As promised, here are the patient totals from yesterday:
VIAA CRYO: 49
All together on day one we treated a total of 567 patients!
This morning we arrived to an even longer line as word had spread about the clinic! With some of the bottlenecks from the first day sorted out, the system moved efficiently. This is our last day in the town of San Francisco, as tomorrow we will be in a new clinic in a new location.
To highlight just how much of an impact this has, it is estimated that per every 10,000 Guatemalans, there are only about 9 physicians. The population of Guatemala is almost double that of the next largest central American country, Honduras. Also, the distribution of the physicians is very uneven so in some of the more remote areas of the country the numbers are even more dire. This is why many patients travel great distances to receive care. To compound this issue, more than half of Guatemala’s 16 million people live in poverty, on less than 2 USD per day. There are also many indigenous Mayan groups who speak different languages. Petén, the region where we are located, is home to many of these indigenous groups.
In the dermatology clinic, two women travelled for six hours from a village in northern Guatemala to receive treatment for many warts that were covering their bodies. These women only spoke their indigenous language, however thankfully an interpreter accompanied them to translate to Spanish. They said that many people in their town desired medical treatment, however there is no available public transportation, and the journey was too difficult for many. The women also were unsure of how long it would take them to return to their village, but they were very grateful for the care they received.
In triage, many people brought X-Rays and other medical papers in order to show in more detail the ailments that they possessed. I sat behind Caitlyn RN a first year volunteer who was recruited by Janet RN. She expertly fielded the questions and complaints of patients with an impressive balance of care and efficiency. She talked to a gentleman who had glass in his eye. This issue can quickly become much more severe and cause many more problems if medical care is not accessible. Thankfully Caitlyn directed him to the proper clinic so that this issue could be remedied.
We also witnessed several patients being carried in by their family members on their way to the mobility clinic to receive wheelchairs or whichever mobility device could help them the most effectively.
A new piece of equipment was assembled in the wheelchair clinic for Ethan, a young boy with Cerebral Palsy. He is two years old, and was introduced to a standing wheelchair. Ethan lays down while his legs and waist are strapped in. Then the chair is folded so that it leans slightly back, this is to prevent him from shifting his balance forward and causing the chair to fall. It is recommended that he start with a mere 15 minutes of “standing” a day so that he builds up strength. If this goes well, he can slowly increase to 30 minutes a day. There is an attachable table that he can use as he enjoys coloring with crayons. Another one of his hobbies is listening to music. Ethan stole the hearts of the team that was helping him. The wheelchair assembly team also specially crafted a headpiece for him out of pool floaties so that he would not strain his neck by moving it too much. This standing wheelchair will provide him with more independence and will allow for his mother to have her hands free when otherwise she would need to hold him and make sure his neck was supported.
At 1:30 we had a special delivery – Pharmacist Sylvia finally arrived with her famous yellow suitcase! And with a shiny new passport! She had to hop on a flight from Guatemala City to Flores, and claimed “the pilot needs more practice” as it was not exactly a smooth landing. We are so glad that she made it and has returned to her rightful place in the pharmacy.
In the gynecology clinic, Dr. Riggs and Pam RN, performed an ultrasound on an 18 year old who was three months pregnant. When the image of the baby appeared, the patient’s mother was overcome with emotion and began sobbing. She rested her head against Nurse Pam’s shoulder, who soon realized that the woman had passed out. Nurse Pam grabbed her shoulders and gently guided her to the floor, and turned the fan towards her. After several moments the woman woke up and once they had checked the woman's blood sugar, the gynecology team sent the mother and daughter on their way. The woman then returned apologizing, and explaining that she was just so excited for her first grandchild she could not contain it. Nurse Pam then showed her a picture of her first grandchild, saying she understood the joy all too well.
The final story of the day came from Dr. Phil Johnson. He told me about a woman who came into the wheelchair clinic with injuries from a fall and difficulty walking who was also HIV positive. He inquired how she was doing with this illness, and she explained that she is on medication and is taking one pill a day which she gets from a clinic in her town. She has been living with HIV for 25 years, and had actually been diagnosed in Houston when she was visiting her daughter who lives there. She received the diagnoses and medicine from a clinic she could not recall the name of, but described as a large brick building. Dr. Johnson then pulled out a photo of Thomas Street clinic, as he thought this was what she was describing. She confirmed that this was indeed the place. He told her that he has worked at the Thomas Street clinic every Tuesday for the past 30 years and that if he was not in Guatemala on this particular Tuesday he would be there. They bonded instantly, and it goes to show that we are all much more connected than it may first appear, and it is simply a matter of finding the things that connect us.
Tomorrow we will begin working in our new clinic, with 15 more minutes of sleep! The totals from today will also be available in tomorrow’s blog.