This past October marked the second year and third trip in what is turning into a bi-annual tradition of providing medical services in Guatemala. The trip is lead by Doctor Marla Kushner and this year with the help of Henry Schein Cares and a team of dedicated professionals our mission was a great success.
This trip ran from Thursday, October 23 through Tuesday, October 29 with four days of clinics beginning on Friday and running through Monday. These included two days of clinics in a small town outside of Guatemala City and a day each at two different local orphanages.
Our team was comprised of three medical doctors, a nurse practitioner, a registered nurse, an EMT, four medical students, and two logistics and support staff. In addition, local resources were utilized for transportation and translation. The transportation was paid for by the trip and all of the translators where volunteers including a social worker, a dental student, and several medical students.
After arriving in Guatemala City on Thursday night the team had a quick dinner and checked into our accommodations. Before the end of a long travel day, team members worked to organize and consolidate all of the supplies and medication that we brought with us.
The first and second days began with an early breakfast and a van ride to the local village center to set up the clinic. A local education and after school facility was made available for the clinic. On the first day the team saw over 200 children and adults with a similar turnout the next day.
All patients were first triaged to check vitals and understand their needs. Patients were then taken to one of the three doctors or the nurse practitioner that each had a translator and a medical student. After their visit, patients were brought to the pharmacy to dispense any prescribed medications and vitamins.
Both of the first two clinic days were long, but very rewarding. All of the patients, children included, waited patiently throughout the day and were extremely appreciative for the care that they received.
The morning of the third day, Sunday, the team packed up all their gear and headed off to a local state run orphanage. Using a similar system, with a little more scheduling by the orphanage staff, the team triaged and saw over 200 patients throughout the day. In addition, any prescribed medication was labeled and packaged for the orphanage staff to administer.
This was clearly the hardest day of the trip seeing all of the children living at the orphanage including teenage mothers and special needs children.
Sunday night the team traveled to Antigua to spend the next two nights and be closer to the second orphanage we would visit on our last day of clinic.
The final day of clinic, Monday, was spent at a private orphanage run by an American charity. The team was able to see all 75 the residents and some of the staff. While this particular orphanage specializes in abused girls, we were all pleasantly surprised to find the atmosphere much more uplifting then the state run orphanage.
Monday afternoon and night was spent in Antigua and the following morning it was off to the airport for an early morning flight back to Chicago.
One of our goals in making this a successful, ongoing endeavor is to better understand the needs of our patients and ensure that we are come prepared with the necessary medication and equipment. The most common conditions seen by the team included hypertension, diabetes, skin infections, parasites, and various other infections. In addition many patients presented with depression and anxiety.
The types of interventions that were performed included dental hygiene and prevention, diabetic and hypertension education and treatment, well baby visits and early childhood counseling, and general counseling to young teen mothers. In addition to prescribed medications, the team was able to provide many of the patients with vitamins and dental supplies.