Monday, February 25, 2013

Wrapping it up

Just because we're home, it doesn't mean the work is done! One last gathering today, to turn in trunks, store/dispose of medication, fill out paperwork, etc.

I took over 3200 photos, and over the next few weeks I will edit them and burn them to a DVD to distribute to all of the trip participants. I will also pick the best of the best, and post a photo gallery for all to see. Thanks for following us on this blog, and we appreciate your support!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Home sweet home

We didn't have to leave for the airport until about 9:30 a.m., so we had some time to sleep in a little, eat some breakfast, and enjoy one last stroll around the park. A few people even got their shoes shined.

Our flight left on time at around 1:30, after another chaotic airport check. Everything ran on time, and landed in Kansas City at 11 p.m., slightly ahead of schedule.

I wasn't thrilled with the the scene that greeted me when I got home, after getting used to highs in the 80s for a couple weeks. Back to reality!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Last full day in Guatemala

We had a pre-dinner pinata celebration last night, and Dr. Magie took the honors of finally breaking that thing open, releasing candy everywhere. I think he may have been a baseball player during high school and college.

For lunch today, many of us took a short excursion to a macadamia nut farm. It was a very peaceful respite from the noise and pollution of the city. We went on a brief tour of their operations:

Then we had the best pancakes I have ever tasted - macadamia nut pancakes with blackberries and macadamia nut butter. To close it off, many took advantage of a free facial (using macadamia nut oil, of course).

The next post will probably be from cold, snowy Kansas City. See you soon!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Blizzard in Kansas City, 80 degrees in Guatemala

While Kansas City enjoyed getting a foot of snow, here in Guatemala we enjoyed lounging poolside. After we shut down our last clinic around 1:00, it was a short walk to a waterpark, with several pools and a long, fast waterslide, which Dr. Ogden tried out:

They also presented to all of the participants certificates of appreciation.

We have one full day to wrap things up and enjoy the warm weather before returning home to family and friends. It's been a great trip, but I think I speak for everyone when I say we can't wait to get home!

Mission accomplished!

We made a return visit to Santa Cararina Barahona this morning. The good news - it's a short bus ride, and we wrapped up around 1:00. The bad news - it's among the most challenging locations, as far as space and traffic flow. We were split among two floors, with small rooms and narrow hallways. A steep ramp or a narrow, steep staircase were the only ways upstairs.

However, we cranked through 200 patients, and succesfully wrapped up our last clinic day. It's been an absolutely exhausting two weeks, and it's hard to believe our work is finished for this year. I'm so proud of the hard work and dedication that everyone on this trip - students, faculty, alumni, and volunteers - have shown.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Evening entertainment

After returning to the hotel after clinic today, we enjoyed a wine and cheese social on the rooftop. We were divided into teams, and were assigned to bring a red or white wine from a certain region and/or a snack (I was on the Argentina white team).

Then after dinner, some of us took salsa lessons. At least those of us who do not have two left feet.

San Juan Alotenango

We made a return visit to San Juan Alotenango, which is always fun, since we have a nice view of a constantly erupting volcano. The eruptions are usually a puff smoke, like the following photo, but still interesting to watch:

While we were hard at work up above, women were busy down below doing laundry.

As usual, there was a long line waiting. Our best guess for a patient count is about 350. Once again, we had to cut off the line, and turn the stragglers away, with just some vitamins. It's a reminder that the need always exceeds the resources.


We seemed to have an abundance of cute babies today:

And we had time to have a little fun:

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

We work hard, and we play hard!

We shut down clinic a bit earlier than normal so that we could go to a thank you dinner provided by Acidico, the organization in Guatemala that helps us plan and execute this medical mission trip. The first order of business was a soccer game - Team USA against Team Guatemala. Final score was 3-0, with the Guatemalans taking the gold medal.

