Mission Guatemala: Day 4- Open up and say AHHH!

On the fourth morning of our health care mission, as the team assembled for breakfast, we thought back to last night when a plaque was presented to our group honoring the connection and interaction with Vivamos Mejor. In the presentation speech, Dr Carlos Flores from Vivamos Mejor, stressed that many non-profit groups contribute to the cause, but it is The Penicillin Girl Project that works so closely together to make the lives and healthcare of the people a true priority.  This made us feel proud that, even though we are a small organization, we do have a major impact on the lives of those we treat.

And so we all began the last day of the mission in uniform, helping each other set up our appropriate stations. Health care screenings are being completed by volunteers and medical students from Guatemala. Prevention of disease is being stressed and fluoride varnish is being applied by the medical students to all children and adults screened as a preventive measure.  In just 4 days, we have accomplished hundreds of preventive and emergency treatments including sealants, restorations and prophylactic cleanings, and extractions. Since this health care mission is possible only once a year for our humble organization, teaching the people how vital oral care is to the body became a priority for us. Education and prevention was stressed as we began to understand the lack of access to medical care the 9 communities of Santa Catarina have.

For some of us, this started as a health care mission where we could gain experience in the field of our profession and doing good service. As the days passed, this journey quickly became a voyage of discovery to that would change each one of us in a different way. The mission trip was an eye opening experience that made us realize that many things we take for granted in the United States is a luxury for the people of Guatemala.

Every mission trip has an unexpected factor. We never would have expected to be so emotionally involved. As we began to treat the beautiful and appreciative people of the 9 communities, we felt empathy, gratification, sadness, and even love. Marcel Proust has a famous line: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” As this journey came to its conclusion, we can say that we not only depart with a new vision of our goal to give back to people in need, but we do so with a new heart.

 

 

 

 

 

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Mission Guatemala: Day 3- Looking through the eyes of the world

11/19/14

“Me disculpe! Espera alli por favor!”

The entrance at the Optometrist’s office was crowded with forlorn
faces, waiting to be examined. The prospective patients were jockeying
for position but I kept asking them to wait in a straight line along
the wall. I was trying to create order since entering and leaving the
room was difficult.

My feet ached. Oddly, I did not feel this badly when I completed a
marathon last year.

Until a few days ago, I was a medical mission virgin. While foreign
travel was not new, I was apprehensive about my role in this trip. I
was the only non-healthcare professional of the group. I did not want
to be a liability and hear everyone ask “Who brought this idiot?”

I was determined to be helpful.

My job as a photographer was well defined. I would be a fly on the
wall and surreptitiously document the activities amongst the different
disciplines: Medical, Pediatrics, Pharmacy, Dental, and Optometry. On
the first day, I lurked around the different clinics and snapped away.
It was exciting to witness patient interactions and even the
horrifying dental extractions. I was always busy capturing candid
moments, but when the Optometrist arrived, I had more work to do.

Marleny and I greeted each other, and we were ready to get started.
The Optometrist spoke little English. My Spanish language abilities
were proficient decades ago in high school. I suspected this would be
a great plot for a made for television movie, but we were able to
communicate quickly. We organized the prescription glasses, bifocals
and sunglasses in order of lens specifications. Unfortunately we did
not have enough space on the table for all of the inventory, so there
were a few unsorted bags lying around.

Marleny was indefatigable. She saw consecutive patients without
breaks, with exception to lunch, yet demonstrated empathy for every
patient and smiled often. After each consultation I searched for the
closest prescription to offer the patient. She was vigilant with the
glasses we handed out. While these products were donated, she
maintained a high standard. If we did not find a suitable fit, then we
apologized and sent the patient away empty handed. I respected that
but my job was far from glamorous. I immediately realized what early
stage librarians experienced before the advent of the catalog. Alas, I
dared not to complain since my other colleagues were working
tirelessly as well.

Over two days Optometry saw 100 patients. While I was proud of what
was accomplished today, I hope that we can help many more tomorrow.

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2014 Mission Guatemala Day 2- Perspectiva en Español

Experiencia vivida Guatemala 2014:

Quisiera empezar diciéndoles que todo en esta vida pasa por algún motivo….Dios sabe como guiarnos. Una noche estaba tranquila teniendo todos mis planes bien definidos cuando de pronto mis planes cambiaron de la noche a la mañana, se me dio la oportunidad de poder unirme a este grupo hermoso de gran calidad humana, que agradezco infinitamente a Dios que haya puesto en mi camino esta Misión.

Primer día: Expectante

Llegamos a esta ciudad tan alejada de la capital en donde vimos niños, adultos, ancianos, jóvenes que estaban observándonos sorprendidos de nuestra llegada. Nos recibieron con unas palabras el Alcalde de la Comunidad y empezamos a trabajar. Todos en equipo trabajando organizándonos en cada ambiente destinado para las atenciones de medicina general, pediatría, oftalmología, farmacia y dental.

