When we arrived in the cool, crisp air of Totonicapán this morning, 200-300 patients and family were already waiting in a line that stretched 500’ down the street. Over 95% of the people in this area of Guatemala are indigenous and reflect their Mayan heritage. Most of the women were dressed in their traditional colorful and intricately embroidered dresses. Their long hair is pulled back and sometimes reaches to the lower back. Many have a folded blanket balanced on top of their head. The street outside the school was a beehive of activity as they eagerly awaited the gate to open.
Once inside, everyone is given medicine to prevent intestinal parasites and the triage process begins. Most of the older patients speak only K’iche’ so often they are accompanied by a younger family member that can speak Spanish. After assessing their symptoms, the triage doctors and nurses direct them to the appropriate clinical area. Some need to go to multiple areas.
Guatemalan children are often given sweets to suck on and as a result badly decayed teeth are very common. Sometimes this decay can result in symptoms that can be mistaken for other issues. Yohanna, a 6-year-old girl, is a case in point. She came to the clinic having suffered from fevers and seizures for four years. She was being treated for epilepsy without success. The Pediatric team suspected that this might actually be dental related, so Brad Moss pulled four extremely rotten teeth. As Polly Moss said, “If this is indeed the problem, this will be a life-altering treatment for her.”
In the Mobility Clinic, 90-year-old Inocenta has not walked for three years. Her family must carry her in a chair wherever she goes. Physical therapist, Anneliese Lewis, fitted her with a wheelchair that will benefit both Inocenta and her entire family. Inocenta’s son and daughter-in-law could not stop smiling when they saw her in the new wheelchair.
By mid-afternoon, most of the clinics had begun to empty out. In looking back over the day, it was a great start with many good stories of loving on our Guatemalan neighbors. Tomorrow we go back and do it all over again!