Well, we are home… Carrie in North Carolina and the rest of us in Iowa. It was hard to part with Carrie in Houston and everyone else once we got to Des Moines. The trip home was uneventful, other than one person’s phone disappearing somewhere between the plane and the restroom at the Houston airport.
It was a very successful trip, from all perspectives. To my knowledge the only person who really got sick was our driver from the Pastoral Team, Alejandro, and that was on the last day of clinics. He picked up some kind of a stomach bug, but was better by yesterday, when we left.
I can spout some statistics, like:
Despite the volume of patients, the physicians treated each person as an individual and each received the time commitment that fit their needs. The patients ranged from babies a few days old to seniors in their 90’s. There were families and singles, women and men, boys and girls. Some just needed some Tylenol for their aches and pains while others had cancer, Parkinson’s, congenital skeletal deformities or severe depression. Many heard they have a virus that just has to run its course. Others had high blood pressure, parasites, infections or found out they were pregnant. Others got reading glasses. Everyone received vitamins and a tooth brush and tooth paste.
My task for the week was to orchestrate the flow of patients. After registration each patient had their symptoms, temperature, blood pressure, pulse, weight, etc. recorded by a nurse and then sat in a waiting area. From there I would make sure they saw the next available doctor. When they came out from the doctor I made sure they got to where they needed to go next. Most of the time it was to the pharmacy to get what they needed and head home. But sometimes they needed a urinalysis test, or to see the chiropractor or physical therapist, or to talk to the Pastoral Team about emotional issues, or to see Simei, our Salvadorian doctor, in order to be referred for further treatment. It was my job to keep track of them and make sure they got to the next “station” when that person became available.
My position uniquely allowed me to constantly interface with everyone in our amazing group and observe how they worked as a TEAM. Quite frankly, it was a thing of beauty. I really find it hard to put into words. Without exception everyone had a genuine compassion for their patients. Our team members worked together seamlessly with each other, each doing their part to serve the patients.
I want to stop here and make sure you understand who all comprised this TEAM I’m referring to. It wasn’t just the physicians, nurses and support staff from the states. It also very much included Simei, the Salvadorian doctor who took time off to join us; the 7 Salvadorian translators who made it possible to communicate; the members of the Pastoral Team who provided sage advice, counselled patients, registered patients, fixed our lunch at each clinic, drove us to the clinic sites, bought medications and medical supplies locally and took care of us back at the Pastoral House; the leaders of each community who organized our patients, prepared the sites where we set up our clinics and helped with various needs during the clinics; and local Salvadoran “health promoters” who helped set up follow-up visits or further consultations or treatment for those who needed it. Every last one of these people pitched in with whatever needed to be done… loading and unloading heavy tubs of supplies from the big flatbed truck, setting up examination rooms, holding a baby while its mother was being treated or washing dishes at the Pastoral House. No one complained. It was always, “What can I do to help?” We all had each other’s back.
The medical delegates from the states weren’t just there to “see some patients”. They all wanted to know more about El Salvador, its history, its people and their lives. They asked loads of thoughtful questions. 10 of this year’s delegation members were repeats. For most of them this was their 3rd or 4th Our Sister Parish Medical Delegation (out of the 4 Our Sister Parish Medical Delegations that have been held). This a testament to their convictions and their commitment to this mission, especially when you consider that they not only paid their own way, but they took a week of their vacation time and many lost a week’s worth of income. I’m proud to say I was once again a part of this wonderful TEAM and can’t wait to go back again next year.
I hope those who are reading this can search out someone who has participated in an Our Sister Parish Medical Delegation or church-sponsored Our Sister Parish delegation and learn more about their experience, the Our Sister Parish mission and what you can do to help.