Today I went with the medical delegation to the canton of Colón. They are visiting four cantons this week: Virginia, Colón, Santa Cruz, and Corozal. I woke up plenty early so I could get ready for the day ahead. We eventually left the Pastoral house around 7:45am after dealing with some problems involving the flatbed truck we rented. But all turned out okay and we were quickly on our way. We picked up the set up crew for the medical delegation as well as many of their supplies. I was at the back of the truck standing on the bumper. It was really dusty but such is life in the cantons. Plus I had a pila full of water to go home to.
It took a little less than an hour to get there. I watched as the crew began to set everything up. They had a lab, pharmacy, dentist’s office, doctor’s, office, and registration area. It was fun to watch them all as they performed their tasks. They really function like a well-oiled machine. Many people from the community had already shown up. Based on arrival time the community leaders handed them all numbers that would determine in what order they’d register. I’m not sure how many people they served today but yesterday I believe the number was 250 people.
Kathy had to leave to go get some things that were left behind at the house so I looked for some work to do. At first I helped arrange people in the line according to their number. At the registration area the staff gave each person a number and wrote down their name, age, and their main reason for visiting the clinic. From there they get weighed and their height is written down, they can have lab work done if necessary, and they are given basic hygiene instructions. They can see a doctor or a dentist and receive medication from them. They could also have an eye test and get glasses.
I spent a little time in the pharmacy area trying to understand what they do there. They used to just hand out medication without the patients having a specific diagnosis, but 7 years ago they changed their procedures. Now, people see the doctor or dentist and are given the medication the need. The delegation brings down most of the medication from the US because people can make donations and the quality of the medication is superior. All the medication has labels in English and Spanish. They give away acetaminophen, ibuprofen, vitamins, antibiotics, antacids, Pepto-Bismol, inhalers, meds for high blood pressure, meds for coughs & colds, allergy pills, and parasite medication. They also have antibiotic, hydrocortisone, and fungal creams.
After spending time in the pharmacy I spent the rest of the morning helping out with the eye glasses. They have tons of prescription eye glasses, bifocals, and reading glasses. I was sorting through the reading glasses. There must have been several hundred of them. I was sorting according to strength from 0 to 4.00. It was actually fun and I got to chat with some great people. It was nice to feel like I could be of help in some small way instead of just getting in the way. That took up almost 3 hours of my morning.
A little after noon we had some lunch. The ladies had cooked beef, pasta salad, tortillas, and vegetables for us. I ate all of my food and had a couple Gatorades as well. It was hot there and we were all sweating. I don’t typically drink Gatorade but for some reason today I had the urge to drink three of them. I was drinking those and water because I was hot but also because I was really tired and wanted to stay awake.
There were a couple special cases today that required extra attention. One was a little boy who had some sort of rash/abrasion on his legs. They looked pretty painful. The Pastoral House is going to help his family with money so he can get to a free clinic in San Salvador to have his legs looked at. One of the Pastoral Team ladies also had a checkup. She’d been feeling some pain in one of her legs which the doctor attributed to plantar fasciitis. Unfortunately, there’s no one treatment for it and a lot of what’s recommended (like rest, ice, new shoes, taking aspirin) aren’t easy for people to do here. Thankfully she was able to get an answer to what it is and some ibuprofen. Hopefully it won’t last her whole life.
Later in the afternoon we drove to two houses to visit people who couldn’t walk down to where the clinic was being held. The first person was a woman who had been thrown from a horse when she was 16 and suffered brain damage. She has problems with seizures and a lot of pain in her head. Right now she’s taking medication to control the pain and the seizures but it isn’t working well. The Pastoral Team is going to coordinate a time with the doctors at the clinic in Berlín so she can make an appointment with them. Then they can do some blood work to determine if her medication needs to be increased.
We also saw an older woman who has been having a lot of problems with diarrhea. This is a common problem in the cantons, especially when people don’t have access to clean drinking water. They get parasites with makes their stomachs bloat and gives them diarrhea. Actually, death related to diarrhea/parasites is one of the leading causes of death in children in El Salvador. The older woman was the only one in the house who was sick so it’s probably an infection, parasites, or something in the like. The doctors instructed her to be drinking more liquid than she is right now because she needs to re-hydrate her body.
We left around 3:15pm to head back to the school area. It had started to rain a little so I put my camera and notebook inside the car. Things were starting to wrap up by the time we got back to the school. It was definitely an interesting day and I learned a lot more about what all the medical delegation does. It will be exciting to be with them again tomorrow. We left Colón around 4:15pm to head back to Berlín. Kathy took the first truck load of people and the larger flat bed truck took the rest.
Waiting for the clinic to open
Kathy pretending to be a comando
I thought this was a neat sign.
It says: "Don't play with my rights.
Teach me with love."
Dentist set up area
The crowd of people begins
Checking blood pressure
Isn't she beautiful!
I love old people!
What a cute dress!
Waiting to be seen
Eye exam area
Tons of eyeglasses
Sorting through reading glasses
So many sweet faces
The eye area
So many eyeglasses to go through
Not sure what he's drawing
The school where the clinic was held
Waiting for mom
A huge conacaste tree
Watermelon for all (except me)
Toilet at the school
(I've seen worse)
Consult with the doc
Dust soup, anyone?
A lane to somebody's house
Waiting in line at the pharmacy
And more medication
I hopped out of the truck at the corner by the Pastoral House to buy some delicious plantain chips. I’m not sure how to describe them but they are delicious. Then I wandered around town for a while looking at all the little shops that have been set up for the festival. There’s lots of food and trinkets. I went to one store that had set up last year as well during the patron saint festival. There I found a beautiful ring with the Lord’s Prayer written on it in Spanish. Other than the food, that’s the only thing I purchased.
I took a shower when I got home before dinner. It felt good to be clean. At 7pm I had to work hard to stay awake. I was ready for bed even though I’d only been awake for 13 hours. Then at 8pm the ladies wanted to go out to the festival. I was excited because I love going out at night but I was also really tired. I decided to go anyway. There was another coronation celebration with about 8 other queens from the Berlín area. We watched a little of the ceremony and the parade like we did last night. Then it was back home to get some needed sleep. Yawn!!
The most important queen of the night
The second float
I really want that pink dress
So many flowers
The blue dress is also beautiful