invite health promotors, nurses and doctors to work side by side with us. And more. Basically, they provide for all of our needs so the delegation can focus on their work.
We cannot thank them enough. They are the base and link to any work that is done by any delegation or church partner. The medical delegation is unique and requires more than the normal work. May God bless them with good health, energy and the continued desire to work for the building of the Kingdom of God here on Earth.
Without these people, this delegation would not be possible.
The first day and a half of our medical delegations are always devoted to education. Understanding the distant and near past as well as the current realities of everyday life helps us have a better grasp of why the medical staff sees the ailments that are so prevalent. The good people of El Rescate very graciously shared about the realities of everyday life in a canton. We listened attentively in the morning and then after sharing a meal all together, we held a ‘mini-clinic’ for them in the afternoon. There were only 20 families in Rescate and we provided a consultation for every person who so desired.
After education comes our work. We held four clinics in four different cantons (villages). This year it was San Isidro, Corozal, San Felipe Arriba and Santa Crúz.
Prior to our clinic days, we have to prepare the pharmacy. We all sit around and fill little baggies labeled appropriately with instructions for us for each type of medicine. We bring over the counter goods which are way less expensive in the states. We purchase antibiotics and parasite medicines with the help of a local Berlín doctor.
The large ‘cattle truck’ arrives each morning and we load up the tubs and the personnel. We also bring the KIA in case a quick trip back to Berlín is required. Sometimes the KIA serves as an ambulance of sorts if someone is really ill and needs to be attended. This happened last year, but not this year.
Each community greeted us warmly. Each community had their leadership (the Directiva) at the ready to help us set up the doctor’s ‘offices’ as well as help keep things running smoothly throughout the day. They were always at the ready to make our job easier. Each community had organized themselves so that we had lists with the names of people wanting to have a medical consultation. Sadly, we do have to put a limit on the number of people we can realistically see in a day and the Directiva’s help in this is invaluable!
Without these people, this delegation would not be possible.
Our clinic days are hectic and non-stop. At least for the doctors. The registration people, the ‘vitals’ nurses, the lab, the pharmacy and the ‘patient coordinator’ (the one who makes sure everyone gets seen in order according to their registration number) sometimes has a little down time because our doctors provide loving and careful consultations that takes time. For the most part, our day flows like a well-ordered machine. Mike is incredibly organized and helps keep the flow of patients moving. Yes, people have to wait, but everyone knows they will be seen in order. No one will be forgotten!
These are the issues that people suffer:
Kidney failure (even people as young as 25), respiratory issues, skin and other infections, cold/flu, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart issues, eye problems (cataracts, sun related issues) and general aches and pains.
Random things we have encountered: Multiple Sclerosis, Cerebral Palsy, Dwarfism, deafness due to foreign objects (insects) in the ear, un-attended broken knee-cap due to a fall. I’m sure there is more.
We cannot solve everyone’s health needs. This breaks our hearts, but that is the reality.
We always leave any left-over delegation funds with the Pastoral Team for anyone who comes to the Pastoral House as a result of our clinics: for people who need a special exam, transportation to a hospital for those exams or medicines.
Everyone goes home with a bag with toothbrushes, toothpaste and whatever medicine the patient needs: acetaminophen, ibuprofen, antibiotics, vitamins, anti-parasite medicines, antacids, anti-fungal creams or hydro-cortisone creams.
People are grateful. Even though we often are only able to provide a ‘band-aid’ to the chronic issues people have.
But I am fortunate that I hear (and understand) what people say. One woman – maybe 65-70 years old – called me over to say: “In all my years, this is the FIRST time a doctor has ever touched me.”
We give our medical services. This is a vital service in a country where access to health care is minimal at best. We know we cannot solve all of this country’s medical needs: health care here is understaffed, over-worked and under-funded. But we do what we can. We also share our love. Our concern. We make eye contact. We ask questions. We listen. We touch.
We do what we can. Sometimes we change lives.
And God willing, we will return next year.
Daniel is a young boy from El Jicaro. The OSP Medical Delegation held a clinic in this community in 2016. Mark was his attending physician.
Daniel is lacking in growth hormone. He is 10. When standing side by side with a 3-year-old, he is the shorter of the two.
To grow to a reasonably normal height, Daniel needs to be injected every night with growth hormones for a year. This costs nearly $200 per 37 days-worth of medicine. They are a poor family and there is no way they could afford this medicine. They had solicited City Hall, a variety of NGOs and the national government. No one could help. Imagine how you would feel as a parent. Imagine what this boy’s life would be like.
The family met Mark during last year’s OSP Medical Delegation visit. Mark was so moved by this young man that he went home and tried to raise funds for the medicine. And he succeeded!
THIS year, Mark was surprised by a visit from Daniel and his dad. Mark was able to tell this family that the funds are now available for his growth hormone. Within a week, the medicine was purchased and the injections have begun!
The look of hope and joy on the faces of both Daniel and his father were priceless. The look of joy on Mark’s face was priceless. Thanks to the OSP Medical Delegation, and specifically, Mark, this little boy has a brighter future. A future where he will be able to live normally, without teasing, without stigma. He can be a kid!
This is one story.
We have many.
YOU can be a part of this story, too.
Please consider a donation to the Our Sister Parish (OSP) Medical Delegation or make a donation to the general Our Sister Parish (OSP) Undesignated Account. This will help keep us going.
Lovingly submitted by