Cuidad de la Esperanza is a very special place and I’ve never been a part of something like this. The vibes are immaculate. Children are running around, the medical team is working hard and patients patiently waiting. The school consists of about 400 k-12 students. Not to mention all of us Regis students that are having this incredible opportunity to not only expand our relationships together but also serve others. This reminds me of one of the Jesuit Values “men and women for and with others” which has been instilled in my brain as a nursing student. This really embodies the idea what this trip is about but also reminds me of another named Cura Personalis “caring for the whole person”. Today, I was lucky enough to spend the morning with Dr. Richard who is a retired internal medicine doctor and whole heartedly cares for the whole person. He is the most knowledgeable man I have ever meet and leads by example in caring for the whole person. He sees his patients as people first and really takes the time to develop relationships. Despite the language barrier and his limited understanding of Spanish, his translator Mishel is the voice in Dr. Richard’s brain. She knows how to ask all the important follow up questions and could perhaps fill in for Dr. Richard when he’s not in clinic!
Today, Friday, May 5th we met several patients who weren’t necessarily medically complicated patients but due to a lack of resources we were unable to give an official diagnosis. A woman named Dora came in with many pains, aches, pre cirrhosis of the liver and a history of uterine cancer. Later that day a man named Rúben arrived with uncontrolled diabetes, a hemoglobin A1C of 13 and a blood glucose of 325. Not to mention his chest pain. We came to find out that he hadn’t taken his diabetes medication for the past six months due to financial reasons. So we wrote him a prescription for the Cuidad de la Esperanza pharmacy so he can come each month to get a free refill. When it comes to Dr. Richard doing a physical exam, he crosses his t’s and dots his i’s. So we began by doing the generic assessments like examining eyes, neck, lymph nodes, auscultating the heart, lungs, and bowl sounds, percussing the liver and even learned how to examine a fatty liver via a makeshift way since a CT isn’t possible. From here we focused on the area of chest pain. Upon examination Dr. Richard tried to elicit pain but it was non tender to the patient indicating a potential heart problem. He decided to get Juan Pablo (a local social worker) on board to set the patient up with a cardiologist so he can work him up to rule out a heart attack. Dr. Richard had a long conversation with me about the two routes regarding the decision to send him home and the slim change he has a heart attack or cover all of our bases and arrange for an appointment within the next week with a cardiologist and be 100% sure. Dr. Richard always looks at what’s in the best of interest of the patient and treats everyone as if they are a family member.
Flashback to yesterday, Thursday, May 4th I worked with Dr. Lauri who is the pediatrician that coordinates and organizes this interfaith medical service trip to Cuidad de la Esperanza. We consulted a 15 year old girl named Mariella who has down syndrome and provided her with a thyroid exam which she had never had. A thyroid exam is required annually in the United States for every kid with down syndrome so it was awesome to provide her with this test! Also the results came back normal which was great news! Mariella is one of the cutest yet shy little girl until you get to know her. She has the biggest smile and is very curious. I went to pick out a toy that I thought she would enjoy and that’s age appropriate and decided a squish mellow would be perfect. She couldn’t stop hugging it and that’s when I knew it was the right choice.
The patients last step of clinic is to get their prescription from the Dr. Eric who is the pharmacist. The room in which they meet is also the same room as PT with Dr. Deb and Dr. Nan. As I was assisting in the PT room I looked over and saw saw Mariella, Ruben, Dora and their son (who I didn’t treat) all praying and getting medicine from Dr. Erik. This moment was so special to me because I was processing the fact that I had cared for all the members of that family except for the little boy and was in awe. I would have never realized that they were related if it wasn’t for that moment and it filled my heart to know that almost a whole family received care from us. This moment also stood out to me because I didn’t see many men in clinic because they are typically working so it was so very special to see a man, little did I know a father.
My favorite part of this trip was being able to see how everyone played a vital role. Everything we did for the past year leading up to May has impacted everything we were able to do. First, all the fundraising which allowed us to bring medications to stock the pharmacy for a year, buy more Ecofiltros for those without purified water, send patients to specialists for a reduced cost and fill/ refill prescriptions for the next year for free. Also I want to recognize how we all worked as a well oiled machine. If it wasn’t for Stephanie, Monse, Ricky and KK we wouldn’t have patients to triage. And if we didn’t have students to triage them they wouldn’t make it to the doctor, if it wasn’t for the pharmacy we wouldn’t be able to treat their illness and last but not least if it wasn’t for PT and OT kids with disabilities wouldn’t be able to improve. You get the point. Clinic this year truly reflected that we all needed each other to accomplish our goals in the most effective, efficient and enjoyable manner. I am so lucky to have been part of such an amazing trip and I’m looking forward to more medical service trips like this in the future! Riley Hodges