Monday, September 26, 2011

Does it really matter?

Gosh, it has been a long time since I have blogged.  I hope I can start up again.  I have so much swirling in my head.  First, an explanation of the long gap.  I was in the US for almost a month - attending a class for my new missionary sending agency, SAMS; visiting my father (he's doing well!); spending Labor Day with Billy and Hunter in Chicago where H is finishing up his prosthetics program at Northwestern Medical School and, of course, visiting Wheeler, St. David's and all my friends in Roswell.  I got back to HN in time to prep for a medical brigade and then join them in their work.  They left yesterday and I miss them already!

Pastor Felix was the first patient of the day!
An optometrist was great to have!
The medical team was from Alabama - a great team.  2 doctors, 2 nurses, an optometrist, and 3 support team members.   Alex Ferrand, an intern, joined the group too.  We spent two days holding clinics at Colonia Emanuel and two days in an area called the 19th of September at Pastor Felix's church.  (side note: No one seems to know why the area is called that since 9/19 is not a significant day in HN history!)  I have a new word to submit to Oxford English Dictionary:  exhilarausting.  Exhilarausting is when you are so tired your hair hurts but your heart is about to burst from joy.  This brigade was definitely exhilarausting!

"Waiting room" at Col. Emanuel
Waiting room at Pastor Felix's church
So, early on the first day at Col. Emanuel, one of the team members asked me if I thought the clinic meant as much to the people of the village as it meant to the team.  That question got me thinking, "Does all this really matter?"    After all, putting together any mission team takes enormous amounts of energy, time,  money, and personal sacrifice.  Add to that the money (approx. $6000) for the 20 trunks of medication and medical supplies and you have a significant commitment.  Is it really worth it?  Let's ask (by way of reflection and experience) what the Hondurans think about this.

Pastor Felix was the first patient of the day!
Keehn started their experience off at intake as he took their blood pressure and welcomed them to the clinic with a smile, a kind word, and a calm, comforting demeanor.  Many of the people were frightened, unsure of what to expect, and ill.  I could see the relief come over their faces as they realized they were in good hands.

There was the 13 yr. old girl in Col. Emanuel.  Her mother told the nurse that the girl doesn't go to school because she is retarded.  
Adelaide, the nurse, wasn't so sure about that and referred her to Jill.  Jill, the optometrist, examined the girl's eyes and discovered she is almost blind from cataracts.  She isn't retarded, she just can't see!   The team is committed to getting her the surgery she needs to restore her eyesight - either by raising money for surgery in Honduras or by bringing her to the US for surgery. 

Speaking of cataracts, Jill left 1000 lempira (~$50) to give to an elderly man so he and a companion could travel to a nearby city, Siguatepeque, to get his cataracts removed for free!  He hadn't been able to because he didn't have money for transportation.  Now he does.

Dr. Bill and his interpreter, Karina, comforted and prayed with a young woman after Bill dressed a gunshot wound.  Just  a few days before, the girl and her boyfriend had been walking down a street when a group of gang members came up to them.  The boyfriend shouted at her to RUN!  She did and was shot in the back of her thigh while her boyfriend was shot to death.  Her attitude when she first sat down with Bill and Karina was diffident, not traumatized as you would expect.  After several minutes of tender, loving medical care, Karina's compassion as she translated and asked for more information, Bill's calm and sure medical treatment, and finally the question, "Can we pray for you?" the girl broke down.  Her hard shell crumbled and the frightened and heartbroken child was revealed.  The wound on her leg was treated but, more importantly, so was the wound in her heart.

Glenda, a nurse and a priest, spent a very long time with a young mother and her 2 very sick babies.  The 3 month old had a fever of 103.7 and the 2 yr. old a fever of 102.5.  They had been sick for two weeks!  The young mother was frazzled, sick herself, and at a loss.  Glenda dosed both children right then and there with tylenol and antibiotics and then kept them there, gently speaking with the mother about how to care for her children, until the meds kicked in.  The two babies who were so pitiful coming into the clinic had already perked up as they left and their mother had a look of hope and new found confidence on her face!

Dr. Tony, a Puerto Rican with deep experience in just about everything, saw a patient who had been in the hospital.  She had a prescription for very important medication but no money.  "Amanda," he called, "give her what she needs to buy the medicine" as he handed me his wallet.  "Whatever she needs!" turned out to be 200 Lempira (approx. $10) -- not much for any of us, life changing for the woman.  Tony also had an older man, a deaf mute, no teeth with out of control diabetes.  Tony counseled the man to eat 3 balanced meals a day.  The man communicated with grunts and hand signals that he had coffee and bread for breakfast, no money for lunch, and whatever he could find for dinner (a tortilla, some rice, beans...)  What can be done in that situation?   In addition to the 2 or 3 months supply of diabetes meds, Tony loved him.  Tony prayed with him and the man left knowing that he is a valued child of God loved by his Savior and us.  Lasting treatment.

Seana, Rhonda, Alex and I worked the pharmacy.  When we weren't busy, we would hold crying babies, pass out stickers to the waiting patients, make balloons out of the gloves, or chat with the patients.  Time after time, someone would hand us the yellow card, the patient's "chart", to get the prescribed meds.  We would take the card from an exhausted, very ill, overwhelmed person.  As we explained what each med was and how to use it, the patient looked at us with a glazed expression, nodding, sometimes repeating instructions until we got to the final prescription:  "Y, todos los dias..." (and, every day) "bendiciones!"  (blessings!)  The solemn, weary face suddenly lit up, a big,often toothless smile, and we received a hearty "Amen!" and "Igual!" (you too!) in return
Rhonda and her helper
Seana and her new friend!

There was the woman in Col. Emanuel, who had just had abdominal surgery, helped up the steep hill by her friends to see the doctor - an enormous and painful effort.  Or the patients who came back either later in the afternoon or the next day because the doctor or nurse wanted to follow up on a very sick patient.  This was no assembly line clinic... no, it was real compassionate, medical treatment with doctors and nurses consulting on difficult cases, using ipads to look up correct dosages or unusual symptoms, crafting creative and effective treatments with the meds at hand while accommodating the realities of the patient's world. In 4 days, we saw 800 patients! 

Keehn and Fredisman at intake
Adelaide and Isabella translating
It wasn't just the US team providing comfort and help.  We had Honduran translators, 2 former LAMB staff members working intake with Keehn, and countless local volunteers from the village and the church.  We coalesced as a team immediately despite language differences.
There was a tremendous amount of mutual respect and the bond that comes from a shared vision and, of course, love for the Risen Lord.  

So, what do you think?  Was it worth it?  Did all the work, time, money, energy really matter?  It surely did for me... As for the Hondurans?  In their words, "Amen!"

Prayers at the opening of the day
Pastor Julio preaching to the waiting patients in Col. Emanuel
Prayers after treatment
Franklin, from HN, gathers intake information
Dilcia, from HN, conducts an eye test for Jill
Jorge (17) translates for Glenda
A family waits to be seen
All dressed up to see the doctor
Beautiful with her new glasses!
Main Street in Col. Emanuel
Church at Col. Emanuel
Street in Col. 19 de Septiembre