Meet our patients and some of their needs
General medical care and medications for patients like Maria
At Camotan Clinic we busily see patients each day. Most cannot pay for their medications or an exam. While we have an increasing number of patients in the clinic each month, Maria exemplifies how we first started to help people in the village of Camotan. Maria came to us almost 5 years ago now. She was one of our first patients and is a diabetic. However in Guatemala, the poverty is so great that people with diabetes usually cannot afford their medications.
If it is pills they need, there is some government support and they can sometimes get these pills. But for patients like Maria who need insulin because pills no longer work, diabetes is a death sentence. Pills no longer worked for her and her blood sugars were consistently over 600 (not good; normal is 70-180). Without treatment she would live a couple years at best.
We started Maria on insulin and 2 years later her blood sugars are running 150-250; not perfect but many years have been added to her life and she is healthy and happy. Her insulin costs ~30$ per month.
We now have many diabetics needing insulin monthly. Most need about ~30$ to pay for the insulin. To help any of them or Maria, feel free to donate on our front webpage and just specify that in your donation. Thank you!
Surgeries for patients like Gerbin
One of the challenges of being a primary care clinic in rural Guatemala is finding specialist care for people who need it. We have touched on this in some of our blogs (see “Milton’s Story” and “A Surgery for Gerbin“). In a country like Guatemala, specialists are few and far between, in fact for Gerbin, above who needed a pediatric Urologist, there were only a few in the country. Because much of our staff is Guatemalan, we know how to find the right surgeons or specialists. But inevitably this requires sending each patient like Gerbin above to Guatemala City for an initial consult then they return to the city for their surgery and their recovery. This is quite a feat given the bus ride (6-8 hours one way), and the need for lodging and food while the patients are in the city as well as traveling. We have many patients like Gerbin and it is because of generosity of people like you that he can get the care he needs. We pay for all of the food, lodging and transport and we can usually get a reduced fee (that we pay as well) for the surgery.
Nutrition for those most in need
We have always worked in a severely impoverished area. But the Covid-19 pandemic caused major food shortages for many of our patients. While it may not make sense initially to many of you, in rural Guatemala most people work in the informal economy. They do not possess jobs with a guaranteed salary, health benefits, retirement or any reassurances. When the pandemic came, the economy and the country were shut down. Those living on the margins who often ate based on whatever they could earn that day or that week, were suddenly without enough money to even buy food. Tragically sad and although we have always given out food in large quantities, since the pandemic, we have doubled our efforts. We have partnered with Fundacion Castillo Cordova (see above and the blog “A Partnership Begins“) for monitoring and treating infants with malnutrition. And each of our trips to the mountains includes truckloads of food. We have also started a chicken program for families who otherwise would lack protein in their diets without the eggs their chickens provide.
Helping pregnant mothers by lowering maternal and fetal mortality
Not long after we began Camotan Clinic in 2017, we partnered with a great organization that we knew was making difference in fetal and maternal mortality in Guatemala: Casa Materna. Casa Materna is a non profit based in Pennsylvania whose goal is to lower maternal and fetal mortality (and birth complications) in rural settings of Guatemala. Most mothers give birth at home in the mountain villages above Camotan with birth attendants or comadronas. These comadronas are taught birthing skills passed down to them from other comadronas. With use of modern medicine and techniques, Casa Materna educates comadronas on warning signs of birth complications and follows mothers and infants both pre and post birth for any post partum complications. It is a needed program and we are seeing an improvement in education, techniques and skills with the comadronas we continually educate. Additionally Camotan Clinic is a home base where mothers can receive ultrasounds or urgent screening if needed.
Those in need of dental care
For anyone who has had a toothache, you know how awful that pain can be. Now imagine having no dentist to take care of that, no way to get rid of that pain. That is the reality of the majority of people we take care of. Dental care is sparse in rural Guatemala. And the majority of the people we take care of have no dental prevention either (ie no toothbrushes, toothpaste, etc).
From the very beginning, Camotan Clinic has had a fully functioning dental clinic. Our appointment slots are always full. The need is great. We do a lot of extractions (pulling decaying teeth that are painful and infected) but also a lot of teaching. We have acquired a grant from Colgate-Palmolive for toothbrushes and toothpaste that we give out to children in the community and in the villages. We also visit the mountain communities and teach children about dental hygiene. And we are doing more and more dental cleanings for our return patients, fillings for cavities and general dental care.
Each year, we have a dental resident from the dental school in Guatemala City that sees patients every day. It has been an essential collaboration for us to help meet the needs of the people in and around Camotan.
Mountain Village Outreach
The first trips we took to the area around Camotan were focused on the many remote mountain villages high above the village. These villages continue to be our focus as there are just so many people living in severe poverty. Each trip from the US includes a mobile mountain team that daily deploys to select mountain villages to see patients. Each village is unique and many have needs that a mobile clinic cannot solve so those in need of referral or more complex care are referred to Camotan Clinic. We keep track of each patient and know which villages we need to visit more often than others.
Logistically, the mountain villages are a challenge due to the sheer number of patients seen each day (typically 150-200). It is also necessary to get medications and supplies to each village which is hard. Each trip requires planning as some villages are an hour’s drive from Camotan on very rough roads. A trip back to Camotan Clinic would be a waste of time so supplies need to be anticipated ahead of time.
It is also in the remote mountain villages where the greatest food insecurity lies. So often we bring a truckload of food for the village we are caring for as discussed above. It is also on our mountain village groups that we an do our hut visits. These are like home physician visits. Some families, like the mother shown below with disabled children, cannot even make it to our mobile mountain clinics. So, we go to them.