Thoughts from La Jefa
Thoughts from the Jefa....
There is something amazing and transforming that happens each year on our medical
mission trips. Team members begin their journey with the anticipation and excitement
that they will hopefully be making a difference in the world, each taking a huge leap of
faith to travel to a third world country, perform their assigned duties and return safely. I
have had the honor and pleasure of leading this dedicated and extremely talented group
of professionals. You have followed our daily adventures or maybe this is the first time
you have read this blog, and I want to thank you our readers for being our support
system across the miles for understanding why each of us self-selected to take make
Connecting with the children in the orphanage, medically supporting families in the poor
pueblos in the mountains and uplifting and supporting the Jewish community in
Nicaragua, is our team mission. We have not only successfully accomplished our
mission as a finely tuned machine, each of us has been blessed with the opportunity to
have done so.
You've gotten a feel for our daily routine, you've maybe imagined the smell of the fresh
air in the high mountain country and hopefully you've laughed along the way with the
surprises that have been throw our way. Maybe you have shed a few tears with us
about the extreme poverty and conditions and that we have experienced. Maybe you
have marveled at the grace and humility of the Nicaraguan culture. We hope that this
blog would serve to touch your life as it has touched ours. But the story that has not
been told is the story of our undaunted, tireless and extremely courageous team
"Amita" Hertz, M.D.--- our lead physician who works at LeBonheur Pediatric Emergency
Dept. in Memphis. Her co- workers collected over one thousand fabric bags for our
clinic pharmacy to distribute to patients, a hands down ecologically and practical
solution to a skimpy plastic bag. She was our "connection" for our team scrubs from
Landau Uniforms and she was a fund raising maniac. Her relentless hours prepping
and gathering were critical to launching our team efforts. But there is more about this
woman that words cannot describe justly. Amy is a smart cookie and she is intuitive,
she just knows ---she knows how to cajole, to nurture and to give of herself - a gift she
gives without reservation.
Nadine Symons, M.D- colleague with Amy at LeBonheur ER- Nadine earned the " I can
do everything and be everywhere and speak Spanish too" award. Nadine's innate
ability to be able to work continuously without getting tired and be one step ahead of the
game on clinic needs was a huge asset. Nadine gets the job done, period. And once
she gets her job done, she's asks to help others in any way she can with a smile.
Iris Bailey, M.D.-- Iris works as a contractual internal medicine physician. Iris has a way
of infusing laughter into the team dynamic that left many of us trying to catch our breath.
Her own infectious laugh uplifted the team spirit on many a day. Her calm and knowing
demeanor helped pave the medical foundation for our group. Always thinking of
possible outcomes, Iris was the rock that helped serve as an anchor in our sea of three
pediatricians, a cardiologist and a orthopedic nurse. Have her tell you the story of "the
Rich Gordon, M.D. -- a cardiologist at Stern Cardiovascular Foundation, Memphis.
What Rich brought to the team was immeasurable. He researched rare and common
diseases endemic to the areas where we would be seeing patients prior to our
departure. He was committed to being the best he could be and left no stone unturned.
A commendable and truly valuable trait. We teased him incessantly about taking movies
on his iPad of our adventures, but we knew he wanted to savor each and every moment
as we did too.
Joanne Levine, M.D. Private practice pediatrician at Memphis Children's Clinic. Joanne
has a kind and patient disposition that that exudes calm- "nice" doesn't do justice to
Joanne. Always with a smile, a kind word and a strong a work ethic- Joanne brought
her steadiness and positive attitude that served as a launching pad for team
cohesiveness. Unflappable and extremely conscientious, what a package.
Rhonda Brode, R.N. -- Orthopedic nurse at the Campbell Clinic in Memphis. Rhonda is
always thinking of what needs to be done next, and then does it. Rhonda's calm, steady
and reassuring "bed side manner" radiates throughout the clinic. Self described as a
“shy person”, Rhonda’s robust laugh and dry humor leave you questioning that
perception. Rhonda also headed teaching crafts to the children at the orphanage and
had the children painting tote bags and making picture frames! So many talents!
Eleanor Bird, Contractual Pharmacist at Penn. State University and CVS, in State
College Pennsylvania. Eleanor is a seasoned veteran on our medical mission team,
having gone on more than 5 team missions. Her diligent preparations prior to our
departure are not only time consuming, but crucial to the efficiency of the team.
Creating an “field” pharmacy is no easy task, and Eleanor performs her job effortlessly.
She is also quite adept at trouble shooting for the team, and could lead a team in her
own right, probably blind-folded! With humor, candor and wit, Eleanor was my righthand
“sister.” Her husband Paul Hill, also a major league veteran, accompanied the
team this year. His job as pharmacy technician aided Eleanor in the preparation and
delivery of medications. His ability to stay calm and collected while under “fire” helped
earn the pharmacy team the title of “Zen and the Art of Pharmacy.” They complimented
each other beautifully and we were lucky to have them both. Eleanor stayed in Granda
two more weeks after the team left to attend a Spanish School to enhance her already
proficient Spanish speaking skills.
