Nicaragua Mobile Medical Clinic

January 25-30, 2001

Participants: Drs. Alan Boyd, Charles Jarrett, Thomas Ratts, David Weed, Robert Lamb, and Margaret Shaw; nurses Connie Campbell and Vicki Ratts; pharmacists Debbie Gale and Guthrie Hite; medical technologist Louise Clites; dental hygienists Susan Hursh and Linda King; eyeglass techs Valari Wedel, Grace McIntyre; and Francis McDonald; dental helpers Donna Lamb and Gary Tabor; and pharmacy helpers Paige Weed and grandmother Sylvia Weed; minister Steve Fox and wife Susie, Matthew Jarrett and Marie Agee rounded out the team.

Jose Garcia had everything in order for us when we arrived the evening of January 25. An official from the Ministry of Health was there to meet our flight, and after several minutes of retrieving all our luggage, she led us out of the airport, bypassing Customs. Smooth.

We arrived at our usual lodging to find that the hotel had been greatly remodeled! The Hotel Montserrat now has a grand entrance and has almost doubled in size. The owners, who had previously lived in half of the hotel, have built a new house a block or two away and remodeled their former residence into a bigger and better hotel. Of course, the rates have gone up proportionately!

As is typical of our Nicaraguan clinic trip, we ran two clinics each of the three days: one at Rene Polanco Iglesia and the other at the Grenada Iglesia de Cristo. Both sites offered medical and pharmacy services, but except for half of the first day, dentists only worked at Rene Polanco. Linda King, one of the hygienists, worked at Grenada. Eyeglasses were also only distributed at Rene Polanco. Each site had an assortment of medical personnel, both North American and Nicaraguan.

Medical Cases: Several cases presented while we were there. One of the worst was a male patient that Dr. Tom Ratts examined who was in the final stages of diabetes. He had already lost both legs to the disease and reported having a lot of numbness in his hands. An elderly man arrived for examination carried in on a stretcher. There was a precious little 4-year-old girl who had to have a badly decayed front tooth pulled. She was scared to death as Dr. Robert Lamb removed the tooth, but she survived to tell the tale another day!

Eyeglass Distribution: Because of some special contributions, we were able to purchase two electronic autorefractors for use in Guatemala and Nicaragua. The eye tech team trained ahead of time on how to use the device, which is designed for a lay person to obtain an eyeglass prescription by simply pointing the unit at a person’s face then pressing a button to record the reading. Also, thanks to the Lion’s Club and a special contribution from the Waterview Church of Christ in Richardson, Texas, we took down 4,000 pairs of eyeglasses. Valari Wedel spent a great deal of time teaching some of the clinic staff at Rene Polanco how to use the device, and Grace McIntyre, Francis McDonald, and Dr. Dick Burt taught them how to select the proper eyeglasses. On the final day of clinic Valari reported fitting over 100 pairs of glasses on that day alone! We left the unit with the clinic staff with their assurance that they would put it to good use as well as safeguard it from theft.

Over the course of three days, the doctors, dentists, and eyeglass techs provided care for nearly 2,000 patients: 1,351 at Rene Polanco and 638 at Grenada.

Spiritual Care: Several members of both churches were present during the clinic to provide encouragement and prayer for the patients, Orfilia Mayrena, Nidia Castillo, and Zemyda Vasquez. This seemed to culminate on Sunday morning at Rene Polanco when we were privileged to witness the baptism of three women. Dr. Tom Ratts, Dr. David Weed, and Dr. Alan Boyd conducted our evening team devotionals.

Nicaraguan Economy: We couldn’t help but notice that the exchange rate continues to worsen. Each year it seems to have added another point to the one it was the year before. This year it was 13.l:1 U.S. dollar.

Rene Polanco Building Project: The brethren at Rene Polanco announced that they have begun a building drive to raise funds to enlarge their auditorium. They showed us that they have envelope holders fastened to the wall in the church to receive contributions and invited anyone to help them who would like to. Some of the team members expressed interest in helping them, but finally settled on some sort of matching contribution plan. For every $1,000 the congregation gives, someone might match it from the States. They understand that this is not an HTI project.

In Summary: All in all, this was another great clinic. The folks in Nicaragua are eager to learn and each year are better prepared than the year before. And, as usual, they threw another fiesta for us at the close of the last clinic day. This fiesta is better known as the “humiliate the gringo!” party because of how ridiculous we look blindly swinging at the piñata!

by Carl Lancaster, HTI Board Member