~~The last day is supposed to be the easiest and the shortest. We have to repack all the supplies that didn’t get used into their large black totes; put all the tables, chairs, stretchers that we borrowed from the hospital back in their places and generally leave the clinic as clean and ship-shape as we found it all while we chat leisurely with our fellow teammates and all the Guatemalan volunteers whom we have come to know and love for all their hard work and friendship throughout the week.
Things went differently. Instead of the 20-25 patients we had expected 53 came and were cared for. One group came in a small ‘chicken bus’ from a village 4 hours away. Every one of the first 8 patients of that group had to be carried into the exam room seated on their plastic chairs by two strong relatives because they could not stand, let alone walk. Their illnesses varied form debilitating strokes, incapacitating hip and knee arthritis and amputees from either trauma or the complications of diabetes (which is so difficult to control here as patients can’t afford the medication nor can their manage their diets by restricting carbohydrates since that is all they have to eat). Many suffer from complications related to birth trauma since almost all are born at home and without properly trained midwifes (a problem FIP is working to rectify by training over 700 Guatemalan midwives).
Once again the team ‘toed the line’. BJ, Judy and Byron did yoeman’s work having to assemble 38 chairs for our patients plus another 10 for the local fire departments. For the 3rd day in a row the team bulled through the morning without breaks, sat down for just enough time to eat lunch and right back to work until almost dusk. Always, in the back of their minds was the difficulty these patients had endured to get to our clinic with almost all arriving before 8 a.m.. and waiting patiently until they could be helped, often not until after 3 or 4 p.m.
Finally the last patient was seen, the clinic cleaned and the truck reloaded with the remaining supplies. This proved much easier than unloading since of the 172 initial wheelchairs, only 32 remained. Whereas regular mobility clinics will distribute 80 or 90 chairs this pilot clinic had provided 140 wheelchairs to the Guatemalans of this region (as well as dozens of walkers, canes and crutches).
Our merry band met just outside the hospital entrance and joined hands in the traditional closing of a Providence/Faith In Practice mission. Deep breaths were taken and a prayer was offered up to God for His protection and guidance throughout the week. Each of us knows we have put forth our best effort to do as He asked; ‘Ease the Way’ of each Guatemalan who came seeking our help.