It continues to amaze me what happens when we open our eyes and hearts to the needs of others and use our God given talents to serve the under privileged people here in Chiapas. I’ve made many trips with MDP yet I still continue to receive more than I can give on every trip. Daily we have been surrounded by examples of love, joy, resilience and gratitude by the people in Chiapas; the community volunteers here in Chiapas, the nuns at the convent in Coapilla and the patients and families we serve.
Here are just a few examples:
The love and caring of each member of this team, the love shown to us by those who have cooked for us, and the love of family so often seen here in Chiapas.
The joy in the eyes of a young woman Luis and I cared for in clinic as we told her she was pregnant with her first-born child. The joy in her face and the face of her mother in law as we listened to the baby’s heart beat for the first time. For Luis and I, the joy and gratitude of being able to share the news with her and be a part of this very special day as we watched tears of joy swell in the eyes of a new mother to be and a mother in law about to be a grandmother for the first time.
The last day of clinic, a man in his mid 50’s came to clinic for help with chronic pain. He fell ill with polio at age 3 or 4 leaving his left leg severely debilitated and much shorter than his right leg. He had no shoes or sandals and walked with a significant limp; only being able to walk on the tip toes with the left leg to compensate for his short leg.
Despite his severe physical disability and not having shoes, he has continued to work in the fields to support his 10 children and wife. He was a true example of resiliency and determination.
How beautiful to see and hear the numerous patients who we have served in previous years expressing their gratitude when they came to clinic again this year for help with their chronic pain or other medical problems that MDP has been able to help them with in the past. Many shared expressions of appreciation that MDP came back again this year to help them or their family. Maria, who has severe arthritis in her knees, was grateful she could make it to clinic this year for a steroid injection into both knees. She had had them once a year for the past three years with great success in relieving her chronic pain, as having a knee replacement is just not possible for her.
There were multiple expressions of gratitude in the forms of hugs, blessings and thank-you’s from many of the patients as they left the clinic and the communities we visited. Our team was grateful for all the local volunteers who so graciously had clinics set up and ready to go when we arrived at clinic.
I am grateful for all the donors and supporters of MDP, for our Co-leaders Jen and Lia, for our ever-faithful driver Vicente and for the each and everyone on this team. I am grateful for all the lessons of love, joy, resilience and gratitude given by the people in Chiapas.
Most of all, I am grateful for once again having the opportunity to serve the people of Chiapas and for the love and support of my husband, family and friends.
The two takeaways from the day were that we had our “Treasure and Stretch” session where we all take turns discussing what was most treasured for us as individuals and what was the most challenging during the trip. It was nice to hear everyone’s thoughts on the mission and there were lots of “warm fuzzies” and no “cold pricklies." A fair amount of us went to mass near the hotel after the Treasure and Stretch session and were recognized in the opening prayers by the Bishop saying Mass. We were also included in the Prayers for the Faithful. We were able to meet with the Bishop after Mass and he spoke to us in English. He did a nice job of it, too. Tomorrow we head home. We will depart from the hotel in San Cristobal at 3:00AM. It was a blizzard at home today, but not for us. Tomorrow...reality.
It was the longest drive yet to get to the clinic destination - almost 2 hours. We arrived at a city that was celebrating some sort of festival and there were people everywhere. It was overwhelming to think about having to see even a percentage of the people hanging out in the town. At first, we were not able to drive to the house that was the clinic destination due to the festival. Eventually, volunteers cleared the path and we drove up a steep hill to the home. The house was small and two doctors set up in the kitchen and one in each bedroom. Apart from those two rooms, there was a modest bathroom and that was all the space inside the home. The pharmacy and intake workers set up in the yard and many local volunteers helped us get the luggage of medicines and the furniture needed into the house. The local volunteers also helped erect a few tarps to give the outside team some shade. It was quite warm and noises from the festival were just outside including a few basketball games just outside the home. Large “booms” from fireworks were a regular occurance as well during the day. Essentially all the patients were Mayan and required two interpreters to get a picture of the health concerns they had. It is always slow going but perhaps more so that day. Most of the patients were women and children and the women were very soft spoken and had flat affects. It is always hard to know if that is just their culture or if there is something more going on with their moods. The culture divide seemed even bigger as it was hard to determine exactly what was bothering them and all the details were needed to sort out exactly what might be the problem. The MDP team made the best of the situation and was able to see 78 patients that day. To top off a long day, the leaders Lia and Jen, along with the pharmacy staff (Erin, Michael, and Ashley) and Thalia organized all the medication and categorized what, and how much, was left over. It was a big job, but made easier by the pharmacists persistently organizing the system throughout the trip. We had our appreciation dinner that night also and it was extremely pleasant. Everyone got along so well and everyone pulled their weight with regard to all the duties needed for the trip. It was a well organized trip to be sure with over 600 patients seen during the time in Mexico.