Our hosts provided a wonderful meal, and gave us heart-warming thanks and recognition for our work here. Every student got a beautiful woven hair band or pen and coin purse, and the faculty got a shirt, jacket, or bag. The meals and gifts are wonderful, but pale in comparison to the tear-filled thank yous from our patients for the difference we are able to make in their lives.

Santa Apolonia

On Day 5 of clinic, this is starting to feel routine - in a good way. Every day still offers unique challenges and experiences, but we've all settled into our roles, and we're a well-oiled machine. It was about an hour to Santa Apolonia today, and as usual, there was a long line waiting. We saw about 380 patients.

We're kept very busy, and sometimes we find we don't have enough hands, literally:

And yet again, our school visit to donate soccer equipment was a highlight of my day. We stayed a little longer than usual today to play with a classroom of kids. Our presence was very well received - we felt like rock stars!

Young alumni leading the way

Allison Abraham, D.O.

Jessica Segedy, D.O.

Jessica Segedy, D.O., Steve Derrington, D.O. and Allison Abraham, D.O. - all KCUMB class of 2011 graduates

In the life of a resident, "busy" is a constant, "sleep" is a precious commodity, and "days off" are a luxury.  The above pictures are an introduction to some young alumni, all from the class of 2011, who have sacrificed much to join us on our medical mission.  They joined us because they love serving others:  those in Guatemala who are in need and our current students who need the best learning experience they can get out of of this trip.  From them, I learned a lot too.  We talked about how we could continuously improve this rotation and they provided some thoughtful feedback.  We also talked about the different ways in which they work with the students to help translate this 3rd world experience into the realities of treating patients in the U.S.  In Guatemala, you see a patient with "x" symptoms, you prescribe "y" the U.S., you see a patient with the same symptoms and you prescribe "z".  They make sure that the students are educating the patients about self-care and understanding their diagnoses.  It's a neat thing to watch!  More than that, you get a glimpse into a life of service.  These graduates don't do this for glory - they do it because their hearts are into it.  They love giving back with the talents and education they have.  For each of our alumni, "giving back" is a very personal thing.  Some choose to give of their time and talents, some choose to give of their money, some do both - we appreciate and need each and every one of you!  Drs. Segedy, Derrington, Abraham and others are leading the way.  If you are interested in learning how you can join them in your own special way in helping with this mission or with scholarships or otherwise, please let me know.  The most wonderful part of my job is seeing how fulfilling the experience can be for all involved.  The smiles say it all!  (

Monday, February 18, 2013

Home visits

One of my special privileges on this trip has been being invited along with a medical team into the homes of patients who are unable to make the journey to the clinic. Beth posted about this earlier, and it is indeed a fascinating glimpse into the daily lives of the Guatemalan people, and our presence in their homes can be a tremendous relief to the patients and their families. Today we visited three homes, and I will let KCUMB student Andrew Trom take it from here:

"Today I had the pleasure of being in the group to do home visits. Two local women had asked us if we could help their grandfather with his bladder problems. We gathered what supplies we thought we would need and took off on foot. They said it was only five minutes away. About 25 minutes later we showed up at the first house. The man was 80 years old and had the worst arthritis in his knees I have ever seen.

After trying to treat him we knew we needed more supplies, and we were directed to the house of a second family member who needed care. We arrived ten minutes later to find a bedridden 79-year-old man who had a seizure awhile back. He could barely communicate and had major right sided deficits. We diagnosed this patient and figured out we needed more supplies for him also.

We began to head back. Before we left the driveway another family was asking us to help their family member. We couldn't say no, so we went there as well. We found another elderly man wheelchair bound with congestive heart failure. He had bad swelling and sores over his legs and feet. Luckily, we had supplies for him, treated him and returned to the clinic, before going back to the other patients with their medications.

It was amazing to get the opportunity to enter these people's homes and get an idea of what Guatemalan life is like. These people know the true meaning of family and do whatever it takes to care for each other. Also, these are very gracious people. For helping them, they purchased us soda with what little money they have to show appreciation. It felt great to help to help these people that have so little compared to all of us back in the U.S."

