Tres veces al dia.
The three words I must have uttered over 300 times today, script after script calling for Motrin for individuals with muscle aches, arthritis, or any other pain. Despite the plethora of prescriptions filled and patients seen, one patient in particular stood out today. An 8 year old Guatemalan boy came to the pharmacy area carrying his script for an antibiotic and cold meds, nothing surprising about that, until I read the patient history indicating he had muscular dystrophy. The boy showed no sign of his illness until he walked away from the pharmacy and I noticed his gait. I later came to find out from the physician treating him that the boy does not go to school simply because he cannot walk there.
And suddenly, something as seemingly obvious as “taking the simple things for granted” has a whole new meaning.
As exhausted as I am right now, this day has been yet another amazing experience with Humanity First. After not nearly enough sleep, each and every dedicated team member worked from 8 am to 6 pm running the clinic. Luckily, we were in an air-conditioned building that kept the heat from adding to our exhaustion, but the 10 hours on my feet seemed to last forever. At the same time, the day seemed to end much sooner than it should have. Getting the opportunity to see numerous unusual and amazing medical cases kept all of us motivated throughout the day. The instance that sticks with me the most is when a small baby came to the pediatrics room because he was wheezing and having trouble breathing. After giving him a breathing treatment, we sent him on his way. His mom brought him back, though, after his breathing worsened. He was having so much trouble that we had to arrange for him to be taken to the hospital. While that was going on, though, Deeana was giving him another breathing treatment. His frail body was motionless and his eyes were barely open. His small hand grasped Gabriela’s finger, but his grasp slowly loosened. Watching this made me realize the fragility of his little human life. We were able to stabilize his breathing and send him to the hospital, but have no way of knowing what happened next. I can only wonder how he’s doing now.
My first day in the dental clinic in Guatemala was tiring but exhilarating. I was told that it would be busy but as I walked into the medical/dental clinic building, there were close to 150 people waiting for us. I could only imagine how many would end up to see me.
We quickly put the finishing touches on the setup from the night before and started letting patients in. The students I was working with were great, jumping into every aspect of patient care. And the translators we had, a law student from a local university, was just as enthusiastic.
We got into our routine and were taking care of the needs of our patients: Extractions for most, exams for some. Most knew exactly what they came for: Getting rid of their troublesome, painful tooth and in many cases teeth.
The most disheartening part of the day was seeing young kids, sometimes as young as 3 come in with multiple badly decayed teeth. We did our best in resolving their acute needs but their extensive pathology would have to be treated later.
One five years old boy sticks in my mind. He was one of three kids in the family, all with some form of baby bottle caries. His four front teeth were all abscessed. The mother stated he would cry from the pain and could not eat. The brave boy let us remove all four front teeth and the infection without shedding a tear. I only wish his little brother of would be spared the same fate. That is why each patient got not only a lecture on good oral hygiene but a toothbrush and toothpaste to put it into action.
In all we saw over 50 patients. Though it was exhausting, the students and helpers made the day speed by.