On the first day of our medical and dental clinics, five 4×4 trucks nearly overflowing with medicine, medical and dental supplies, and food traveled cautiously down the mountainous, rocky terrain to reach our first village. As the first truck approached the village, the sound of fireworks greeted us. Children lined both sides of the entrance waving balloons and cheering while the adults clapped. After the last truck passed, the children and their families embraced us with great joy. This is a scene that has played outwith the same intensity for sixteen years, and that moves us to return.
After a two-year Covid-enforced absence, our medical/dental brigade finally returned to Intibucá, Honduras in July. This was our 10th brigade to serve the people of Guanacaste, and our 5th trip to Aguacate. This year we were 24 strong—12 from the U.S. and 12 partners, including our two dentists, from Honduras. Besides our team of four doctors, four nurses, and two dentists, we were supported by five translators, four pharmacy workers, and five drivers–each performing roles critical to the success of our mission.
During our 5, 11-hour days of clinic, we again served over 1000 patients. Our last trip had been in July of 2019. At that time,we had left a full year of chronic medicines for patients with epilepsy, heart disease, hypertension and other chronic illnesses. We tried desperately to fill the gap of our absence over the last 12 months. In the fall of 2020, we had the opportunity to send a shipment of materials, including medications and vitamins, to Honduras. Sadly, many of our gifts for our patients were destroyed by hurricanes Eta and Iota. And we observed the difference that our absence made.
Nine-year-old Seily, who was born without a functional thyroid, must have missed doses of her thyroid medicine. For the first time in years, her measured thyroid blood tests were abnormal. Maria was running low on her epilepsy medicine and was again having seizures.But thankfully we made the trip this year. We were masked and vaccinated,and we had plenty of masks for our patients, as well. And when we left, Seily and Maria, and all of our other patients with chronic illnesses, were left with the medications that they needed.
Upon our return to Intibucá, we were also met with evidence of our many successes. Beatriz’s painful Rheumatoid Arthritis remains improved because of the medications that we provide. Sweet Reynaldo greeted us with his beautiful smile—thanks to the cleft lip and palate repair performed by Smile Train.
Because of the communities’ access to clean water, thanks to the cooperation of Friends of Honduras and Living Waters for the World, we saw far fewer children with the painful bellies that come from parasites. Every eligible person was treated for parasites, but the need for the medication was less desperate than in previous years.
As always, preventive health is one of our top priorities. We provide dental varnish to all the children and diligently teach about proper dental care. We educate about the dangers of excessive coffee intake, especially for the children, and the need to increase the intake of clean water. We provide vitamins and beans, rice, eggs and milk to help improve the health of every person we see. We prioritize making extra resources available to the pregnant and nursing mothers and the families with larger numbers of children.
The five days of clinic passed quickly, and since our return we reflect on the mission trip and what experiences touched our hearts…the 86-year-old grandmother carrying her baby grandson on her back so that he could receive treatment, the 70-year-old woman that walked to our clinic for 6 hours one way with a homemade cane, the three-year-old boy with cleft lip that is being referred to Smile Train and will receive the treatment he needs. And mostly the long lines of villagers hoping and praying to be seen and find relief. We are proud that each one of them received the best care and love we had to offer.
Every year we leave with a sense of accomplishment, exhaustion and gratitude. And this year was no different. We are determined that we will return to our patients and friends, who are the citizens of Guanacaste and Aguacate, in 2022.
Abbe & Marilyn organize medical records for next year!