El único inconveniente era que hablaban Quiche, pero gracias a tan buena organización, contamos con la participación de varios traductores, que algunos hablaban inglés, español y Quiche.

El primer día estuve atendiendo en Medicina General, me dio tanta pena ver que la mayoría de personas que atendí estaban totalmente descuidadas. Adolescentes y mujeres adultas que llegaban por un simple dolor de cabeza y luego resultaron que estaban embarazadas y ellas no estaban enteradas de que dentro de su vientre llevaban a un ser que iba creciendo poco a poco. Habían también gestantes que sí sabían que estaban embarazadas pero que lamentablemente no tenían controles regulares. Muchos adultos con problemas musculares. Se ve de todo y en realidad te das cuenta que necesitan mucha ayuda. En esta ciudad, hay un puesto de salud que no está operativo porque no han contratado personal de Salud, ya que según lo que muchas personas comentaron, La salud a nivel general en Guatemala está pasando por una crisis económica ya que no se está remunerando al personal y no invierten como debe de ser en la Salud y priorizan en otros ámbitos, caso típico que no solo enfrenta Guatemala sino muchos países.

Segundo día: Atención en Pediatría

El segundo día me tocó atender a la Población más vulnerable, los niños,  observaba como es que una Señora pasaba al consultorio con sus hijos y no eran dos o tres, sino que eran 6 o 7 por cada madre que pasaba al consultorio. La mayoría de niños están desnutridos pero dentro de todo no vi muchas infecciones respiratorias, gastrointestinales, lo que más observe fueron enfermedades dermatológicas. Todo niño que pasaba al consultorio me miraba con una carita de felicidad inexplicable, tenían una mirada fija hacia mi persona pero también hacia una maleta que estaba atrás mío, y es que en esa maleta resaltaban muchos colores y era como si ellos hubieran encontrado un tesoro….eran los regalos, todo niño ilusionado por recibir un regalo. Me dio mucho gusto de que aparte de poder ayudarles en la parte de la salud pude observar estos pequeños momentos de felicidad de los niños. Es indescriptible

Al terminar la jornada del segundo día, La comunidad como muestra de agradecimiento hacia nosotros prepararon unos Bailes típicos y veías que tú paciente que atendiste hace un rato, estaba bailando Feliz tratando de que todos nosotros pasemos un buen momento con ellos. Fueron como cinco bailes típicos, todo muy organizado.

Hasta ahorita con todo lo vivido en estos dos días puedo decir que fue obra de Dios traerme y ser partícipe de esta gran obra que te hace sentir que esta ayuda que das es un granito de arena pero poco a poco se logra mucho. Espero que en otras oportunidades pueda apoyar. ¡Una experiencia inolvidable!

 

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2014 Mission Guatemala: Day One- a glimpse at the Pharmacy

The 2014 Mission is underway

Day One-Everyone arrived safely in Guatemala on Sunday November 16. The following day, they made their way to the site of the mission.

Day 1 Guatemala

Pharmacy Team’s Perspective: PharmD Candidates

We arrived in Guatemala not knowing what to expect. There are 15 of us in total, made up of physicians, physician assistants, dentists, pharmacists and us, pharmacy students. We were the only ones who were inexperienced in that everyone else had been working in their field for at least a year.

In preparation for this mission, our GPG group raised over $6,000 in donation and approximately $3,000 in medications. Unfortunately, we quickly realized that although we had medication to treat chronic disease states, it was not possible to treat patients long term because we would only be here for one week and these medications require follow up and careful administration. We then changed our thought process to try and treat the patients acutely in the best way we could with what we have.

We started the day by gathering all of our bags filled with medicine and supplies and started to organize what became our “pharmacy”. Coming into this mission trip we didn’t expect to have a lot to work with and we knew we wouldn’t be provided with all that was available in America. We had a plan before arriving, and thought we would have to be working off of one table and boxes and knew we would have to adapt to what was provided for us once getting to the site. Our pharmacy is currently made up of a table, book shelf and a metal shelving unit that was made by the community once we arrived, which is more than what we expected.

The patients started flooding in and everyone was delegated a task. It was amazing to see all of the different professions working together, and sometimes not even in their field, to achieve the best patient care possible. It really showed that even though everyone has their own specialty, we all have the same goal, and that was to help and heal our patients.

Our pharmacy was the patient’s last stop. We gathered their patient intake form and filled their prescriptions. Counseling them was the hardest part. We are familiar communicating with patients in America, but here there was a very obvious language barrier. The most helpful person in our pharmacy was our translator. She enabled us to effectively communicate important counseling points and directions for our patients to ensure they were going to use their medications correctly and would not have been able to achieve our goals without her.

As pharmacy students, being able to have this experience is life changing and really brings what we have learned in the classroom to real life. We all came on this trip to be selfless. We see the struggles in our own country’s healthcare system, but knowing an underdeveloped country like Guatemala has the same struggles without sustainable means to improve their healthcare system, we obviously felt compelled to help. Today was a very successful day and we look forward to helping even more patients in the days to come.


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