Take a look at the newsletter put together by the 2015 Pharmacy students who attended the mission in Guatemala.
We cannot believe it is our final day in this amazing place! We came here with little expectations, but the trip has been life changing. Despite the difficult living conditions of the indigenous communities, the people of Santa Caterina have shown us great kindness and consideration. It was an honor to convey oral health knowledge and to interact with fourteen indigenous communities of Guatemala.
Just like previous years, we had two rooms set up at the clinic site. One room was primarily for adults, performing only extractions and surgical procedures. The other room provided restorative and hygiene treatment as well as pediatric dentistry. We had to rely on our limited resources rather than the high tech equipment we are accustomed to. Garbage bags were used as cuspidors, plastic lawn chairs served as dental chairs, and gauze was used in lieu of suction. The providers would have to contort their bodies in ergonomically frightful positions to give proper treatment.
With the nearest oral provider being 45-60 kilometers away, many of these communities have never seen a dentist. Many people do not own a toothbrush, let alone know how to use one. Despite the heavy language and cultural barriers, these communities were so desperate for care that they traveled hours to be seen and put complete trust in our hands. Unlike in the U.S., our patients were not concerned with esthetic procedures or minute details; they simply wanted to alleviate pain so they could go on with their daily lives. Overall, this was a very humbling experience. We have met incredible people and were able to contribute to the overall goal of this mission. While it was difficult to adapt at first, our leaders were extremely effective in assembling us into a cohesive team. We treated over five hundred patients within the short time here, even with our limited resources. This speaks to the support we have received from the local leaders and well as our teamwork, with everyone willing to do whatever that is necessary.
We’d like to thank many people without which our journey would not be possible. We would like to thank the Global Penicillin Girl Project and Vivamos Mejor for organizing this mission and helping things run smoothly. We would like to thank Drs. Pfail, Pantaleo, and Hyacinthe for their unwavering guidance and support. Lastly, we are eternally grateful to the leaders of the fourteen indigenous communities that we served. Their hard work, passion, and open heartedness did not go unnoticed.
Hace meses se nos planteaba la opción de un viaje a Guatemala con objetivo de provisión sanitaria básica así como educación en la misma. Con muchas preguntas por delante, finalmente decidimos acudir como cooperantes, y hoy es gratificante para nosotras, dos residentes de Oncología (Dra. María Galán Gramaje y Dra. María Iglesias González) y una farmacéutica (Mar Irles López), formar parte de esta maravillosa experiencia con este inmejorable equipo.
Cuando llegamos a Antigua-Santa Catarina-Ixtahuacan, el centro de trabajo estaba completamente vacío y en tan solo unas horas se transformaba en una posta sanitaria en toda regla: equipo de admisión, triaje, consulta médica, pediátrica, optometría, odontología, exploración mamaria y farmacia.
Hoy, 3er día de esta misión, seguimos atendiendo pacientes sin apenas descanso (hoy hemos llegado a 700!) pues somos conscientes de la dificultad de acceso a personal sanitario durante el resto del año. Para poder llegar al hospital más próximo necesitan como mínimo, una hora de coche (del que muchos no disponen y realizan la distancia a pie).
Las quejas más frecuentes son infecciones, dolor de espalda, dolor abdominal,…( este último consecuencia, en la mayoría de los casos, de la brutal desnutrición: más del 72% de esta población sufre de desnutrición crónica). Y como no, taller de detección precoz de cáncer de mama, en las que enseñamos a las mujeres a autoexplorarse mensualmente y signos de alarma.
Una vez valorados los pacientes, el equipo de farmacéuticas se pone en marcha para cuanto antes poder dispensar los medicamentos traídos desde EEUU y, tan importante como eso, dar consejo farmacéutico a todos los pacientes.
En cuanto a este último punto, atendemos a personas a las que explicamos desde cómo utilizar un cepillo de dientes o un inhalador, hasta como tomar multivitaminas. La cara de satisfacción de cada uno de ellos al recibir este servicio es indescriptible.
Sentimos que como sanitarias estamos aportando nuestro granito de arena para que estos pueblos, de los más pobres de Guatemala, reciban educación y atención sanitaria básica. Falta que perciban y reivindiquen este servicio como un derecho fundamental para ellos. Hay aún un largo camino por recorrer.
Las tres Marías.
Our Family Medicine team was eager to start the second day of the mission after a busy, but meaningful first day seeing more than 200 patients total as a group. Dr. Rojas worked seeing pediatric patients while Dr. Figuracion, Dr. Kissane and Dr. Lewis worked seeing adults for general medicine.
We felt apprehension and excitement as this was our first medical mission abroad. We didn’t know what to expect. It was such a striking moment when our team gathered in front of the clinic and spoke to the crowd that waited outside on the first day we arrived. People came from far away places just to be seen by us. It was humbling. Our general medicine room only consisted of three small tables with chairs and two exam tables, but our enthusiasm and teamwork helped transform it into a very efficient medical unit.
The majority of the patients speak Kiche, which is a Mayan dialect that they use in Solola. For those of us who did not know much Spanish this was particularly challenging, as most of the interpreters available only spoke Spanish and Kiche. This pushed us to fully immerse ourselves and improve our Spanish speaking skills quickly.
By our second day, we were finally getting the hang of seeing patients, providing appropriate care to those in need and educating the population.
As we progressed in our ability seeing patients we began to better understand the struggles of the locals. Most patients were unable to see a physician for years at a time and could not afford to purchase common over the counter medications.
It also became apparent that women do not have adequate access to regular pre-natal care. Fortunately, Dr. Lewis was able to do bedside ultrasounds with a portable handheld sonogram machine, which GPGP intends to donate for use by the local physicians in the future.
We are looking forward to continuing our work here for the rest of the week and helping those in the community that can benefit from our help. It has been an enlightening experience so far and we will definitely bring back to our practice in the US what we have learned here.