I returned home from my trip to Honduras after just a week away filled with emotions. However, if I had to just choose one word to sum up the entire week I would say it was lovely. It is an experience that I will never forget and I hope that I have the opportunity to do over again. I met many wonderful Honduran and American people on my trip, I visited a beautiful village high in the mountains, learned about a new culture, experienced new foods, and enjoyed my time there immensely. Reflecting upon my experience, I can say that I felt a multitude of emotions that included, happiness, joy, peace, frustration, and exhaustion that all rolled into one amazing week.
I travelled to Monte Verde,
with an amazing organization called MEDICO, Inc. They provide medical,
dental, and eye care to well deserving and needing communities of Intibuca, Honduras Honduras and Nicaragua. Our trip was from
April 14-21012 with a team composing of 23 people - There were 4 physicians (2
American and 2 Honduran), 4 nurses, 3 dentists, 2 dental hygienists, 5
volunteers/interpreters, and one Honduran pharmacist. This was an easy
team to get to know and work with, as they were all people who were there for
one main reason – to help others. The best part was that all of their egos were
checked – back in the U.S, despite the language and cultural differences, we
all got along extremely well. In addition to those volunteering with
MEDICO, we also worked with the School Sisters of Notre Dame who provided us
with food and housing during our visit.
Our clinic was set up in a building the Sisters owned, that included: a kitchen, bedrooms, bathrooms/showers, big open area to see patients, and a room we transformed into a pharmacy. 797 patients were seen for medical services and 255 for dental services. We served people in wide age group- from infants to geriatrics. Close to 2500 medicines were distributed free of charge for a wide variety of reasons. Our first day was delayed due to severe travel delays. The roads were impassable and we arrived very late in the day which forced us to start seeing patient’s Monday morning. Our day would typically start at 8am and would end around 5pm, with time in between for lunch. We saw patients until Thursday morning when we packed up and left the mountains to make our way back to San Pedro Sula.
My job was to dispense medications in the pharmacy the physicians had prescribed, give instructions and ensure that medications were taken properly. Luckily, I worked with a Honduran pharmacist, who was a wealth of information and two Honduran teenagers who were my interpreters. Often, I was able to help out and provide medical care by assisting with pap smears, IM injections and working in the triage area. During the week, a dentist, hygienist and physician drove out to a remote area to care for patients whose walk discouraged them from seeking medical care.
I once a heard a quote that says 'there are more differences between the sexes than there are between cultures' – I am unsure of who the author is, but I have found this true many times over, including in Honduras. The people I met are similar Americans - they are hard-working and are doing the best they can with what they have. In the village there was a main square and the surrounding area had a beautiful church, school buildings, a soccer field, vendors on the street selling food and clothing, a mill, a small general store, and many homes. It appeared to be a very small, quaint town with absolutely amazing views.
I enjoyed everything! I don't think I could pick what I enjoyed the most. Even dealing with horrible roads, which took several more hours to drive on, was enjoyable because it's all a part of the overall experience, which I loved. One of the highlights was working with the Honduran doctors. They were lovely people and to experience their care and compassion for their people was inspiring. It was quite evident they love what they do. One pediatrician, Dr Paredes is recognized on an international level for the work he has done for children in need. He is an excellent a role model not just for other physicians, but for everyone who should be doing more for their own country/people.
I guess if I had to pick just one moment that was my favorite I guess it would have to be the impact this trip had on Andrea, our 14 year old interpreter. Andrea has gone on other medical mission trips with MEDICO. This time she met a little boy named Batilio, who was often around the clinic before and after school. He was about 5 years old and didn't own a pair of shoes. Andrea spent a lot of her time with him during our down times in the morning and evenings. On our second to last day she bought him a pair of shoes with her own money. When our group had its last dinner together in San Pedro Sula, Andrea mentioned how much Batilio changed her life. I'm not sure of all the things they talked about, but to see this experience had a huge impact on this young girls life is unforgettable. At such a young age, she could have spent this week of her life at the beach, with her friends, doing things most 14 year olds would be doing, instead she choose to spend her time working on her feet 8-9 hours a day and helping us and her own country. To see her have this experience with the little boy is something I'm truly blessed to have been a part of.
One Nurse At A Time not only provided financial support which was greatly needed but I knew that they would be there if I ever needed anything. If I just needed to talk to someone about my experience they would be there for me. I think this mission trip, and others I have gone on, having greatly impacted my medical career. For one, it has opened my eyes in seeing that working in a large teaching hospital will all the newest equipment is not the only way to provide excellent nursing care. The setting in which you work is irrelevant. Its how you treat the person you are taking care of that determines if you are providing excellent nursing care.
I guess I've always known that I'm a simple person. It doesn't take much to make me happy. I don't need a lot of money, or a fancy car, or all the up-to-date technology, or even hot showers. Life is about being kind, warm, compassionate, giving, and caring. Going on trips like this one to
allows me to forget about my phone and emails and to focus on helping those in
need. I hope I was able to give as much as I received.
Emily returned home from Monte Verde, Honduras in April, 2012. She traveled with the medical team MEDICO from April 14th-21st, 2012.