I had the opportunity to go on a medical mission to Honduras this past May 25th-June 3rd. I've been interested in a medical mission and of course enjoy traveling and I figured this was a good time and I would like to have kids sooner or later. Our group was made up of 8 nurses, 2 physicians, 1 pharmacist, a physical therapist, an archatecht, 3 builders, a Spanish PhD who worked with the orphanage, and 3 or 4 other members who helped in the pharmacy and interpreted.
So on the 25th we met up at Dr Caldwell's home at 2am and started our trip. Our flight to Houston was fine but we had a short layover so kind of had to run to the next gate. But we made it and arrived in San Pedro Sula, Honduras around 10:30am. After waiting in an excrutiatingly long and slow customs line we finally got all of our stuff and loaded into the vans. We drove a LONG 4 hours or so to La Ceiba where we stayed the night. We stayed at this place called Hotel Canadian. It was a really cool little place, they are kind of geared towards mission groups. It was right on the ocean and had 2 amazing warm pools which were very welcoming after a full day of travel!
The next day we did a clinic at "the dump" which is a community that sprung up after the city let people build over an old landfill. As I wrote in my journal "it was crazy, hot, and chaotic!" Pretty much sums it up. It was there I realized how hard it was going to be not speaking Spanish and not having enough interpreters. But we got it done and probably saw several hundred people in a few hours. I also spotted a few dogs and ducks wandering around the area.
After lunch we got on the road en route to Limon where the clinic is. We stopped in Taccoa for grocceries for the week and finally made it to Limon around 7pm. We picked our rooms which are on the floor above the clinic.
The clinic is right on the ocean and has a big long porch off the back that looks over the water. Pretty picturesque!
The local staff take good care of the clinic and its visitors. They cooked 3 great meals a day, made our beds, and did our laundry daily.
Even the grounds were kept up with beautiful bright flowers!
After settling in we visited the orphanage that the group does a lot of work for. The kids came running up to us at the barb-wire gate and before I knew it there was a little boy with his arms around my waist that clung to me until we left.
Talk about heart breaking and heart warming at the same time! There are 48 orphans at this horribly run down place and 1 old lady who takes care of them! They also had 2 nice dogs and 3 tiny orange kittens I loved on while were were there.
The next day was sunday and my roommate Sherril and I went to a church service next to the clinic. We didn't understand a word but it was neat to see. The clinic is right on the beach so I enjoyed some time in the warm water and soft sand. Although the enjoyment is limited due to the awful sand fleas that bite you as soon as you get to the beach. We visited the orphanage again and made tie dye shirts with them. That evening we went back for another church service and this time a guy from our group Brian (who served his mission in Peru 20 yrs ago) interpreted for us. They talked about David and Goliath and I was touched when all the people got up out of their chairs to come shake our hands, talk about Christ like!
The next day was our first clinic day. Each day half of the group would stay at the clinic in Limon and the other half would go to an outlying "city" to hold a clinic. I was with the away group the first day and we ran a clinic in a church.
We had to totally set the clinic and pharmacy up out of church pews. Make me not want to complain about our ER back home! Douglas and Roberto were our interpreters and they were wonderful! They are brothers who live in Limon and work for the clinic. We saw 176 patients from 9am-3pm. After the clinic we went back and I went down to the beach where I found a gang of 4 dogs playing with each other. Unless they are tied up they don't belong to anyone and just wander and scavange for food (hated seeing that). But these dogs seemsed so happy and playful with each other. 2 of the dogs came up to me and played and 1 brown puppy turned out to be my little beach dog because he stayed and played and came back 2 other days! Of course I had to take him back to the clinic and feed him :)
The next day we stayed at the clinic and saw about 150 patients.
It certainly is a bit more organized in the clinic which is nice and the people were all very patient and not complaining about their wait as people in the states do. Much appreciated! As far as what we could do for the patients, we took their vital signs and chief complaint and prescribed a lot of vitamins, tylenol, allergy meds, worm meds, some malaria treatment, birth control, and gastric meds. There is no testing or imaging to be done and since the physician was having us nurses practice as providers it was a tough transition to not be able to do anything more than to guess what was wrong and give some medication. But it's all they have and no one was severely ill anyway. I enjoyed the beach again after clinic and then a great dinner with Honduran style pastels that reminded me of Brazil!
The next day our clinic was in a school in Rio Meio which was a long and bumpy hour drive away in the school bus. The plus side though was taking in the sites.
