Today our team spent our first day seeing patients in the town of San Sebastián de Beljou. We arrived at a local school where we then set up our make shift clinics, using things like desks for exam tables and drapes on ropes tied to the walls for curtains. We also met with our local Guatemalan volunteers who help translate from Spanish to Bokom Chi (the local native language) and also help patients navigate the different rooms around the clinic (doctors, dental, lab, pharmacy, etc).
Many of the complaints that we saw were general full body aches and pains. The Guatemalan people perform a lot of physical labor and often work out in the fields so they therefore have pain in their shoulders, knees, back, etc. Another common concern is chronic stomach pain and diarrhea. Most patients receive a de-worming medicine if possible and we try to give out as many multivitamins as we can to help alleviate malnutrition.
Tonight at dinner one of our pediatricians, Laurie, shared a story about a school aged girl that she saw with the complaint of headaches and stomach pain. Laurie explained how her heart always sinks a little when she sees these complaints because she know they are likely due to a bigger problem of poverty and malnutrition that we can’t fix. But as the girl was walking, Laurie noticed a gait and ultimately diagnosed her with a leg length discrepancy. While she was currently able to compensate for it, it is something that would likely lead to life long hip/back pain. Laurie was therefore able to refer the patient to orthopedics where she will possibly get surgery or at least orthotics. Her story was a beautiful example of how to not just look at the problem directly in front of you but to be sure to look around and take in the person and the country of Guatemala as a whole.