We are now in San Cristóbal and we have at least an hour drive every morning to our next clinic site. San Cristóbal is a great city. It reminds of a Spanish town with the architecture and the design. There are so many churches and they are all beautiful. We got to eat some great food and lots of tortillas. I was also introduced to a fruit I’d never had before called Mamey. It’s a brown colored fruit with orange flesh with a big brown pit in the middle. It’s flavor is like a sweet potato but sweeter and looks kind of like an avocado from the outside. One of the people in the village shared some with us today and they were yummy. Today we went to the highest place we are going to be at for the trip. It was absolutely beautiful and much more lush than some of the other places we have been. The people here are wonderful and so much fun to interact with. I think one of the most interesting things about this trip is all the languages that are spoken in southern Mexico. There are several million people that still speak ancient Mayan dialects and as a linguaphile it is fascinating to hear people transition from language to language. This of course slows us down a little but so far we haven’t turned a patient away and we saw close to 80 patients again. Our interpreters have been amazing too and aid in our ability to see so many patients so quickly. Lastly, I have to give a huge plug to our pharmacy team. I really think their set up saves us a ton of time and I really can’t say enough how grateful I am to them. What a great group!
The team took a 1.5 hour drive through some of the most beautiful country ever seen to the next village This time, we got to set up in a medical clinic with a few handy apportions. It was a busy day and the majority of patients were Mayan. Due to that, 2 interpreters were needed to get from the Mayan language to Spanish and then from Spanish to English. The organization provided the Mayan-Spanish interpreter. It worked fine. It became apparent that the culture brought with it different problems/concerns. Anxiety and being nervous about what others in the village were thinking about them was a common theme. As always, the team was very organized and efficient in the set up of the mobile clinic and getting the patients seen. Everyone worked hard and 79 patients were seen that day, despite a few of the team not feeling terrific. It really is a pleasure to watch the organization of MDP in setting up all of the logistics of the trip and then the actual clinic days coming off so smoothly. A nod to the work done before the team leaves for Mexico. Without all of that organization months in advance, the patients would not get seen to this extent. The team finished the day eating at an Argentinian restaurant in San Cristobal. The food and the company were amazing. More work to do tomorrow.
Today was our final day of clinic in the region surrounding Coapilla. We set up in Llano Grande with beautiful views overlooking an expansive valley and surrounding hills. The team was able to see 115 patients, which is a testament to how well we've learned to work together in providing great care to the communities. We've become the Toyota Corolla in the clinic business. Not pretty, but everything seems to work and it gets the job done. There must have been something extra in the water in the community because to Dr. Benson's delight, there was a very large number of small children and infants that we were able to look after. Following clinic, the team was ready for a refreshing round of cervezas. Unfortunately, we had to find a new watering hole as we drank the first cantina out of Dos Equis the night before. There was a surprise waiting for us as we returned to the convent for dinner. The wonderful people at the convent set up a small party for the team in gratitude for our service with live music and the largest grilled quesadillas we've ever seen. A few of us joined the "clean plate club," but many had to throw in the towel, ceding victory to the loaded tortillas that would have intimidated a large Dominoes pie. It's unknown whether it was the music or the pineapple infused mezcal, but Nancy was the first to hit the dance floor with the rest of the team close behind. We were left with incredible words of gratitude and a small gift before heading back to the hotel for our final evening, but it was unanimous agreement that the most thanks was deserved by the people in the convent and surrounding communities that made our work possible.
We travelled to San Miguel this day. It is a humble village about 10 minutes drive from the convent in Coapilla. We had a wonderful breakfast at the convent and packed up to head to San Miguel. We arrived to see many people already lined up to be seen. It was hot again today and a makeshift tarp was set up to protect folks from the sun. Our clinic was in a humble home next to the church. The light was dim inside the home, but the setting was beautiful. As always, there were signs of their strong religion everywhere, with the Madonna and crucifix and pictures of Jesus on every wall. The pharmacy set up at this clinic was supreme as everything was very organized and the “premade” packets of medication with the labels already on them made for a smooth medication grab. As always, the patients were very gracious and accepting of our ways. The predominant problems were upper back and neck pain leading to headaches, along with gastritis. The dentition on the patients was poor but the smiles on their faces were abundant. We were able to see 97 patients and ended a bit early at 4:30 or so. Most of the group found a “bar” that had cold beer and served soup and cow’s stomach with chips included with the beer. I tried 2 scoops of the cow’s stomach with chips and didn’t really care for either bite, so I gave up on it. We had one volunteer today with the GI illness. As always, a nice supper at the convent made for an excellent time to decompress and talk about the day. All of the volunteers work very hard and work well together. It is truly a delightful mix of folks with many skills. It is a joy to be here with everyone.
Lia Price, Interpreter - Team leader