Nicaragua Mobile Medical Clinic (9901)
January 28-February 2, 1999
submitted by Marie Agee

Team Members: Medical Doctors Alan Boyd, David Darrah, Quinton Dickerson, Phil Lucas, and David Weed; Dentists Richard Burt, Robert Lamb, Dr. Carolina Monroy from Guatemala, and Margaret Shaw. Also Pharmacists Dave Ellis and Guthrie Hite; Nurses Connie Campbell and Martha Oyston; Medical technologist Louise Clites; Translator Allen Smith; Non-medical personnel Marsha Darrah, Ann Dickerson, Shirlie Ellis, Marcia Lucas, Grace McIntyre, Gary Tabor, and Marie Agee. There were also several Nicaraguan physicians seeing patients as well. There were probably at least 30 volunteers from both congregations also helping.

Clinic Sites: Both Rene Polanco Church of Christ and Grenada Church of Christ. Grenada is a congregation that was started by Rene Polanco and is located about 10 minutes away from Rene Polanco in Barrio Granada. It is an extremely poor area. The minister there is named Cristobal Mendoza. His brother, Santo, works with him in that congregation. There are approximately 120 people in that congregation. Noel Romano is the minister of the Rene Polanco congregation.

We had actually tried very hard to travel to Panali, a village in the northeastern corner of Nicaraguan that had been badly damaged by Hurricane Mitch. Because of the distance, however, the only way to reasonably do it would have been to get U.S. Army helicopter transport. Try as we might, however, we weren’t able to work that out. All the helicopters at this time, we were told, were involved in helping restore the bridges and roadways that had been destroyed. Some on the medical team were disappointed; others greatly relieved!

Clinic Schedule: We held clinic on Friday, Saturday, and Monday at both sites. The clinic each day was started with devotional. We began seeing patients each day by 8:30-9:00 and worked until 5:30 or 6:00 each evening. Patients were charged the equivalent of $1.00, which included medicines. It is important to "let" the patients pay something so we are not contributing to creating a welfare state.

Clinic Results: This is the sixth year in a row that an HTI team has come to Managua, and this is the second year to have two clinics, so our organization has gotten better. It shows in the results. During the three days of clinic, we treated a grand total of 2,162 patients!

The brethren at Rene Polanco held an evangelistic campaign each evening, as well. Nine people accepted Christ and were baptized during these services.

Observations: It was clear that the Christians at both Grenada and Rene Polanco "own" this work. They put a tremendous amount of energy into organization and preparation to ensure that both clinic sites operated well. Jose told me that there were joint meetings between the congregations in which philosophy, scheduling of patients, and procedures were discussed. Detailed pages of explanation were passed out to everyone involved. One change I noticed from last year was that each medical care giver had his own patient escort assistant to ensure a steady stream of patients. That worked very smoothly. These assistants occasionally helped in translating.

The attitude of all the Nicaraguans was upbeat and enthusiastic. A detailed formulary of medicines available was distributed to the care givers, making it easy for them to know what the pharmacy had. Throughout the three days, the minister and many members talked with individual patients. Each one left with material that specifically invited them to the worship services.

Since eight of our bags containing medicines did not arrive with the flight or even the next day, Jose Garcia and I had to make a visit to Mariano Vega, the General Director of the Customs Department (Aduanas in Spanish). Our problem was that by now it was Saturday and we still didn’t have some critical medicine, and we knew that Customs was closed on Sunday. Our request to the General Director was that he give us signed permission to get the bags that night when they came in. We pled our case, he listened carefully, then agreeably signed the forms. As we got up to leave, he began a friendly discourse about the work in general. Could be a good contact in the future.

There were many routine medical cases. Some of the more unusual ones that I’m aware of include a woman who looked "polka-dotted" with big, raised white spots all over her arms and face. Dr. Alan Boyd treated her and said that they were the result of her scratching insect bites. Another woman came in and began having a high blood pressure episode where her blood pressure went extremely high. A little boy came in who clearly needed glasses. It was painfully obvious that he could not see well at all. Try as we might, however, we could not find any prescription that helped him at all. A woman who was suffering from a debilitating disease that would eventually prove terminal came in and seemed to need nothing more than to talk. Our nurses, Martha Oyston (hospice nurse) and Connie Campbell (critical care nurse), were able to provide her with the understanding and compassionate that she needed.

Educational Assistance: Many Nicaraguan students have told me of their desire to go to the university but cannot because they don’t have the money. U.S. team members have also expressed to me from time to time a desire to help. The leadership from both congregations asked their young people to complete an application form. I received six such applications shortly before going to Nicaragua. At this point, all six have sponsors.

On the last day, after we had seen all the patients, we were honored with a fiesta, complete with a pinata. They even had gifts for each medical team member!

My Evaluation: This was absolutely one of the best clinics we have ever done. I continue to be impressed by the dedication and motivation of the people of Nicaragua. They would very much like for us to begin making two clinic visits a year, and I think this would be appropriate. Dollar for dollar, medical evangelism is very economical in Nicaragua.

I firmly believe that the church in Nicaragua doesn’t need full time U.S. missionaries. They are doing quite well by themselves. What they do need from time to time is some financial support. I believe it would be a good investment to give them that.