Medical Brigade 2016 Report
The 2016 Medical Brigade to Honduras was an unmitigated success! Thank you so much to all who contributed. We had 50 volunteers from the United States and 19 participants from Honduras join us this year. This included 4 doctors and 5 nurse practitioners from the USA, and 4 Honduras dentists. This year was the first year we recruited Honduran doctors to join us, and we had 5 Honduran MDs, recent graduates, who were eager and enthusiastic participants. Their presence changed the essence of the brigade, and for the better!
The providers from both countries learned so much from each other, and I look forward to continuing these relationships. We had some interpreters from the States, but more from the local colleges. The Honduran interpreters were a great group, with very good English skills. They too were filled with energy and enthusiasm for the mission. Hopefully our role at Honduras Good Works will continue to evolve towards equipping the Honduran medical and dental professionals to be the primary caretakers of their people in these rural communities.
This year the team went to 20 different villages over 5 days, and saw a total of 2580 people. The 4 dentists pulled hundreds of teeth, and relieved the dental pain of many more. We went down with 130,000 Tylenol, 40,000 ibuprofen, 45,000 atenolol, 30,000 Enalapril—Well, you get the picture. We took 65 crates and duffle bags, each weighing 49 pounds, filled with medications, and donated hygiene items. What we didn’t give away during the brigades we donated to local clinics at the end of the week.
Preparations for the trip began in January, when the “Brigadiers” met and began planning this year’s trip. There is so much to be done to organize a trip like this, and having a whole committee for the planning has proven to be a blessing. We had 3 packing parties through the Spring, to bag up thousands and thousands of pills into appropriate doses, and get them properly labeled. Many people joined us in that endeavor that couldn’t come on the trip, and we couldn’t have done it without their help. Other meds were purchased in Honduras by the Advance Team after their arrival. The Advance Team was also responsible for buying tons (literally!) of food for our lunches that we packed out to the Brigades daily.
Our day began with an excellent breakfast provided by the nuns at the Montaña Clara Maria Casa de Retiro, the Retreat Center where we stay. We then had morning worship, received our assignments, and left for the day, riding in 4 wheel drive pick up trucks, or the Deanery School bus. Our destinations were 30 minutes to 1.5 hours away, often on very poor “roads”. We usually set up in the Episcopal church, or local school or meeting hall. Usually we worked by the light of the day, setting up our tables by the open windows so we could see the patients. Once seen by the provider, the patients frequently needed to stop at the treatment nurse’s table, for blood or urine testing, reading glasses, ear wax removal and the like. Then on to the pharmacy to pick up their prescribed meds. We always broke for a simple lunch, usually of non-perishable food, (no refrigeration) and at that time many took a walk around to see the village, or went on a home visit to see a patient too debilitated to get to the clinic area. Once all the patients were seen, we prayed and gave thanks for the local volunteers who helped out (frequently high school students who are HGW scholarship recipients), and then headed back to the Retreat Center. Evenings included a good dinner, a small group discussion to decompress and process the day, and to share where we saw God. Then some down time to socialize with each other, before starting the work of repacking all the boxes for the next day’s clinics.
After 5 days of clinics, we had a day to relax, visit a near-by village well known for its arts and crafts, or to go hiking. The following day, several chose to go to the lovely beaches at Roatan, others went to see Mayan ruins and attend Spanish school in Copan, and the rest returned home to Houston, except for the 3 members of the “after team”. They were in charge of delivering all the left overs to the various clinics, checking in the trucks, etc.
We returned tired but rejuvenated, having seen some tragedies that we could do nothing about, but also having seen God’s hand in so many ways. As Father Paul says, “We went with full crates and came home with empty crates, but with full hearts”. Our missioners were impressed with the strength and resilience of the Hondurans we met, and were touched by their enjoyment of life, and their faith. I think this was one of our best trips yet, and look forward to next year, when we can once again see our friends in Honduras.
Submitted by Brenda Towell, MD,
Chair of Brigadier Committee