No travel tips this time, just a “had a great time, wish you were there” story. We had a small group for a medical team in Honduras. As usual, you never know what you will run into in the NGO world. We had an orthopedist who was working as our doc. Most of the time you get the regular cough and cold stuff, but out of the hundreds that show up, you run into a few major problems. This trip was no different. The clinics were overrun with patients and I had to jump in and help out. Of the three days we had for rural clinics, we had over 520 patients for two of us to check them out. Most of it was cough, cold, fungus, etc. but a few patients needed more than we could offer. Among them a baby with only one lung making noise. This is a sad part of mission work as you can only do what you can do. It is truly a helpless feeling to have a patient in front of you that you know you could help if only you were back in a place where an admission to a hospital would do the trick. That baby was barely alive and we had no way of getting him to a real hospital. We gave the mom money to travel, but whether she did it or not, we’ll never know. The limiting factor for work such as ours is in the resources available. Sometimes the resource is money, sometimes it is medication, transportation, equipment, or proper facility. It is a rude awakening for many health care professionals to realize that most of the world is too far behind or too far out in the sticks to cure “simple” diseases. These rude awakenings are also the reality check that keep us going back into the fray. “Do what you can do, with what you have, in the time you are given” is a mantra that we simply have to live with. If you get a chance, make a difference. You can’t save everyone, but you can sure save someone. You never know if the life you save is the next Einstein, great world leader, or a mom that really cares about the welfare of her children and will bring them up in a loving home in a world that seems to lack that.
Once again I had to dip into my bag of special tricks and move slightly outside the normal scope of the dental arts in which I have been trained. I was responsible for all the pre-natal check ups. I also had the privilege of being the official botfly maggot remover. The botfly maggot is a real nasty inch long maggot that lives in the skin of its host for several weeks before crawling out to pupate. It can be a real pain and for one patient with a maggot firmly implanted in his rear end, it was a real pain in the butt. All surgeries were successful and the maggots were squashed in a quiet ceremony.
One other note, I quit believing in coincidence a long time ago. We also rolled up on a wreck with one victim. A lady was laying under her car with an open fracture of her left arm. With the bone sticking out, it would have been a real problem getting it properly treated in Honduras. Our doc, being an orthopedist, happened to be just what the missionary ordered however and successfully reduced the fracture and splinted the arm before we handed the victim over to the Red Cross. He gave instructions for follow up treatment and to what hospital to take the patient. It was simply meant to be.
Live on the edge, it is just too boring anywhere else.