Guatemala Mobile Medical Clinic
November 2-7, 2005
by Marie Agee
|Participants: Drs. Johnny Harper, Geoff Hoover, Barry and Lynn Mitchell, David Weed, Jim Haller, Robert Lamb, John Turner, and Van Smith; Pharmacists Dave Ellis, Guthrie Hite, Gaymarie Williamson; Nurses Neva Berkey, Angie Broome, Cheryl Crissup, Sheri Kretzschmar; Acting Dental Assistants Barbara Haller, Donna Lamb, Gary Tabor, Cheryl Turner; Optometry Assistant Kelly Canfield; Team Chaplain Kent Allen; Videographer Andrew Patterson; Translators Sarah Hinds, Julia Hensal, Heather Carey, Stephanie Feuerhelm; Multi-Talented Folks Phyllis Allen, Mike Duncan, Jonathan Duncan, Georgia Hite, Cynthia Hoover, Beverly North, Michelle Young, Joy and Charlie Cleek, and Marie Agee.
Wednesday, November 2: The team, the majority of which was from Memorial Road C/C in Edmond, Oklahoma, flew in on the morning Continental flight and arrived in Guatemala City about 12:30. Since all the luggage arrived (!), we were on the road within the hour, headed to Chichicastenango. Traveling along the Pan American Highway, we saw at least a dozen places where there had been mudslides from the recent hurricane. Some came from the high side and appeared to have covered the roadway. In one case we saw a house on the opposite side of the road that had been demolished because of the impact of the mud. In other incidences, the road itself gave way and slid down the mountainside. We were grateful that our bus driver had 25 years’ experience driving on these mountain roads! Despite it all, we arrived in Chichi about 5 pm, in time for dinner.
During our evening devotional, we had quite a treat! Some Quiche friends of Patricia, one of our scholarship students, came by and performed for us. They call themselves Voces Acapela... in English, Acappella Voices. There were eight singers, four each of young men and women, and they were wonderful to listen to. They had great harmony and sang hymns in both Spanish and Quiche.
Thursday, November 3: We divided the team into two groups. Since it was market day, one group stayed in Chichi to work at the church. The second group traveled about an hour to Choacaman, a pure Mayan village that we’d never been to before. The roads were once again steep and winding, but the scenery was beautiful! When we finally arrived, we had to unload the trucks and hand carry all the medicines and supplies across a narrow bridge and up a steep hill to get to the village. The dentists set up in the church, while the medical docs worked in what appeared to be the church office. Van Smith, the optometrist, worked out in the open yard, where I helped him by translating. We found two people with cataracts and one man with a pterygium. Lots of people needed glasses, including the young preacher, Martin. He and his brother share the pulpit at the church. Many of the people Van saw simply had itchy, watery eyes, probably as a result of living in smoke-filled houses. By the end of the day, the docs and Van had seen 67 patients and the dentists treated only 18. The group at the church in Chichi had a light day also because it was market day. In an effort to control crowds, each church where a clinic is to be held gives out numbers ahead of time to those who really need to see the doctor. That way you limit the number of those coming just because there is a visiting clinic in town.
Friday, November 4: This day the two clinic sites were Paxot and Matzul Quinto. They were located near each other, about an hour away from Chichi. One group took the bus, while the other took the four pickups. We traveled along together nearly ¾ of the way, until we turned off onto a dirt road. After traveling that for 15-20 minutes, we came upon a fork in the road, and the bus took the left one. Ironically, in the afternoon when the group I was with finished and began backtracking down the road, just as we arrived at the fork in the road, the bus pulled right out in front of us! They had finished at the exact same time we had!
At Matzul Quinto there was a large crowd waiting for us, about 80 people someone said. The church leaders had fashioned a canopy over the waiting area out of 50# corn sacks. Although the temperature was quite pleasant, the elevation both yesterday and today was about 7,000 feet, so the sun was quite strong. Several of us had gotten an overdose yesterday and had really red faces!
