Today was a continuous stream of patients waiting to be seen, many with treatable problems suffering from the effects poverty. We found strength among the people we encountered, and happiness amidst the sadness. A patient Dr. Don saw today walked two hours to get to our clinic today. She had to cross a river-not by a walking bridge or road, by she walked THROUGH the river, this being after several days of heavy rain. It was apparent today on our way to clinic that the rivers are out of their banks in several areas, and the current is strong. Some places the river was starting to flood the road. She could not afford the 30 pesos ($2.25 US dollars) for transportation to the clinic. Her story pulled at Dr Don’s heart…. . she left with 30 pesos to pay for a ride home. For Nancy and Lia, the day started off with a story of joy… A young lady seeing Nancy this morning talked about how she had tried to have a baby after having her first and only child 5 years ago. She miscarried three years ago, had irregular menses and expressed feelings of frustrations about her ability to get pregnant again. She presented with gastrointestinal symptoms, headaches and fatigue, but left with a diagnosis of a positive pregnancy test. Upon hearing the diagnosis, her eyes swelled with tears of joy. Her husband’s smile filled his face with the pride and joy of the news of a new baby on the way! We ended our day having seen 103 patients from four different villages.
Last night we treated ourselves to a tour of the Santa Maria - The Parador museum and dinner in the restaurant of Chiapanecan cuisine. Santa Maria is an old hacienda dating from the 19th century. It has been restored into a hotel and restaurant and decorated with furniture and art of that century and earlier ones. The have a wonderful museum of sacred art from the 16th to 19th centuries. The Santa Maria also has beautiful gardens with exotic flowers.
We arrived again in clinic shortly before 9 AM and and were set up and ready for the waiting patients by 9:10. We had another night of rain and the roads were even more flooded today. We also saw some small mud slides along the road, but nothing that hindered our travel. We are praying we will not have more rain tonight, as we are afraid it might cause us to cancel clinic if the road has deeper water.
We have had a busy laboratory this trip, doing many Complete UA’s, Pregnancy Tests and Diabetic Screens. Sara has also been busy fitting glasses in addition to her injections.
And once again, Mother Nature didn’t let us down. Our daily rain shower started right around 4pm as it has every day we’ve been in San Antonio Buena Vista. Who needs a watch with consistency like that?
Above is a roadside view of a recent mudslide, however the village below was spared. We had lots of rain last night and again tonight. In clinic today, we served 67 patients from 2 different communities. For most of our team, clinic today was more challenging as we came face to face with the reality of the life and struggles of poverty stricken families here in Chiapas. We became witness to the affects and frustrations of limited access to social services , psychological resources, and medical access that we take for granted in our daily lives back in the United States.
As we made our way home from clinic tonight, we were again surrounded by the many sights of the beauty of God’s creation. What an awesome way to end the day!
As always, we are grateful for this opportunity to serve with others who share our compassion for the people here in Chiapas and we appreciate the love, support and prayers of our families and friends back home.
We have the greatest driver! We depend on and trust him each day of the trip. This morning our guide Father Miguel had not arrived at our hotel, so again we put our trust in Vicente and started out our way to San Antonio Buena Vista. We traveled a very curvy highway until we turned onto a very curvy gravel road headed upwards into the mountains. Today the scenery was again very beautiful and breathtaking and had some of us leaning out the windows to get the perfect pictures to share with you. Father Miguel did catch up with us as he drives a pickup camper and we ride in a 15 passenger van loaded down with eleven 50 pound suitcases of medicines and supplies. Vicente, our driver, already showed us the spot where we will have to get out and walk up the hill on the way back to the hotel.
We arrived for clinic early and were able to take a quick hike to a lookout area above the village. We are blessed today with a large building to hold clinic. Everyone was able to be in the shade and not have to wait hours in the sun. Our day is winding down and we have 78 patients registered and about 15 of them will need a separate interpreter as they speak one of the local Mayan languages. This always adds an extra dimension to the doctor visit. So far we have seen a wide variety of patients - adult men and women, youth and small children. The children are darling (what child isn’t) and mostly well behaved for having to wait to be seen. Would you wait 2 hours just to get registered for your visit?
Our patients have general aches and pains today. We feel fortunate not to have the extremely ill patients as we did yesterday. We have seen diabetic patients who have extremely high blood sugars. Our pharmacy techs Kyle and Judy have been busy counting and packaging pain medicines, gastric medicines and other varieties of medicines.
Although it is frustrating and heartbreaking to close clinic when there are still patients to see we had to do it today. Thankfully we will be in the same community tomorrow. Even though the day was long we had had a good day at clinic and our team is working well together. We thank everyone at home for the prayers and support you are giving us and wish you could all be here with us.
Sunday morning we were served a breakfast of quesadillas and frijoles fritos (refried beans). We had a morning devotion and prayer in the garden before leaving for clinic for the day. Not knowing what to expect, and feeling a little anxious, I got into the van with everyone else and Vincente drove us an hour away to the village that we would be having clinic, “Playa Azul” (which by the way, did not include any “blue” or “beach”) of any kind. The drive there was gorgeous and I felt like I was in Ireland (although never having been there—it looks like what I’ve seen in pictures). There was green as far as my eyes could see and so many hills and mountains. Vincente let us know that we were so far south in Mexico that we were in Guatemala for part of our drive.
When we pulled into Playa Azul, there were so many people waiting for us to arrive. They were on the basketball court, the road, and the building where we were going to set up clinic in. I did everything possible to keep from crying as we pulled up as I have never seen people so excited for something that I take advantage of at home: healthcare. There was so much hope in their eyes. It was the most humbling experience of my entire life and is something I will never forget. It’s so hard to put into words, but I know that I don’t necessarily have to because it will be with me forever.