Nancy Shapiro, Audiologist, Memphis City Schools. Nancy did her “homework” prior to
our team visit, and connected with an ENT clinic in the same town we were staying in!
Armed with local business cards, Nancy performed hearing tests on patients and the
children in the orphanage. She referred a few to the clinic in Jinotega for hearing
aides-- what an amazing resource for our team! Her contagious laughter and her
positive attitude were a winning combination, plus she’s fluent in Spanish!!! Besides
performing hearing tests, Nancy helped Eleanor in the pharmacy and also at intake.
Tireless, thorough, and delightful, Nancy was a Trooper. They each shared an amazing
knack to ask her to tell you some dorm room stories, but make sure you are sitting
Rabbi Aaron Rubinstein, Rabbi Beth Sholom, Memphis. Rabbi Aaron is not your
“traditional” conservative Rabbi. His spirituality extends beyond the shul with his ability
to infuse music, song, and prayer into each new day. Whether playing his melodica for
the throngs of patients, praying with our Jewish Nicaraguan friends, or offering his view
of the world through his “colored glasses”, Rabbi Aaron is our spiritual leader who
embodies Tikkun Olam in every way. To quote: “Whatever we may be giving, we are
given so much more by all the people around us...”
Danny Becker, M.D. Radiologist, Mid-South Imaging and Therapeutic, Memphis.
Although Danny is a practicing radiologist, he requested that he perform his clinic duties
as a “floater”-- enabling him to experience the “whole enchilada.” From Intake to
Pharmacy, from clinic “flow” to handing out shoes, Danny was patient, professional and
always had a smile. A warm and compassionate soul, Danny was the “go to” man,
willing to perform whatever job needed to be done. He did an outstanding job as Keeper
of the Blog.
Jody Becker, Horse-back riding instructor, Aintree Farms, Memphis. Jody’s job was
taking blood pressures at clinic. Having worked previously as a nurse, Jody was a pro.
This job came naturally and effortlessly to her. The camaraderie and fun during the
hustle and bustle of the intake process was punctuated by Jody’s humor. I think one of
the highlights for Jody was riding a horse that a caballero had brought to our beautiful
mountain clinic that day!
Christine Scheinberg, Attorney, Evergreen Packaging, Memphis. Christine’s energy was
limitless. Helping Eleanor and Paul in the pharmacy was her assigned job, as Christine
had such an amazing visual and auditory memory that she could pluck the medications
that Eleanor needed without pause. Funny, quick-witted to match Eleanor’s, Christine
was like the energizer bunny that just kept working!
Angela Gordon, retired nurse and past Hadassah President, Memphis. Angela Gordon
has a presence that is her “present.” Kind, sweet, big-hearted and unselfish, the list
could fill up this page with her benevolent qualities. Her jobs as “wound care” and “lab”
specialist, were executed with such warmth and loving care, that patients were happy to
comply. Angela’s sensitivity not only to patients but to team members as well, won the
hearts of those she touched. Angela spear-headed fund-raising events prior to our
departure and her daughter challenged her High School to contribute health kits and
Debbie Michaels, artist, mom and my very close friend, Ann Arbor, Michigan. For years,
I’ve been trying to convince Debbie to join our mission trips... and this year she did!
Her job was multi-faceted: team photographer, hand out beanie babies, play with
children by blowing bubbles and playing games and float wherever needed. She really
earned the title of “Kid Magnet” or “Pied Piper.” What’s amazing about Debbie is that
she wins your heart and makes you feel happy-- whether by smiling, cajoling or
extending her hand-- she just makes you feel GOOD! She also has an amazing gift for
organizing and packing just about anything! Earning the title of “Prettiest Paparazzi,”
her artistic talents helped create the professional quality photos that you’ve been
enjoying on this blog. A wonderful trusted friend and confidant, Debbie added a warm
and nurturing presence to the team that was immeasurable. Ask her about her
impromptu horseback riding lesson!
A special thanks to Joy Pulsifer, missionary at the Jinotega orphanage for her expert
guidance and never-ending ability to stay calm in the moment. Also to the missionaries
Lianne Corbin and Joel Estrada for helping our team actualize our goals and make our
visit a reality. And a huge thank you to all of our interpreters who graced our team and
enabled us to perform our jobs: Pavel, Jessica, Geraldine, Eliu, Marvin, Julia, Sergio,
Harvey and Jairo.
And to all of my diligent, loving, conscientious and hard working team, it was an honor
to be your Jefa (chief). Todah Rabah.- Gracias- Thank you. Although our 2013 mission
trip has physically come to a close, the spirit of our mission continues in the hearts of
those we have touched and in ourselves.