A dear friend of Guardian Nurses, who also happens to be a family practice physician, ventured to Honduras last week on a medical mission. Upon hearing her compelling stories of her week providing primary care to thousands of rural residents, I thought it would be good to share some of them–in no particular order.
1. The total # of patients that the Family Practice team (2 attendings, 4 residents) saw during the week was 2,300. Yes, that is not a typo. 2,300 patients. YOWZA!! What allowed them to see so many patients was that there was no demographic forms to fill out, no HIPAA forms to review, just a number. And no documentation of the visit. Just, “Next!”
2. The total # of patients that the Surgical team (ortho, ob, vascular and general) operated on during the week was 52. (Slackers.) The OB attending taught the staff at the hospital how to do a C-section using a lateral incision (side to side, better for recovery) rather than what they had been using—a vertical incision (not so good for recovery). The general surgeon also showed the local surgical team how to perform laparoscopic hernia repairs (again, much better for recovery) rather than the traditional open approach.
3. Most memorable cases:
- The 60-ish year old woman who came in with her wrist wrapped in a tea towel for the last month. She had fallen and broken her radius and had no treatment until seen by the team. She was sent to the hospital for surgery the next day. (But…she had to buy her own hardware—pins, screws, etc—for the surgery at the ‘big city’ prior to having her wrist repaired.) Patients also have to bring their own blood to the hospital if their surgery is expected to have a lot of blood loss).
- The patients were “Crazy for glasses!” Please know that the Lions Club glasses’ collection really does go somewhere. There were boxes of glasses at the mission that the team distributed throughout the week and the team confirmed that "The teenage girls really still wanted the stylish ones.”
- The 30-ish year old man who had shingles on his back who had his rash wrapped up in banana leaves. We do not encourage this.
- Breast feeding was everywhere. One evidence of this was a young man riding a bicycle with a woman and her infant baby between the handlebars—-she was breastfeeding as they traveled!
- The young 2 year old who presented with “jewels in her ears.” She had broken her bracelet and put the ‘jewels’ in her ears. The young patient had her ears flushed out while her very grateful grandmother stood by. The toddler never made a peep during a rather difficult procedure.
- A five-month old baby with a cleft lip and palate but only the lip had been repaired. The baby appeared about 2 months old because he has not been able to suck a bottle so his nutrition has been affected. The team made arrangements for a special nipple to be sent down so that the boy could eat and grow.
4. What we in this country think of “drug seeking” looks like patients wanting Percocet, Oxycontin, et al. In Honduras, it’s Tylenol, ibuprofen, parasite medicine, and multi-vitamins. Apparently multi-vitamins are a HOT commodity.
Overall, the family practice team had "An amazing week. So overwhelmingly positive and heartwarming. We felt like we really made a difference.” No doubt they did.
“Le deseamos buena salud” (Wishing you good health)
This story warms my heart on Valentine Day! If another trip is scheduled and supplies or a donation would be useful please let me know.