A Day In The Life
Upon arrival at Toncontin airport in Tegucigalpa, we are met and helped through customs by our Honduras contact. We regroup and organize our baggage and arrange for rental vehicles for travel to the site. Teams destined for Los Encinitos proceed directly to the site. San Marcos teams travel to a hotel in Nacaome, about a two hour trip from Tegucigalpa. They spend the first night at the hotel and, the following morning, they depart from the hotel and drive two to three hours over dusty and winding roads to San Marcos.
At all sites, the workday begins before daybreak. Volunteers bathe in unheated water and eat breakfast prepared by the local hosts. In advance of our arrival, the village leaders work with the surrounding villages in scheduling visits to the clinics. Patients are triaged according to their medical or dental needs. The medical and dental care is provided free of charge by the Cape CARES volunteers. Some sites do not have electricity so all treatment must be given during daylight hours. There are occasions when a physician or dentist finds it necessary to use a flashlight for additional light.
While in Honduras, we adopt the Honduran way of life. Most Honduran meals, including breakfast, begin with red beans, tortillas, and fried plantains. In addition, we enjoy some meat and cooked vegetables. The dessert is usually local produce, delicious melons and bananas. One of the benefits is the opportunity to enjoy the local surroundings on foot. The people are very hospitable and gracious and often invite us into their homes to share their family life. We have learned how people support themselves in a subsistence economy. We have met midwives, rope makers, hammock makers, and people who make woven mats. For the most part, these people are farmers who work small family plots. Much work is done cooperatively. The women join together to make jellies and hand-sewn articles, and the men pool the crops which are not needed by their families and sell them in the markets. Because we live and work so closely with these people, we develop strong bonds of friendship.
Historically, most of the dental care provided was surgical—extracting badly decayed teeth. As the years have progressed, we have emphasized education and prevention and, now we are able to provide fillings, dental cleanings and fluoride treatments. Dentists and dental hygienists visit the schools to provide basic oral hygiene instruction and distribute toothbrushes. Physicians and nurses teach the school children the importance of physical cleanliness and proper handling of food as well as how to prevent communicable diseases, including STDs. With respect to medical, treatment has gone from primarily treating acute problems, to managing and preventing chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, and osteoarthritis. We also see and treat for muscular strains, skin concerns, asthma, urinary tract infections, and parasites.
On every trip, there has been an instance when the outcome would have been dramatically different had we not been there and able to provide acute and emergency care. In one case, a man fell down a well and had to be rescued. He was extracted from the well using an ironing board for a body splint. Once stabilized, he was sent to Tegucigalpa for further treatment. Another situation involved an eight-year old boy who had partially amputated his thumb with a machete. He and his father walked for three hours to reach the clinic. Fortuitously, the team included a hand surgeon and she was able to re-attach the thumb and administer antibiotics. Another patient appeared one evening having been treated at the hospital in San Lorenzo five weeks previously. She was unable to walk and had a high fever. Our physician discovered that she had a five-inch piece of sugar cane lodged in her foot which he was able to remove by the light of several flashlights and lanterns. The cane had not been found at the hospital.
At the end of the day, when it is no longer light enough to see and provide care, we clean up and sterilize our equipment, and relax and review the day’s activities. We update our patient records, which we submit to the Honduran government at the end of our visit. We socialize with the children of the village and play games with them. We enjoy a leisurely dinner and are usually in bed early, so that we are well-rested for the next day’s work.