There was no power there so we had to bring a generator.
We didn't see as many people because the mothers were picking up government checks we were told. But I did see several cute seros (pigs).
After the clinic was more beach time (this time I actually really got in) and dinner.
We were on the road again the next day for a clinic in Piedra Blanca.
The set up was not good...apparently these people had never had a clinic so our location was basically someone's house and front porch. But we had to make it work.
The disorganization stressed me out but thankfully several of the guys who came with us created a line and a little bit of organization. That was until a truck full of school kids pulled up and just flooded the porch!
So the pharmacy and lab was in the living room, Dr Caldwell in a dark bedroom, and us nurses on the porch with the translaters. We saw...300 patients! I guess it was the most they have ever seen in one day.(notice the line of people all the way to the road in the picture below)
We saw a lot of kids at this clinic.
While venturing to the "bathroom" (and I use that word lightly) I was not very happy to see a few chickens tied to bricks and a big daddy pig and 4 babies in a cement enclosure with no food.
So of course I went back to the cooler and found a half eaten apple and threw it to them. Wouldn't you know it rolled right down the drain tube out of their cage and down a hill! You would have thought I was playing plinko!
I was devastated! So I gave them my chips before I realized their were pork rhinds...oh well, they ate them and were happy as was I!
After the clinic we enjoyed the beach and my puppy came back and played!
I wish I could have found a way to bring him back or to know that he got taken care of. But for now, he will be my Honduran dog :)
I saw some hungry momma chickens and their babies outside the clinic (they also have to scavange through garbage for food as no one feeds them). So I found some bread for them :)
After dinner we went to the orphanage for their program. They had balloons up and were wearing their shirts we made them.
The older "ninas" did a dance to Justin Bieber and the young "ninos" did "if your happy and you know it."
They were sweet and crave any attention they can get.
We brought cake for them and I gave my piece to the kitties and dogs who were obviously hungry.
Each of the kids wrote us a letter that they gave us. This is the sweet girl who wrote one to me. She came back to the clinic with us to get some stitches removed and had her arm around my waist the whole walk :) Even though I couldn't say much in Spanish it was wonderful to feel her love toward someone she just met!
The next day, June 1st we left Limon early and got back to La Ceiba around 11am.
(saying goodbye to my favorite translator Douglas)
(saw this cute little fella on the drive to La Ceiba. He was hanging out in front of a gas station so he could feel the cool air when people opened the door. smart cookie!)
We stayed at La Canadian again and after getting checked in, a group of us went on a zipline trip! We stared by driving up a super steep hill in the back of a truck and then zip lined down 18 different lines to the bottom.
It was really neat to go through trees and the best part was when the guy pulled on the line and bounced us up and down! There was a 78 year old lady named Kathy who went with us and she gave her guide "Boston" a hard time the whole way down, cracked us up!
After we finished the zip line they took us up to these natural hot pots that were very picturesque and got warmer and warmer as you went up until you got to the top pool that was actually steaming and boiling from the volcano below it. It's hard to believe that natural pools can be that warm!
After returning to the hotel we got in the ocean which was much calmer and warmer than Limon. We were able to pull up starfish and sand dollars right under our feet! I really enjoyed that swim! We had breaded fish for dinner that night and found a nice momma dog to give our leftovers to :)
The next morning we drove another 4 long hours back to San Pedro Sula. The only plus to that drive was a stop at the mission where I met Blackie and Mack who were 2 very well taken care of big dogs.
I also spotted 2 LDS church buildings which is always heartwarming for me.
In San Pedro we checked into a nice hotel in the city. Our room had a great balcony looking out over the square and an old church.
Most of us went to a souvenier market for a few hours which was okay. After a quick cold swim in the pool we went to dinner.
Our last group dinner in Honduras was at...TGIFridays :( Talk about dissapointing! Most of us would have prefered a local place but that is where we ended up. The music was SO loud we were all screaming (and if you know me you know I wasn't tolerating that very well) and the food took forever. I was very much ready to come home after that. Not a great way to end the trip but we had a group meeting back at the hotel where they kind of did a spotlight on everyone and a thank you. That was nice.
The next morning came all too quick and we made our way to the airport.
Our flights were fine and besides rushing again in Houston we made it back safe and sound. I'm grateful for the opportunity to go on this trip. It wasn't quite the "life changing" work I was expecting but a good experience all the same. I'm grateful to be a nurse and I'm grateful to live in America where we are beyond blessed!