HEALTH TALENTS INTERNATIONAL
Nicaragua Mobile Medical Clinic
January 29-February 3, 2009

By Marie Agee

Participants: Drs. Alan Boyd, David Darrah, Charles Jarrett; Dentist Dr. Conrad Whitefield; Pharmacists Larry Owens and Bill Staggs; Chaplain Robert Taylor; Translators Ruben Davila; Dental Hygienist Monica Horter; Dental Assistant Gary Tabor; Pharmacy Aids Nate Beach, Suzi Fox, and Katey Shelton; Eyeglass Techs Steve Fox and Grace McIntyre; Team Leader Marie Agee.

After last year’s debacle in getting the medicine into the country, I am pleased to report that this year it was a piece of cake! There was just some formality of paper signing at the airport, and we were good to go with all our medicines.

Because of the board’s instructions to fly in and out of Guatemala and Nicaragua in daylight hours only, we arranged the flight schedules to be in compliance. Unfortunately, this caused the five guys from Nashville to have to fly into Houston on Wednesday evening rather than Thursday morning. The upside of it was, however, that we arrived in plenty of time to set up the clinic at a slower pace and with much less stress. Everyone liked that part of it. That meant that on Thursday morning we simply arrived at the clinic, had a devotional with all the patients that Robert Taylor, with Ruben translating, led, then immediately began seeing patients.

Jose had confided in Grace earlier that their church clinic was seeing fewer and fewer patients because the Nicaragua economic situation was getting worse and no one had any money. The team and I talked about what we would/should do if it appeared that we would have that same problem. The price the church was charging was only 20 cordobas ($1.00) for any service and any meds prescribed. Turns out we need not have worried because the patients just kept coming all day.

We awakened that Friday morning to the news that someone had broken into our rented van during the night and destroyed the dashboard in their effort to steal the radio. Jose and Gary spent a big part of that day meeting with the police about that and took possession of another vehicle. Doña Vicky, the proprietor, agreed to pay for the repair since thefts and vandalism were not covered under the insurance policy we purchased. She also hired an armed guard to watch the van at night for the remainder of our time there. He reminded me a bit of Barney Fife in the Andy Griffith show because his gun holster was always twisted around so that the pistol handle was in the center of his belly!

The crowd filled the church on Saturday even more than on Friday. Things kept us hopping all day. I recognized many of our regular patients, including the boy with cerebral palsy, the polka-dotted lady who always came for special treatment from Alan, and the mentally retarded little girl. The polka- dotted lady had even gotten one of her spots cut off, which she brought to Alan for further analysis.

In an effort to both save money and be able to express our gratitude to more of our Nicaraguan clinic volunteers, we ate at the hotel on Saturday night. It was much more relaxing than rushing to get ready to go out after a long hard day at the clinic.
Sunday was our “Day of Rest,” so after church in which our translator, Ruben, preached, we “rested and relaxed” at the Masaya market, getting back in time for the Super Bowl. This has become an annual tradition for this trip.

We traveled to Piedra Menuda on Monday for clinic. This is a lovely little village that we’ve been to before. We were delighted to see that the main drag in town that used to be a dirt road was now paved! There are about 125 church members, and one of their preachers is a young man who grew up at Rene Polanco.

Dr. Charles Jarrett had one elderly female patient who had edema up to her shoulders. He suspected she had right-heart failure. She said she had recently been in the hospital, and the doctors sent her home saying there was nothing they could do for her. They had made no effort to treat her diabetes or high blood pressure at all. She seemed very grateful for Charles’ kindness and interest in helping her.

Most of the ailments were fairly routine. One young man who came to the eyeglass dispensary began telling us how badly his eyes itched and burned when he worked in the fields and that he believed he needed eye surgery. We offered him some artificial tears, suggesting he try that first…that it was likely dust and allergy causing his distress.

Late in the afternoon some men came to speak with me about a 29-year-old man who had a bad hernia that needed repairing because he was beginning to have a good bit of pain associated with it. They were asking for us to give them $500 for surgery in a private hospital rather than in a public one. I asked Dr. David Darrah to examine him, and he said that there was definitely a problem that needed attention. He learned during the exam that the young man had had surgery in June ’08, but it actually appeared that nothing had been done. I suggested to the men that we could repair his hernia in Guatemala in April. (Dr. Darrah felt like that was not an unreasonably long time to wait.) I told the men that I would need a few days to discuss it with the board and would get back to them. I was later able to tell them that the board offered to do the surgery for free in Guatemala if the church raises the money for his bus ticket. That way we will be partnering with them in the effort to help this young man.

The day ended with a tired, yet very satisfied medical and dental team having dinner at Hotel Montserrat and sharing reflections from the week. We also had a discussion about the pros and cons of the new travel times that I will share with the board at a later time.

The final count over the three days of clinic was 987 patients treated and approximately 2,000 prescriptions filled. We praise God for once again giving us a great clinic and safe travel.