International Nursing

Medical Mission Trip to Honduras – Part 2

Honduras, October, 1988-Tuesday

We just finished our first clinic day together as a whole group. The rest of the team arrived in the cattle truck around 5 pm yesterday after standing for eight hours and bumping along the rough roads. They looked exhausted. I thank the Lord that I rode in the little pickup truck with the luggage because I could not have stood that long without fainting.

The women sleep at a former missionary’s home in three large rooms with a covered patio and fire pit for cooking in the back yard. I even have a bed with a mattress, two clean sheets, and a pillow. The men sleep a block away in another village home and join us on the large patio for meals prepared by the church women. There is one toilet on the porch and a curtained place to take a sponge bath. The village has running water for three hours in the morning and electricity for three hours in the afternoon, so we eat by the light of two gas lanterns. When the water isn’t running, we pour a bucket of water down the toilet to flush it. When the water is running, the women collect huge pots of it to supply the team the entire day.

When we awoke this morning in the dark, each woman took turns dipping a bucket of warm water from the large pot on the fire and then taking a sponge bath by flashlight. By the time the men arrived for breakfast, the sun had risen. One of the doctors led us in a precious time in God’s word followed by singing choruses together. We then prayed and committed the day to God, asking Him to use us for His glory and honor. I loved learning this new chorus.

“This is the day that the Lord hath made, we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).

After gathering our medical supplies, we walked down the street to the village school. Those of us who worked yesterday afternoon showed them the classrooms. Each doctor chose one and was assigned an interpreter. I continued to be the triage nurse, check blood pressures and share John 3:16 and gospels of John. The huge crowds outside the school continued to come.  I did a few ear irrigations. Today, I worked with a translator named Tony from Belgium. He instructs 12 and 13-year-old children how to teach school. I was shocked when he told me 70% of the people cannot read.

Anatomy of a cow on the village classroom wall.
Anatomy of a cow on the village classroom wall.

 

The crowds waited patiently outside all day to see a doctor.

Everyone has intestinal parasites (worms) so the pharmacy staff set up a Piperazine table under the tree. Each patient gets a tablespoon of sweet red “Pip” (for short)  before leaving. The well organized pharmacy stuck labels with directions in Spanish on small zip lock bags with medicine inside. Ella, a pharmacy technician runs it. She is married to an anesthesiologist who is with Dr. Pete doing surgeries in another town in Honduras. This is her sixth time serving in Honduras. On her first trip, she saw the need to become a pharmacy technician so she went back to school to become certified.

We are exhausted from treating 200 people today. After supper by lantern light and evening devotions, we each collapsed into bed.

Wednesday

Today I was on my own at the triage table because we did not have enough translators. The doctors decided it wasn’t that helpful for me to gather the chief complaint, so I checked each patient’s blood pressure and then told them John 3:16 in Spanish. Quite a few of the patients said they were Christians. I only have ten of my 400 gospels of John since my suitcase is still lost. Amazingly, one lady told me I was beautiful and wanted to hang my picture in her living room. She then graciously invited me to her home for dinner. I enjoyed the meal with her family and one of the translators. I wrote down her address and will write to her when I return home.

Mrs. G. who invited me to dinner in her home!
Mrs. G. invited me to dinner in her home.

I had fun with Gladys, a beautiful friendly Honduran girl who brought the team water and tried to teach me Spanish. I pointed to an object and said “Que?” (what?) and she told me the Spanish word. I repeated it several times and she laughed until I said it correctly.

Gladys, our water girl, taught me Spanish. We had fun together!
Gladys, our water girl, taught me Spanish. We had fun together.

I was feeling a bit useless this morning because it doesn’t seem like I’m able to do much except check blood pressures. Dr. E. had devotions today in Philippians 2 and shared how we are called to serve like Christ even though it is exhausting and repetitious. Dear Lord, Please give me the right attitude to serve humbly as You did. Amen. 

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Himself the form of a servant…” (Philippians 2:5, 7).

At dinner, we reviewed the day and some of the patients we saw. One 25-year-old man was paralyzed from a stroke, so his family dragged him here to see what we could do to help. Sadly, we couldn’t do anything. Wheelchairs are totally useless here on mud roads with no sidewalks. Another baby had a cleft palate, so we are trying to get the baby to the surgical team to see if they can repair it. We treated the respiratory and gynecologic infections with antibiotics. Since life expectancy is only 40-50 years old, we didn’t see chronic diseases like high blood pressure or diabetes. There is no obesity here because people walk everywhere. Their main food staples are rice, corn, beans, and chicken.

Tonight after dinner, we enjoyed a cultural program in the town hall presented by the villagers to show their appreciation for the medical care. They thanked us for coming to their humble town to help them. The young people did traditional Honduran dances, somewhat like American square dancing. Then a man did a couple hilarious pantomimes. One was about chewing gum, and the other was about how to take a bath in Honduras. Then they did a skit about going to the doctor. We were enlightened to see their interpretation of the medical profession.

Reflection

I was out of my comfort zone the entire time I was in Honduras. The bombardment with new sights and the sounds of a foreign language all day long exhausted me and witnessing the poverty saddened me. The limited water, electricity, and toilet facilities challenged me. I was frustrated that we could do so little to treat most of their medical needs. But hopefully, we conveyed the love of Christ in trying to help them and point them to Him so they could have an eternal personal relationship with Him. Next post I will tell how the trip concluded with our harrowing journey to exit the country.

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