Our October team from the US had a busy week that almost did not happen. Once again, like in November 2020, there was a hurricane threatening southern Guatemala. After discussing with our team in Guatemala, the decision was made to go for it. And there was great success! We will let Dr. Steve Stahl and Jessica Meyers, NP tell you about it in their blog below:
TROPICAL STORM JULIA–ABOVE –DURING THE TRIP!
Our trip was threatened by Tropical Storm Julia. But after some deliberation, we were able to safely depart for Guatemala. Early on 10/9 Dr. Steve Stahl, Dr. Blake Parsons, Jennifer Parsons PA, Jessica Meyers NP and her husband Matt took off from Denver. We arrived in Guatemala City mid day to meet up with the incoming team from Florida who would be joining us on this mission. Dr. Mark Speake, his friend Mike, and three internal medicine residents: Dr. Michelle Abide, Dr. Ariana Lopez Acosta and Dr. Jesse McIlwaine. Of course as is usual, Dr. Jovita Toledo met us at the airport. She and her brother Juan accompanied the team to Camotan. We encountered rain and a few mudslides which slowed the drive. The rain was steady but we did not have severe flooding and made it to Camotan. We enjoyed dinner at the local ranchero restaurant near Camotan.
The next morning we awoke to ongoing heavy rain and questioned if we would be able to climb the muddy mountain roads in the 4×4 trucks. The roads were initially checked and felt to be passable. We made a go for it and actually did alright: we got to Nearar, a community we know well about 25 minutes up the mountain and over 2,000 feet above Camotan. Because of the heavy rains the patients did not all venture out to see us. But we did do house calls for some patients we know who are unable to leave their huts. 77 patients did show up to our mountain clinic held at the local school building. Meanwhile Dr. Parsons and Dr. Lopez Acosta saw patients in the clinic down in Camotan. That evening we enjoyed laughter and a fun card game called “99”. English speakers had to call out numbers in Spanish, Spanish speakers had to call out numbers in English. We laughed together as we all struggled with counting in another language while doing math.
On Tuesday, the weather had improved and we went further into the mountains. The skies were actually blue when we awoke. This signaled to us that we could get to El Tular. El Tular is a community almost 40 minutes on very rough roads from Camotan. Our August team had done some medical care there and El Tular had not seen any medical care or relief groups for many years. So we knew we needed to return. The need was great.
Dr. Blake Parsons and his wife Jennifer Parsons, PA helping a patient
We saw many children in El Tular. The patients in this community are more ill and in need than the communities closer to Camotan. There was also a huge need for dental care which we provided. We were also accompanied by a new nurse/translator: Susan and her children. Susan was born in the US but lives full time in Guatemala near Camotan. Whether it is Nancy Sheldon founder of Servant Ministries (who we work alongside in Camotan) or people like Susan, it always encourages us to see people from the US who have decided to live in Guatemala and help those in need.
Dr. Kelin Monterrozo our full time medical resident and Dr. Wong our full time dental resident of course continued to see patients down in the clinic as they typically do.
Caring for patients at El Tular
Wednesday we were met with great weather again. This allowed us to get to another village far into the mountains in another direction. The village here we visited last December and were shocked by the great need there. We had not been able to return until this trip. This village, Cajon del Rio lies up and over the mountains behind Camotan next to the Jupilingo river which is on the Honduras border. Our team saw many patients this day and had several referrals for the malnutrition program we run with Fundacion Castillo Cordova.
One of our young patients in Cajon del Rio with her nutritional supplement Encamparina that we give to families
Several clinic referrals were made as well for medical needs that we could not meet in this remote location.
The team leaving Cajon del Rio
On Thursday Mike and Juan went to the isolated village Cajoncito. We know Cajoncito well and have several regular patients that need frequent care there. And we do regular medical trips up there with groups as well. As we have talked about, Camotan Clinic collaborates with numerous Guatemalan businesses and non profits. We always take food, clothes and other supplies on our trips from Guatemala City to Camotan. Most Guatemalans want to help their fellow countrymen. We try to connect those who want to help with those in need as much as we can. Such was the case on Thursday when Mike and Juan took baby clothes from donors in Guatemala City. They were warmly received by mothers in this remote location who were happy to have new clothes for their infants and toddlers.
The rest of the team returned to another school closet to Nearar on Thursday to see patients. Over 100 patients were seen in the mountain clinic and we were able to perform 2 more home visits. Jessica and a couple others worked in the clinic. A long term patient of Jessica’s we talked about in our last blog stopped in the clinic for more wound care supplies (see pic below).
Jessica and her patient Edgar
Dr. Stahl, Dr. Toledo and Jessica spent the afternoon on Thursday in Camotan meeting with community leaders. This is part of our ongoing effort to reach out and listen to those living in and around Camotan. While we all can agree on good healthcare for everyone, it is vital that we understand what the community really needs, not what we think they need. Our time was productive and we will continue to listen to all the communities around Camotan and brainstorm ways that we can help them.
Early Friday the remaining team in Camotan left and met the rest of the team in Antigua. We all shared a debrief dinner where we laughed, exchanged ideas and dreamed about the future. There is so much growth occurring at the clinic and this trip added new dimensions. Dr. Speake is developing an elective for an Internal Medicine residency training program based in Naples, Florida that will regularly send medical residents to work in Camotan Clinic alongside the Guatemalan medical and dental residents we have. This is an extremely exciting opportunity for everyone involved and we continue to work towards it coming to fruition. This was a wonderful and productive trip filled with laughter and the joy of serving together.
On the last night, Dr. Toledo said: “We started as strangers and ended as a team because of our shared desire to serve”. This is the theme of our team visits from the States and we hope some of you will be able to join us in the future. Thank you for reading!!
The team during their final dinner together in Antigua