We had plenty of help unloading and quickly set up our stations to get to work. Three provider stations sat in the back of the clinic, a pharmacy on the side, a “privacy room” made of tarps and rope for private exams, a nurses station at the front of the room for intake and initial assessment of vital signs (I quickly learned how to say “Le voy a tomar sus signalos vitals—I’m going to take your vital signs).
The MDP team was able to see 79 patients. It takes so much longer in this setting because the interpreter sits by the provider and communication takes twice as long when you go through a third person. Some patients even needed a second translater, as they spoke a different dialect. The provider would then need Spanish instructions for the medication, which needs to be written out.
I was in shock at how patient everybody was in waiting to be seen. Some waited 7 or 8 hours to be seen, each of them given a number by the clinic organizer and brought in as we had openings.
The community members came for a variety of reasons and were diagnosed with parasites, gastritis, tuberculosis, UTI’s, arthritis, diabetes, and so much more. Some of them were able to be treated, and some unfortunately were not. The providers are so good about diagnosing and treating despite their lack of diagnostic tools available. They had tools for urinalysis, blood glucose checks, fetal heart tones, and pregnancy tests. However, there was of course no ability to do CBCs, imaging, or anything that requires more resources. Padre Miguel is also available to handle referrals, which is so helpful for the continuity of care!
The patients that we saw were so thankful for everything that we did for them. Some of the patients came through the clinic on their way out, shaking hands with us and thanking us. It was a great first day!
Saturday, October 11, 2014
Hola and Greetings from Trinitaria by Lanunas de Montebello!
We have had a busy first few days of our trip. Friday morning we started out very early to the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport where we took off to Atlanta. From there, we flew to Mexico City and finally, on to Tuxtla Guiterrez. All of our flights went well and were smooth.
It was a very sudden transformation upon arriving in Mexico. Everything that I took for granted - being able to read signs for instruction and direction, or understand conversation around me - was no longer a convenience that was just "there." It's a very uncomfortable and frustrating feeling to not be able to communicate your simple wishes or questions. It's very strange to sit down at a restaurant and try to pick out a meal based on the few Spanish words that I know (pollo=chicken, aroz=rice, frijoles=beans). Luckily, we have some amazing interpreters with us on the trip who are more than willing to help us out.!
From the airport in Tuxtla, Lia's cousin Padre Pablo and the other wonderful people from the Oasis de la Cruz Retreat Center picked us up. We loaded into vehicles for a forty minute drive to the center. On the way, we were stopped a couple of times by the Mexican police, who were doing routine stops looking for migrants coming from Honduras and Guatemala, weapons and drugs. It was intimidating for someone never having experienced that before, but thankfully Lia and Bridget and our driver Freddy talked to them and we were able to continue without any problems.
Once we arrived at the retreat center I think we all felt a sense of peace and calming. It is a beautiful place and we felt very welcome. Dona Tita made a wonderful dinner of quesadillas and black beans, which was much appreciated by our group of hungry, tired travelers.
We were blessed with a special guest at dinner, Don Layo. He is a widowed electrician from Coapilla, Chiapas who is raising both his daughters by himself. Don Layo was in an unfortunate electrical accident in the past and lost his left arm. We were able to bring with us a prototype prosthetic arm that was previously molded this past February by our MDP team. Prosthetic Laboratories in Mankato has generously donated this prosthetic arm. When the team returns in February, they will bring the finished prosthesis for him. Don Layo traveled quite a ways to join us, which involved a bus ride and a three hour walk. Don Layo was very excited to be fitted with his new prosthesis.
Saturday morning feeling well-rested and refreshed, we were served a wonderful breakfast, again prepared by Dona Tita. We were greeted by Vincente, our driver for the duration of our trip. After he and Dr. Aaron Johnson carefully and strategically loaded up our 20-something suitcases, which involved turning them every which way and strapping them on top of the van, I felt like I was watching a game of Twister combined with Teris! Of course, a few of us snapped pictures for evidence.
After an hour and a half in the van, we arrived in San Cristobal for a few hours for lunch, sightseeing and shopping. This was such a unique experience seeing the streets flooded with men, women and children trying to make money by selling homemade goods, or performing a service like shoe-shinning. It's very hard to say "no" to some of these people that are trying to make a living and work so hard for their money.
Vincente brought us safely on our three hour journey to our "home" for the next seven nights, "Cabanas Ensueno." After unpacking, we joined together for a dinner with plenty of laughs. Then off to bed for a good night of rest before our first day of clinic on Sunday!
-By Katie Krinke
Sunday, October 12, 2014
Meet the Team: We have just finished our first day of clinic in Playa Azul. Patients arrived from seven surrounding communities to be seen in the clinic. Our team was warmly greeted by the local community coordinators. Thanks to a very well organized community, we were able to serve many patients. The drive to the clinic was somewhat rainy today, but by noon the sun broke out, and it turned out to be a glorious day in Chiapas.
Co-leaders: Lia Price, Interpreter and Nancy Linder, FNP
Doctors: Don Mersch and Aaron Johnson
Interpreters: Thalia Taylor and Bridget Hermer
Nurses: Sara Murry and (her granddaughter) Katie Krinke
Lab Tech: Colette Meidinger
Pharmacy helpers: Judy Johnson and Kyle Meidinger
Know that we are well, keeping our friends and family and supporters of MDP in our prayers daily. More later, as the hotel staff wants to go home for the night!
Love you all,