Tuesday, February 16, 2010

No Appointment Necessary

This week the medical team is visiting El Sembrador. This is a group of doctors and nurses and even one dentist from all over the U.S. who come down and provide physical exams for all the students and employees at no charge. Most of the boys rarely, if ever, see a doctor, so this is a huge undertaking. Almost all the boys are infected with parasites from poor drinking water. So, the first order of business is medication to rid them of the parasites. Their eyes, ears, teeth and any other obvious issues are also examined and treated. This team brings down suitcases filled with the most common medications.

After they see all the boys and families on campus, the team climbs on an old school bus and ride hours up into the mountains to remote villages. They set up a clinic at the school or church and see the entire population. PK and I were lucky enough to ride along with the team for a couple of days. The drive was beautiful, but bumpy. In fact, we encoutered a stream with no bridge and had to drive the bus right through the water. The villages are small and dusty and almost inaccessible by car. The mountains are steep and the houses seem to barely cling to the side of cliffs. Trash litters the ground everywhere and dogs roam in packs occasionally breaking into snarling fights over a scrap of garbage.

My job was to give out the de-worming medication to all the young children. My heart breaks to know that the medicine will only last a few weeks before the kids are infected again. They rarely have clean drinking water in the remote villages. The main condition the doctors see is many, many pregnancies. Everyone in town seems to be pregnant. We saw many teen mothers including two twelve-year-olds. Otherwise, the complaints are pretty similar...headaches, backaches and coughing and congestion. Most of this is attributed to carrying water for miles on the head or cooking over fire indoors with no chimney to allow the smoke to escape.

After they see the doctors, the families are sent to the dentist, which is usually set up a few feet away from the main clinic. They waste no time with fillings. Instead they pull rotten teeth. One lady had 10 teeth pulled in one sitting! Then they make their way to the pharmacy, where most are given ibuprofin for pain and any other medication the doctors prescribe.

When the doctors come, it is a real event. Everyone in town comes. Vendors set up stands to sell lunch and trinkets. The Bible School students went along with us and entertained the children while they waited. They brought puppets and books and even sang songs. Some people wait in line for hours to see the doctor. No one seems to mind though. They're in no hurry and seem to enjoy the time spent among friends and neighbors. Everyone dresses in their best clothes. It almost feels like a party.

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