So each night a new voice on the Blog. This is Christine Scheinberg and I get the chance to write about our first clinc day. It was a day really full of new impressions and of course new experiences for most of us. It started early, with breakfast at 6:15, loading the bus and then a long one and one half hour ride up into the moutains to the small village where the clinic was held. The scenery was wonderful open valleys, mountains, a large resevoir lake. The road was bumpy and narrow, shared by busses overloaded with passangers clinging to the roof, horses being used as a primary means of transportation, pickups, motor bikes and lots of pedestrians. But no accidents to be seen. I can talk about houses which are up close to the road; small and barren by any standard, no amenaties that we take for granted, running water, bathrooms or electricit. However, the people in them were carrying on lives, chatting with the neighbors, doing laundry, going to church,working. There were stores and bars and restaurants in the front porches of lots of houses. This was their neighborhood, and clearly, these neighbors knew each other, looked out for each other and kept the neighborhood active.
The clinic operation was well planned and organized. We set up the doctors and lab in the front part of the school and the pharmacy in the back. I spent my day as a pharmacy tech. Not as easy as it looks since the medicine names sound alike and are spelled similarly. Occassionally I realized that I had grabbed the wrong medicine and had to go back and re-select. The mission team has a licensed pharmacist who checks all orders before they go out to make sure they are correct. One thing that struck me was thar most of the patients, along with whatever medicine they got for other conditions also got medicine for worms. The worms lay eggs in the food that they eat and periodically they have to go in and get medicine that will keep the worms from spreading in their intestines. This was the most common source of stomach pain. In my job back home, I spend a lot of time thinking about food safety and safe packaging for food, but this was a new level of thought for me, where the food itself was going to make you sick eventually. I gained a new appreciation for not having to worry about what I eat. Its not about gaining weight here, but more about avoiding as much illness as possible.
The patients were all so well behaved. They waited quietly in line to see the doctors and then quietly in line to get their perscriptions filled; even the children. One lady who worked as a supervisor for a near by coffee plantation came to be treated for a headache, but more to be part of the process so she could thank each person for coming to help. She was dressed up in an elegant suit and kissed or shook the hands of every team member to make sure we knew we were important to the community. As part of the operation we gave out beanie babies in bags; both of which were courtesy of donations from lots of places and the hard work of Celie Shankman who made this mission her bat mitzvah project. She would have been so proud of her work as she saw the patients go off with re-useable tote's over their arms, and the children cuddling with stuffed animals that they clearly would appreciate for a long time; each stuffed toy was a new best friend.
The medical team was awesome, seeing 246 patients in 6 hours. I will leave it to the next doctor or nurse who writes to describe their work. But is seemed to me as an outside observer that they were all able to lean on each others' expertise to create a true whole family practice in the small school where we were stationed. So for those of you who wonder what we do here or how a day goes, this was one viewpoint of the substance of our day. However at the end what remains are the images. A young boy heading to the clinic riding bareback on horse. The smiles that were everywhere, as were the children. The continuous flow of patients, the unending help of the really amazing interpreters, a sense of doing something that was making the lives of the people we saw better, exhaustion, and a little girl hugging a red beannie baby close to her chest.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!