More cute kids

Mixta Aldea Los Pajales

Today was one of my favorite clinic days. I always enjoy trips to the rural mountain communities, and this was certainly the most scenic destination to date. It was a long trip of course, on curvy mountain roads, but well worth the trip.

We saw around 350 patients, but we would have seen more if we had allowed in the patients with "counterfeit" paperwork. Every patient has an intake form, with a unique number. On almost every day, someone photocopies a form, and distributes them around the community. When we see the same number more than once, we know this has happened. This is a problem because we carefully plan the number of patients and amount of supplies, and we also track data after we get home. When people try to sneak past us this way, it's not fair to those who are following the rules and waiting their turn. So today, we redirected these people to a line where we gave them vitamins, and sent them on. It was a long line:
Finally, today I am highlighting the hardworking students who have mostly been working in OB/GYN. For obvious reasons, I don't wander into that area with my camera, but that also excludes those students from the blog.
Bottom left is Rachel High. Rachel says, "It has been most rewarding to me to treat causes of pelvic pain in these Guatemalan women. Some complain of months or years of pain, which has a negative effect on their sex lives and general well being. The women are thankful to have an answer and even more so to know their symptoms will go away soon. I am happy to know we are preventing future spread of STDs and risk of infertility, and improving quality of life."
Bottom right is Suzie Suozzo. She says, "It has been amazing being able to provide patients with care they wouldn't otherwise receive. We had one patient today who was pregnant and in her third trimester, but had never seen a doctor. This is her first baby and she is only a teenager, so we were able to do a great deal of counseling to help her know what to expect throughout the rest of her pregnancy. The people here are so sweet and appreciative and it's such a privilege to be able to take care of them."

Others in the back row are Amy Rice, Dr. Alejandro Aju Coy with Guatemala DOCARE, and Maggie Boucher, a nurse from California, and also a fluent Spanish speaker.

A few "for fun" shots

The native Mayans are typically a bit vertically challenged...and when standing next to very tall Americans Sarah Simmler and Brandon Alexander, it becomes a very stark difference!  The stairs are smaller, the doorways are smaller and - on a serious note - because they are so much smaller, we also have to watch dosaging of our medicines.

We couldn't resist taking a picture of this one.  Most carry baskets on their heads - with laundry or food or yummy tortillas to sell on the street.  This woman definitely had balancing skills...but you also can see why we provide so many joint injections!

This photo makes me was taken on our trip to the school where they showered us in confetti.

The Tazmanian Devil was a very appropriate symbol for our crazy bus rides!


I and several others returned home from the mission late yesterday.  I woke up early - like we did in Guatemala - and missed not jumping onto the bus and heading out to another clinic.  I hesitated briefly when I ran my toothbrush under the running water...something I hadn't been able to do for a week as the running water was not safe (only the bottled water in the jugs in the hallway of the hotel was).  My next thought as I emptied out a suitcase was "boy do I have lots of laundry to do".  That thought started to come out as a complaint but I immediately started counting my blessings.

I don't have to climb a hill to put my laundry on the line.  I'm thankful for the dryer in the basement!

I don't have to walk with  my laundry in a basket on my head to the middle of town where they would then all scrub their clothes in a community "washateria".  I am thankful for my own private washing machine and for lugging my clothes up and down stairs instead of across town.

This was a picture of the courtyard at the home where we did the house call last week.  The bathroom is the blue door to the right.  I'm thankful for real indoor plumbing.

At the same house, this is a picture of door to the kitchen and the sink where they wash their clothes and their dishes...often in the same water. 

Tonight I will not grumble about how small my kitchen is, how I don't have storage space for pots and pans or how hard it is to make dinner.  This is the scene from a fairly upscale kitchen in the back of a little store. 

I'm reminded time and time again about "wants" versus "needs" and what's really important.  Count your blessings today for all that you have.  I will be counting mine for a while and I know the students will too.