A good day. Travel, getting to know one another and good old hard work. Bright and early, 6 am, we board our trusty bus and negotiate the narrow, pot-hole filled, often cliff-hanging 2 lane road for just under 7 hours before arriving safely at the national hospital in Uspantan. The hospital appears to. have been built in the 70’s complete with an x-ray machine from the 60’s and although it is quite large, it is largely unoccupied. It is, however, clean and well kept and we are welcomed by a staff that is very excited to have us and our long-awaited mobility clinic.
After a box lunch and a brief stretch of our legs everyone participated in the offloading of the unassembled, boxed wheelchairs from the 18-wheel transport truck. The chairs (177 of them) have been donated to Faith In Practice and Providence by Free Wheelchair Mission of Orange County CA and come in cardboard boxes, each weighing about 55 pounds. Despite this each man and woman of the team rolls up their sleeves and carries the chairs the 250+ feet to its storage area. Next come the walkers, crutches and canes. The team then sets up for tomorrow’s clinic for triage (receiving and registering patients), physician exam, PT assessment and fitting and wheelchair assembly. Smiles are pervasive and good-natured joking can be heard as we put to use the ‘many hands make short work’ theme. Fortunately, the area we are provided is quite spacious and the patients will be happy to follow an organized process. The team grows more comfortable with each other by the hour and it is clear each is out to support the other with today’s challenges and truly begin to work as a ‘team’. It’s clear also that each has great expertise and gradually offer and take advice until a sound plan for their portion of the patient’s care is established. Flexibility is the watchword of the day as we try and make bare 20 foot by 20 foot spaces into the physician exam area and the PTs assessment and fitting area by begging and borrowing tables and stretchers from other areas of the hospital so as to be able to examine and prepare patients for their mobility devices.
We go back to the hotel and share a delicious meal with the Medical Teams International team who are here building latrines in the villages. We think we are ready. With God’s blessing we will open the clinic doors at 8 am in the morning and ‘Ease the Way’ of those who have travelled so far and with such difficulty for our care.
By Joseph Austin