Today marks day 3 of our founding medical mission trip to Guatemala! As we drive from Antigua to our adopted village, the scenery changes. The colonial architecture and cobblestone streets turn to rolling hills and cement block structures. Terra cotta roofs change to corrugated tin. The drive is about two hours to this remote village, and we pass the puesto de salud on the way. In the Guatemalan health system, the puesto de salud is the first point of care for citizens. It is usually staffed by a medical student that is nearing the end of their training. Here, the people can be triaged and receive information and basic medicine. If their illness is severe or chronic they are referred to the local centro de salud, which is even farther away. Regional and national hospitals are the next levels of care, each one further away from the remote villagers. The area in which we are working is also highly elevated. The hills and valleys make transportation difficult and further contributes to the isolation of villages from the national health care system. GHR strives to reach these villages and educate the patients. One of the most important elements is to encourage patients with chronic conditions to make the long journey to the local health clinic or hospital.
This is our second day to work in this village and the people are kind, thankful, and beautiful. Their population speaks cacchiquel, an indigenous language. The leaders of the village assist with translations between the indigenous language and Spanish so that we can assist. There are approximately 125 families in this area, and it represents the ideal size for our organization. In two days, we were able to complete physical exams and assessments on one third of the people; the records will help us assess the health care burden of the area. In coordination with local village leaders, we will continue to work here and improve the health. Some of our primary foci will be dental and perinatal education and care. It is not uncommon for women to have large families that start at early ages, and a pediatric-focused trip will definitely be a part of the strategic plan for GHR missions in Guatemala.
As we waved goodbye this evening, there is a true joy in knowing our first steps have been taken here. The team is truly incredible in their efforts. There is also heartache that one sees on medical mission trips. The conditions that we cannot help, the suffering of those that we cannot ease…those images stick with you. In those moments, we listen and we mourn. But there are joyful moments too…A mother listening to the heartbeat of her child–a moment that is special, treasured and remembered.