Our second clinic day in El Chal, Petén!

Posted on: 01/29/2019

An enterprising street vendor sells breakfast to people waiting for the clinic to open. An elderly woman sits on a stool in line, waiting patiently. Ana explains cancer screening and breast self-examination to a group of women. Flory demonstrates the cryo surgery instrument. Friendly brother and sister wait for mom outside the gynecology clinic. Lori tests blood for anemia in the lab. Andrew takes a sonogram of a woman's neck. Jessica sets up surgery referrals. Carlos deals with difficult dental extractions. Time to begin loading the truck for our clinic in a new village. Josh receives a thumbprint signature from a new wheelchair recipient. Dr. Dick cajoles a laugh from a reticent patient. Red hat teenage helpers line up for their traditional blood pressure-taking ritual. Elderly man finally gets his new wheelchair at the end of the day!

Today our devotion was led by Dr. “G.I.” Jim.  He asked us all to say the Lord’s Prayer together and then focused in on the part, “Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done.”  Not putting oneself first, but instead helping others first is what this part of the prayer is about.  This is what we’re out to do every day here in Guatemala: build God's Kingdom.

We had breakfast and took off at 6:40 a.m., driving through a landscape of unusually undulating hills.

Today there was another line stretching down the block and around the corner.  An older lady was seated on a plastic stool to save her strength as she waited for the doors to open.  A street vendor was stationed near the doors to the school. There seem to be more people today than yesterday. It will be a miracle if we are able to close up shop today at 3:30, necessary because we need to pack up for moving the clinic to our second location.

Once let into the gate, people lined up behind tables staffed by “red hats” – high school students volunteering to help in any way needed. These young people were starting the triage process by putting the name of each person on a yellow form. When each person got to the front of the line, he/she received deworming liquid medicine called bendizol and women of child-bearing age received vitamins.

I decided to start out the day by visiting the parts of the clinic that I wasn’t able to visit yesterday.  I started by visiting cryo and gynecology areas.  Very soon after the doors were opened, I noticed that a group of women and their accompanying children were being led straight from the entry gate to the Cryo/Gynecology Clinic where they sat outside in a classroom group of chairs to receive education about female cancers.  A flyer named “Conocerte es Quererte” – “to know yourself is to care for yourself” was passed out and a trio of three Guatemalan Faith In Practice women – Leslie, Ana, and Flory - gave an apparently enjoyable presentation on these topics because there was a lot of laughter!  Following the presentation, Ana and Flory started seeing women for pelvic exams. The Cryo and Gynecology Clinics also have the capacity do cryo surgery, give vitamins and medication for pain, refer women for sonograms if the pelvic exam shows potential problems, deal with prenatal issues, and test for pregnancy.  This is a very busy place!

Next, I visited the “Laboratorio” where Lori was doing blood tests for hemoglobin count, urine tests for protein, sugar, pregnancy, and ketones.  Andrew was doing sonogram referrals from other departments.  A man with a growth on his knee and a woman with a neck mass were scanned with a laptop computer-based sonogram program while I was there.  The woman had many enlarged lymph glands on one side of her neck and extending down to her chest.  She will need to be referred for a biopsy.

My next stop was “Referencia” where Jessica inputs data and codes for needed surgical procedures and refers patients to an institution in Antigua that can perform the surgery.  A local Faith In Practice person will accompany the patient to Antigua, where he or she will stay at Casa de Fe before and after the surgery. This is an amazing process for continuity of care from the hinterland to the urban center and back home again!

Meanwhile, men, women, and children continued to be seen in all the other areas of the clinic. One girl seen in the wheelchair clinic was born with an extra partial leg and foot attached to one of her legs. She is a really pretty girl and looks normal in a long skirt. Her mother is hoping she can have the extra leg parts amputated and be fitted with a prosthesis to enable her to walk. Her daughter is eight years old. 

Deb (DPT) told me about an inspiring experience that happened in the Wheelchair Clinic today.  A 12-15 year old boy came in with a cast from his foot to his knee.  He was experiencing lots of pain and swelling inside the cast.  She and the other FIP staff removed the cast and used a file to manually file the cast to fit the foot better and also to make the edges smoother so they wouldn’t irritate the foot.  The tool that they had was a small metal file that seemed more like a nail file.  This filing of the cast took a long time as staff had to continue to move others through the clinic at the same time.  The patient was there for hours!  While the cast was off, they asked him to clean his leg to remove the built-up flaking skin.  The difference in the look of the skin was miraculous! The staff also put some compression hose on his leg to decrease swelling and increase circulation.  Relief spread across his face!  Eventually, the redesigned cast was put back on his leg.  The staff educated him about how to tell when he is getting  nerve compression by analyzing toe movement, pain, and skin sensation.  Finally, he was issued crutches.  At the end of the extensive care he received from the staff, he was so excited and grateful and asked his mom to take a picture of him with the group of staff who had cared for him! 

Packing up equipment started at about 2:30, but there remained a crowd of people to be seen and at least three new wheelchairs to be built and fitted.  I think we’ll be leaving later than 3:30!  This is quite an operation!  Everyone just keeps on smiling, seeing patients, and building the Kingdom of God, hour after hour.  Amazing!