Our final day running the clinic began as the previous three had. We awoke early, had a nice breakfast, and then were escorted to Concepcion del Norte by our driver Norman. As usual, we were met at the turn-off to Concepcion by several armed guards, who have been with us throughout our time here. We are told that the principal worry is that our predictable travel schedule along a long, remote road makes us easy targets for robbery. We are very aware that our hosts are taking extra precautions to ensure our safety. We have come to regard our guards as members of the team, and at no time have we felt even the slightest bit unsafe.
The line of families had already formed before we arrived, just as it had every day. And, as in the previous days, our patient Alberto was at the front it, waiting to have his hand inspected. And it looked much better. The swelling had nearly completely resolved; there was only minimal pus on the packing; overall, he was feeling better, and his appetite had returned. We taught his mother how to dress the hand, gave them exercises to work through to maintain his range of motion, and gave him an extended course of antibiotics. His infection posed a serious risk to his hand – had it been left untreated, it could have threatened his entire upper extremity. And while the wound is still in the healing process, everyone agrees that its dramatic improvement will likely result in complete resolution and return of function.
This morning also brought a mother with a small child – 18 months old – who had a large, infected abscess on her face, just behind her right eye, where a mosquito bite she’d scratched became infected. This condition required another simple procedure with a scalpel – no anesthesia this time, as evidenced by the cries of the poor girl. Though we know it hurt when we drained the abscess, she will be much better off for it. By the time we had filled prescriptions for antibiotics and given the mother instructions, the girl was sleeping in her mother’s arms.
Like our patient Alberto’s hand, this girl’s injury is now healing. We feel blessed to be a part of these significant transformations in their young lives –and in Alberto’s case, we are glad that we have been able to watch the progress day by day. In a similar way our team has gone through a dramatic transformation as well. We all traveled down here not entirely sure what to expect, and yet have worked to meet every challenge thrown our way. Some of us learned to triage and manage a crowd of needy patients; some of us treated individuals well outside our scope of normal practice; some of us stretched our linguistic and translation skills; some of us learned how to work in an ersatz pharmacy. All of us learned to trust one another, and to be grateful for all what God has given us.
We have done all this because we have had to; because it is what is asked of us when we volunteer to go on a trip like this. And it is what is needed of us if we are to help those whom we came to serve. We hope we have become different people through this mission, and as we move on in our lives, we pray that we will hold on to all that we have learned.
By our preliminary estimate, we have treated over 500 individuals, most of whom were children. Tomorrow we will take a much-needed rest – we will travel to Copan to visit the Myan ruins before heading home Saturday.