Wednesday, November 4, 2009

October 2009 Medical Mission

With the help of Project Hands, Partner for Surgery had yet another successful medical mission to the department of El Quiché.  The team of Canadian medical professionals included: Drs. Tony Dunlop, Pat Connick, Dennis Saunier and Nurses Sandee Saunier and Jacquie Clayton - a laid back bunch that was ready to roll with whatever came at them (stomach flu included).

We visited the municipalities of Chiché, San Antonio Ilotenango, Cunén and Chajul for triage as well as the municipalities of Kumacaj and Acul for some cultural immersion.  At the end of the week, 379 patients were evaluated by the doctors, 145 of those being referred for surgery.  Among the referrals included patients with hernias, sebaceous cysts, cleft lip and/or pallet, and prolapsed uterus.

One of the most heartbreaking cases that stands vivid in my mind was a boy with an obvious limp due to a nagging foot ailment.  When he removed his shoe - without socks I must add - he revealed a deformed foot with toes that seemed to form one big open sore.  No wonder this kid was limping!  It was determined by the doctor that the boy had a problem with incontinence, perhaps due to nerve damage.  A conversation with the mother revealed that she had gotten tired of changing her son when he wet his pants, which apparently happened often, and left him to fend for himself in urine soaked pants and shoes.  In a hygiene discussion with the boy and his mother, we instructed her how to care for the child's poor, infected feet.  Additionally, we stressed the importance of putting on clean clothes and, more importantly, clean socks.  We suggested that she take him to the bathroom every two hours to prevent him from wetting himself, but it's hard to say whether she will follow up on that or not.

We returned to Antigua -some of us still suffering an unpleasant stomach flu- and met at Frank Peterson's house (the founder) for one last meal as a team.  Some of the team left the next day while other stayed to get their fill of Antigua.  Dennis and I decided to tackle the volcano Pacaya.  Our guide affectionately dubbed us team Puma and encouraged our ascent to the top of the volcano.  My impatience was getting the best of me during our hour or so ascent as I persistently asked our guide when we were going to get to see some lava.  It was certainly worth the wait to arrive at the top.  Seeing the flowing river of lava snake its way down the side of the volcano was like nothing I had seen before.  We sat at the top with our celebratory sack lunch and watched as other climbers roasted marshmallows over the lava.  I will definitely go there again.

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