Finally a break in the action here so I have some time to write. So many of you have made this all possible – I wish I had the writing talent to draw the scene with words – to let you know the impact your prayers and your generosity are making.
My dad was a writer and he used to say just put the pen in your hands and it will lead you – not sure if that applies to a keyboard!
The days here are so packed with emotion, with love, with God’s grace. Sometimes we feel we are making the proverbial difference – sometimes we all look at each other with frustration knowing that only the power of a mighty God can fix the pain and suffering that some have to endure.
This trip is especially wonderful because I have my daughter, Laura with me. Laura is finishing med school in May and will be starting residency in Ob/Gyn in July. Never did I imagine that I’d have an opportunity to share my life’s profession with one of my children. It really is incredibly special. And to add to it, we also have a remarkable medical student, Cydni Siggins with us. Cydni has completed three years at Dartmouth and is taking a year to learn about many things you never get in med school – I hesitate to speak for her but I can see that this year for her is opening her eyes to the great needs of the developing world and she is seeing firsthand what global healthcare is all about. On top of that, she is perfecting her Spanish and learning so much about Complementary and Natural Health Care. So having these two with me brings extra joy to the day and also challenges me in new ways to look at things here afresh.
The week has brought its share of satisfaction, frustration, laughter. Through it all, I always feel God’s grace pulling us along.
First and foremost, the new clinic is unbelievable! May I thank each and every one of you who made it happen. No longer do we have to sweat it out in a hot and dreary building that was rented so we couldn’t improve it. Bright rooms have a cool breeze going through them throughout the day which makes for happier staff AND happier patients. The patients often comment “muy professional” which I think makes them feel that they are receiving the kind of care that the privileged receive.
We see the gamut of mundane to tragic; pregnant girls excitedly seeing their babies for the first time on ultrasound welcoming a new life with anticipation and joy; another sadly experiencing a miscarriage….too many girls with frightening stories of sexual and violent abuse…..
Somehow God seems to always provide what we need. On Friday, we were all feeling a little overwhelmed and helpless in knowing how to deal with so many stories of girls telling frightening stories of sexual abuse and domestic violence. Out of nowhere a psychologist with many years of experience in dealing with these girls came and said she would like to volunteer with us one day each week. She was able to connect us with an organization that provides help for these girls.
But those stories continue to haunt me. How does a girl escape abuse and exploitation if she has nowhere to turn? No money for the basics? Even her family doesn’t want to believe it because if they do, they will have to admit that she would have to leave her only source of support. I cry inside when I picture it. I have to believe that the children in our after-school program will have a different story. Here, they not only receive a real education but they also feel the love from our staff and from each other. They really are like a little family.
The cervical cancer prevention program is continuing to expand. Mayra Martinez completed her education in cytotechnology and now she is working for us full time! She is able to read the paps as we do them so that we can treat people immediately. We will of course be bringing all the paps back for review by our own cytotechs in Ohio but with time, I believe we will have a complete high-quality pap program with a cytology school here.
Laura and Cydney are doing an outstanding job in this challenging environment.
We put in long hours and Laura commented the other day “Hmmm…..this is kind of like a regular OB rotation!” They are amazing me with their Spanish skills and their ability to figure out what is needed from patients who live lives so different to what we are accustomed to hearing about. Sometimes it’s a simple treatment for headaches or gastritis and other times a biopsy for unusual bleeding or a treatment of a precancerous cervical lesion.
We’ve also had some time for laughter. Cydney wants to bring home a machete so she can cut her own coconuts so Ismael gave her a full lesson in the best cutting techniques! Popping open coconuts and drinking fresh coconut water is a pretty special treat. Today we ran a 5 K race with some of the children in our program. Two of our boys took 1st and 2nd place for kids under 13 and Laura and Cydney took 1st and 2nd place for all females! Because we were there, they called it an “International Race”! Randy says we have Gringa power!
Through it all we continue to thank God for our two very special program directors here – Ismael Martinez and Orfelinda Guerra. Day in and day out, they are the ones facing the challenges, working long hours, making it all happen.