Matzul Quinto is a lovely mountain village. They had a pretty little adobe church building, with a built-in stage and podium. They had taken all the pews outside for the waiting patients to sit under the protection of the canopy. The pace quickened after we set up, with people going from the doctor, to the optometrist, to the dentist... not necessarily in that order. It was a regular one-stop shop for medical/dental service! Dr. Geoff Hoover said that yesterday most of his patients had had bellyaches, but today everyone seemed to have muscle aches and pains. The dentists had what felt like to them by late in the afternoon an unending line of patients. By the end of the day, the medical doctors had treated 37 patients, while the dentists had seen 55.
By the end of the day at Paxot, they’d seen 52 medical and 48 dental patients.
Beverly North had been helping one of the doctors, when a mother brought a 5-year-old little girl in who had never spoken. The mother had had her tested, and was told there was no physiological reason why she couldn’t speak. After the exam, Beverly took the little girl outside while the mother saw the doctor. As she played with her, she kept talking, telling her over and over that her own name was Beverly. The little girl thought that sounded funny and kept laughing about it. Beverly then began asking the child what her name was when, lo and behold, the child spoke her name! One small step.
Saturday, November 5: This morning we again set out in two different directions, this time to Las Trampas and Chuchipacá II. Both were about 45 minutes to an hour away from Chichi, again in the mountains past miles and miles of steep, winding roads! Las Trampas had a gorgeous church building, freshly painted and decorated with painted flowers along the roofline. Everyone worked together in the church, pharmacy, docs, and dentists. Van, his assistant, Kelly, and I again, worked outside. Baldemar was with my team today, so he started the day off with a devotional for the patients.
Most of the ailments today were routine, but Dr. Lynn Mitchell told us later of a marvelous, heartwarming incident that she had experienced. A 32-year-old Quiche woman came in telling of how she and her husband had been trying to conceive a child for twelve years, without success. She had even taken some "medicine" to help, she said. Those present assumed she meant vitamins. After examining her, Dr. Mitchell decided to do a pregnancy test on her. Beverly North proceeded to do the test, waited a moment, then looked up in surprise and whispered the words, "It’s positive." Dr. Lynn said, "Are you sure?" They did it again. Again, positive. She finally told her patient, who immediately began crying with joy! Dr. Lynn and Beverly and anyone else in earshot were crying and rejoicing with her! In light of all the bad things that doctors have to deal this, this kind of news is so heartening!! We pray her pregnancy will go well and she and her husband will be blessed with a healthy baby.
In the middle of the day, while the morning patients were being finished up, our team chaplain, Kent Allen, and his wife, Phyllis, were doing Bible story sheets with the children along the outside of the building. Donna Lamb and Marie had prepared and brought story sheets in both Spanish and Quiche, and Donna had brought lots of crayons. As they finished up, Marie started singing with the children and Marcos came out to help. The children clearly loved it and were so precious, especially the four-year-old boy in an orange shirt. He was so expressive and delightful the whole time that everyone wanted to take him home with them!
When that was over, we realized that there were no patients yet to be seen. Since we had a microphone and loudspeaker, we decided to sing as a group, with Kent and Phyllis leading. By the time we had sung the third song, we saw people scurrying to the clinic! We had literally "sung" them in! Because of all the extra people, we didn’t finish seeing patients until after 4 pm. At the end of the day, Las Trampas recorded 54 medical/eye patients and 30 dental patients, and Chuchipacá II had recorded 110 medical and 55 dental.
On Sunday morning we had our devotional and communion, then hit the market for a couple of hours before the long drive back to the city. Dinner at La Estancia Restaurant capped the trip off.
Overall, despite our initial weather concerns, this was a very smooth, easy trip. Going into the mountains is quite different from Montellano in every way, but the people are the same. Someone in the group expressed it well when they said, "You know, you just feel a real part of God’s kingdom when you get to experience something like this."