On Saturday, we had our last clinic day in Gualcinse, and ended our medical brigade for 2015. Some of the highlights from our last clinic were seeing four children arrive together from San Sebastian, the community we travelled to on Day 1, to receive the dental care that they needed. One of these children was the child with cleft palate, whose surgery has now been arranged! These four children had such a degree of dental decay and abscess that they required sedation for multiple extractions. In hopes of preserving some teeth atraumatic restorative treatment (ART) was also used.
By the end of the day, all children had been assessed and treated by the medical and dental teams, and went home with a toy (we had just enough for every last one!).
Overall, we ended the week on a high note, with lots to look back on and be thankful for. In five clinic days, we were able to see about 600 children, and arrange four necessary surgeries, including a VP shunt placement, an emergency appendectomy, a bilateral inguinal hernia repair, and a cleft palate repair. Throughout our mission, we saw the clear benefits of the donations that were made this year, as well as in years past. Most notably, we saw the new autoclave machine at the Gracias hospital which is being used to sterilize surgical equipment, and the physiotherapy equipment, wheelchairs, and other items at the CRILE (Rehabilitation Centre), that are helping transform the CRILE into a Centre of Excellence in rehabilitation for the region.
We were also overwhelmed by how everyone we met in Honduras was so helpful; from the hotel staff who helped us load our vehicles every morning and unpack every night, to the local people who cooked lunch for us while we were running clinics, to the local teenagers who helped us with translation. We also much appreciated the support of the local health unit workers who helped to triage our patients and make the clinics run smoothly, as well as local dentists who participated in clinics. We also were so proud to be joined each day by Dr. Karla Guevera, an Obstetrician/Gynecologist who donated a week of vacation time to help with our mission, and specifically provide prenatal care in the communities we visited. Furthermore, Dr. Guevera used a portable ultrasound machine that had been donated in a previous mission to perform an abdominal ultrasound to assess an abdominal mass, and a head ultrasound to assess hydrocephalus.
We also could not have been as successful this week without the help and support of Dr. Aurora Mabel Henriquez, who identified areas of need, helped troubleshoot our day-to-day happenings, and will be following-up on our specialist referrals and patients with arranged surgeries. Her daughters also joined us and acted as invaluable translators!
When we reflect back on our week in Honduras this year, we find that it was a great experience of providing care, being involved in such amazing communities, and working with Honduran health care providers and advocates. Many of the children we saw had minor ailments, such as colds, but many had treatable conditions we were able to help with, such as asthma, bacterial diarrhea, parasites, and skin conditions. A few children, as we have mentioned in other posts, received a life-changing diagnosis that now will be treated with surgical correction. Others were diagnosed with syndromes or developmental delay for the first time, and families received counseling on their child’s condition. Many children who came to us with debilitating dental conditions, which lead to them not being able to eat due to their dental pain, received dental care that will help them towards optimizing their nutrition and overall health, and others received dental treatments that will prevent cavities from forming. Our oral health team engaged local dentists in creating their own public health program for oral health. They also taught local dentists how to provide atraumatic restorative treatment (ART), which will be used to arrest dental decay with the intention to save teeth. This therapy will improve the experience of Honduran children visiting the dentist, whose experience of odontology clinic and brigades more often is of tooth extraction alone, and therefore frightening for them. We hope that with these measures, as well as the other non-extraction dental treatments we provided, we can improve these children’s experience and help alleviate fear of seeing the dentist. Overall, we feel we are continuing to make a positive difference in Honduras through this medical and dental mission.
That being said, we still see a great need here. There are children who require reading glasses that they do not have access to, and there continues to be challenges with access to clean drinking water and adequate nutrition. In seeing these areas of need, we are already thinking of ways to grow, including involving local health services in public health strategies and programs, continuing to provide medications that are inaccessible to many Honduran children in remote areas, and engaging more local health partners towards providing care for the pediatric patients we encounter. We look forward to seeing the progress made by the local dental group with their supervised tooth brushing programs next year (see the post below, entitled “Successful first day from the oral health team in Gracias!”), but realize that these programs will require ongoing support with donated supplies of toothbrushes and toothpaste to be sustained.
We have a long list of thank-yous, because we could not have accomplished what we did alone!
In Canada, Mr. Harvey Katz generously donated the funds to get the shipping container with all of its donated supplies to Gracias. Mr. Lindsay Brucks, Director of International Medical Equipment Distribution, was the representative we worked with from Food for the Hungry Canada. This organization so kindly donated the majority of the contents of the container, including the autoclave for the hospital in Gracias. ERD Transport ensured the donated medical supplies for our container made it to Edmonton (where they were shipped from) for free. Claudia Sighomnou from Health Partners International (HPI) Canada helped us attain HPI Physican Travel Packs that were donated by Merck Pharmaseuticals. These HPI boxes contained the majority of the medications we provided in Honduras. Mr. Paul Rutherford at Pharmasave (Huron and Highbury) generously helped us with additional medications required for the mission. Elvira Villazon from PediaPharm arranged for medical donations as well. The tour group from Museum London helped with consolidating vitamins and with donations as well. Ms. Janine Ogglesby from the London Health Sciences Foundation helped us arrange finances and donations for our mission. Ms. Cheryl Watson from Nexion Canada helped with our travel and flight arrangements. And of course, two Pediatric Residents, Dr. Alisha Gabriel and Dr. Mallory Chavannes who participated in this mission last year were invaluable in helping us prepare for this year’s mission as well!!
Our dental clinics could not have been completed with the support of Henry Schein's donations, as well as 3M Canada, GC America, and Sunstar for tooth brushes and tooth paste.
In Honduras, in addition to those mentioned above, Dr. Yolanis Batres, the Honduras Minister of Health, provided us with meaningful support. Transportation in Honduras was successful with the help of Mr. Asterio Reyes (Presdente Aprocafe - IH-cafe) and Mr. Samuel Reyes (Ministro de Defense). We would also like to thank Dr. Jose Perez, the Director of the Hospital in Gracias, and Dr. Henry Garcia for their support.
Thank you again to everyone who donated to our medical and dental mission, and supported us along the way, in Honduras and at home in Canada! We hope to continue this work, and provide more care to communities in Honduras alongside local health partners next year!