Our work ended a day early, We were to go to a small island for the last day but the weather and wind have been too unpredictable and the ocean too choppy to risk a 15 minute crossing. We were to spend the night on a larger island for a two-day medical outreach but that also was cancelled earlier in the trip.
The boats of transport are called pump boats, long narrow boats with bamboo pontoons along each side and a motor. Not for the queasy under any circumstances but add a choppy sea and the risk is not something to be taken lightly.
It is hard to believe our work is finished. 200+ patients a day, our sole dentist has extracted close to 100 teeth in a back-breaking marathon where patients sat in a rocking chair propped back by rocks under the gliders. Dr. Jeffry not once complained; he was the first to start, the last to finish and often took a quick lunch without quite leaving the patient's side. Dr. Jeffry is a man with vision, he immediately saw his work as a finger-in-the-dyke and is looking at issues for a long-term resolutions to the cycle of the horrible tooth decay here on Panay. Rotary International, MedShare and the Culasi District Hospital have all been identified and engaged as necessary for a successful outcome. If we had a volunteer of the year award, he would certainly win it.
We saw so much, so many stories. A young mother of 4 came down from the mountain to see us. Her complaint of dizziness was very common but when asked when it started her answer was "Friday". Not a "long time" or "2 weeks ago" but "Friday". Very unusual. After some digging, it was realized her husband was "scada", a sugar plantation worker but was not sending any money home. We sent her to the market with Jun to shop for groceries. When she learned of what was being done for her, she broke down sobbing and took us with her.
We gave away all of the crutches, the walker, the orthoboot. A man with club foot was given our orthoboot and crutches, his immobility was diminished immediately. A homeless man with a walking stick and partial paralysis came to us with a horrible infection in his foot; A shot of antibiotics, a crutch for better support and a bag of rice was given. He returned as instructed the following day for another shot of antibiotics. A baby with a leg infection and swelling would have been hospitalized in the U.S. The little one got a shot of antibiotics and antibiotics to take at home. Mom returned two days later and the leg looked wonderfully better. A woman had been raped a year ago and was suffering. Through Julie Senriche, medications were sent to a psychiatrist 2 hours away and she will be case managed to facilitate getting her to the city for counseling and her meds. Umbilical hernia repair, eye exams, cataract surgeries....so many stories
We did see more wounds than expected, open sores, lesions, wounds needing debridement, abscesses, mystery lumps, wounds with bugs embedded.
Illnesses....pneumonia, ectopic pregnancy, cataracts, a woman who had a child with Down's Syndrome who did not know what was wrong with her child... so many stories, so much heartbreak, so much love, dignity and kindness.
Can we talk about dignity for a moment? The majority of people we treated were impoverished. A complaint of "dizziness" meant different things depending on where you are from. If someone from the mountains complained of dizziness, it indicated hunger. Dizziness from the city indicated stress. Little we could do for either but encourage fluids, provide vitamins for malnourished children or provide instructions on stretching or relaxation. We do not have the means to address hunger at the level presented and so we offer pathetic diagnoses of dehydration or stress.
Regardless of where the patient came from, they came to us in clean, washed clothes. The vast majority seemed to have just bathed. They did not just come to us for medical care, they presented themselves to us. Scant resources were used so that in the end, the medical workers were grungier than any patient that came to us.
Tonight is our last night in Culasi. We will continue to write about this trip, in particular about those that we met while here. An amazing trip, an amazing country and, most importantly, amazing people.