The Jesuit Medical Mission fielded a support team of ten including four health practitioners from Baylor, three people from the high school’s science and one from the language faculty; and, most delightfully … my friend Kevin Garcia and his daughter, Olivia, who help translate. The posse saddled up in support of six young men from Dallas’ Jesuit College Prep high school. Everybody ponied up part of their spring break in order to manifest this rare, hands-on clinical experience. Altogether they would produce a labor of love that fulfills on one of the purposes of the Jesuit Medical Mission: to provide service.
— This time, almost three hundred Mayan agricultural workers from the highlands of Guatemala benefited.
The whole school (along with interested alumni like Kevin) supports the Medical Society by accumulating hundreds of pounds of medicines for distribution on the annual trip. And, the two pediatricians, GP and social worker from Baylor are specifically selected for their willingness to teach the kids. The massive expedition is coordinated by the Medical Society’s six-gun-tottin’, troubleshootin’ director, Jan Jones. The Mission’s in-country partners handle all logistics for clearing medicines and getting the doctors permission to practice in Central America. Two local non-government organizations, Vivamos Mejor and Hospitalito Atitlan did the administration and secured the remote site for the prep school. The latter on-goingly raises funds for Pastor Pedro’s clinic – fifteen km outside of Santiago Atitlan.
Pastor Pedro had expected that, of his fifteen hundred patients, eight hundred would be at the clinic. Fortunately, this was too bad to be true. But the crowds were so thin on the first morning that the situation needed remediation. So, Erica Walker, JMM’s Spanish teacher and I set off to spread the word through the village. She schmoosed the cops and charmed truck drivers hauling people into to Santiago. Sure enough, she drummed up enough business to keep the students and doctors busy for the next few days. Meanwhile Jan Jones and Ben Kirby anchored the pharmacy and Physics teacher, Max Von Schlehenried took over translating in triage. Things were running so smoothly when Kevin Garcia arrived that he could see that no need for his translating. So he kept busy fixing the plumbing.
The days ran into a blur and, thankfully, there were no emergency moments. But, there was an unusual situation: It is quite rare to see Mayan children without a Mom nearby and there were several scruffy boys tearing around. As they clustered to ask for more goodies, Dr. Rhonda Walton noticed one child with a gash over his ear. She asked him how it happened and became alarmed by his reticence. She had fully expected him to tell her some adventure story and when he did not, she began to wonder how the wound (perhaps from a machete) was inflicted. She dressed it with some misgiving and determined to bring the incident up with Dr. Carlos Flores of Vivamos Mejor when he came to the farewell dinner. Dr. Flores acknowledged the fine line of Good Samaritans and said that he would not have treated the child without a parent present.
It was during that final debriefing that Doctor Walton would voice everyone’s concerns on how to make the Mission’s impacts go beyond the examining room. In this context, she would address the uncertainty of doctors making diagnoses under unfamiliar conditions and without the confirmation of lab tests. Her comments highlight the necessity of pre-briefings (perhaps questionnaires?) that would pre-form visitor’s expectations and guide in the selection of medicines. In her impassioned way, the pediatrician would air the frustrations that come up for doctors when they can’t be sure that patients will take advice or follow-up on necessary treatment.
“Five days doesn’t mean much. Education in skin hygiene, diet and nutrition lasts so much longer. We are not just bringing vitamins – we are here to learn, too…”
(The doctor continued using birth control as her example.)
“We do not know the local mores and no one knows our philosophy or our hearts. But, I have a position on birth control. So, the patient gets to hear that and get the pills, too.”
Doctor Yolanda Brady offered that she saw pills in the cases at the clinic and one of the students countered that that wasn’t proof that Pastor Pedro dispensed them
Looking into the long term, Jan Jones wants to see the Medical Mission create an association with their local patients. As if in response, Dr. Flores gave the group sturdy picture book produced by Vivamos Mejor for new mothers. Clearly, other trainings and picture books would help the community incorporate more healthy behaviors.
The Jesuit Medical Mission with its playful students and dedicated posse was entirely welcomed by a sweet and needy community. They most certainly lived up to their motto homines pro aliis.
Jesuit Medical Mission – 2012 Part 1 The Kids