Wednesday, August 10, 2011
St. Basil Medical Mission
This is an annual outing for the group funded by their mega-church that has bout 3500 families and a multi-million dollar budget. They had a process and knew exactly what they were doing and I fell in line beautifully. The dental equipment is compact--about the size of a small carry-on, but it packs a lot of utility. It has multiple suctions and a rinse and spit function. The town doesn't have electricity, so they had a small Honda generator that could really pack a punch. I couldn't believe that the whole operation rested on the shoulders of a generator the size of a large lunchbox.
The small village is called Quebrada Dantos and is gorgeously tucked into a lush, green valley surrounded by mountains that are somehow being farmed, despite the daunting incline. I secretly timed the group as we were setting up and it literally took about 15 minutes. On the 15th minute, The first patient had a needle in her gum getting anesthetic. Some of the dental cases were absolutely disgusting. A couple of times I actually got nauseous, and when it comes to blood I am not queasy. For some reason, coming from the mouth really bothered me. A lot of the patients had to walk or travel far to visit our camp. We wondered how so many people found out about it just by word of mouth. The whole operation was incredible on both sides of the table.
I bounced around where they needed me to translate, but I mostly found a home in the pharmacy counting pills and telling patients when to take certain medicines. The Spanish skills in the group were limited so they really used me as a resource. A lot of what the medical team did was to hand out simple over the counter pain medication and multi-vitamins. There were also quite a bit of sick children getting penicillin. One of the sad things we saw was that if there was a female patient between the age of 17-35 there was a good chance she was pregnant. We also handed out a lot of prenatal vitamins.
One particular case was especially disgusting. An old woman came in limping on a bandaged leg and asked to see the dentist. The doctor told her to show us the leg first and then she could see the dentist. Her leg was eaten almost to the bone with some sort of skin sore. She had put some sort of talc powder on it that I am sure was only making it worse. She has diabetes and the wound would likely not heal. At this point the only thing to do would be to skin graph it or cut off her leg. In this area, I would put money on the latter.
We had a couple of people at the pharmacy trying their hardest to get any sort of extra medicine or toothbrushes, so fortunate for us we had something to give them. The church has a rosary making club that gave like 200 rosaries to give out. They were really pretty and I pocketed one immediately, because I knew they would be gone in a matter of minutes.
I didn't get any sleep last night and I haven't figured out why. I woke up in a cold sweat around 1:45 and couldn't find any sleep until 4. I woke up extremely tired, hopped in the shower and the truck was outside to pick me up. As soon as we started to see the first patients it shot some adrenaline into us and time starting flying. Before we knew it, it was 3 and time to leave. Just as efficiently as the set-up, we tore down the place and got out of there. We filled countless prescriptions and the dentist pulled around sixty teeth. Some of the patients said, "Yeah, I just want them all out." Alllllrighty-then...
I left feeling like that is something I would definitely want to do again at some point. I have always thought about setting up pop-up clinics and pop-up classrooms in post-disaster or post-conflict situations. Today this team really showed me how it is done. Sometimes my only connection to home is through reading articles on the internet, mostly from the news. It isn't often that I can find an article that gives me optimism about our current situation, what with the 2 wars, a financial crisis and the other list of problems that never seem to go away. This group of seemingly average Ohioans, three of which were still in school, really reminded me that good Midwestern Americans are intelligent, kind, and have a clear vision of what their part is in the scheme of things. It was so nice to just sit down and have a conversation in English with like-minded people. Definitely a pick-me-up!