San Mateo Clinic Day 1

After taking a day to relax, recover and explore Antigua our team moved to the small village of Sam Mateo, a beautiful and friendly village about a 45 minute drive from Antigua. We set up in the community center located next to in the central square of town.

We had 77 patients sign up in the first half of the day and were able to see 54 of them by the end of day one.  Many of the junior team members had opportunities work with the more senior team members and expand their range of skills and knowledge.

It has been very humbling and interesting to learn about the issues effecting each village and inspiring to learn how Rotary has helped educate and create sustainable infrastructure to provide sustainable clean drinking water and more a efficient and clean cooking stove for the residents.

We will be back in San Mateo Thursday and Friday morning to see the remaining patients from Wednesday and many more that are sure to come.

If you have not already, be sure to follow us on Instagram @CommGuatemala Our entire team is posting photos and videos from each of their individual perspectives and sharing personal stories in the comments.




El Hato Clinic Days 1 and 2

El Hato 2018 was a huge success!

Day 1 : 56 patients

Day 2 (Half Day) : 36 patients

Our well oiled dental team worked through the two days flawlessly. After 13 years of working together with our doctors, volunteers and the community of El Hato, we were able to see a vast array of patients. Our hygeiene department, had an entire room and were able to performing prophies, SRP’s, education and full mouth debridements. Our team of dentists had another room with 4 chairs and was able to see a wide variety of patients from age 1+.   This year was our first year incorporating SDF (silver diamine fluoride – aka Advantage Arrest) to appropriate lesions in attempt to prevent progression. We also had amazing volunteers to help with scheduling, sterilizing instruments, translations, and patient flow.

We also found an adorable (almost new member) of our team – Hato the puppy who walked into the clinic and was instantly adopted by the team. She is currently available for adoption.

This year we are excited to incorporate a new chapter of social media including a Facebook page and Instagram feed.  All of our team members have access and have been actively posting photos and videos. These document each person’s individual experience.  Make sure to check them out and stay current with our team’s activities. We are hopeful that through the power of social media that we will be able to spread the word of our community efforts here in Guatemala.

Today was a free day in which we enjoyed the sunshine, visiting some of the local markets, pools and attractions to recharge our batteries for another big day in the clinic of San Mateo tomorrow.


Healing is a Process

Physical therapy is a field of medicine that empowers people to take control of their physical wellbeing by improving their posture, strength, flexibility, and balance. Therapists use multiple techniques to aide patients to improve their function which may include manual therapy, exercises, and in some cases the use of modalities. But the most important tool we employ is education.

I have just spent 2 days up in the village of El Hato, a village 6,000 ft above sea level whose economic livelihood revolves around agriculture. The people of this village work hard in a way it is difficult to understand in the United States. People here are the beasts of burden, carrying wood on their backs, water on their heads and the women do this with a baby wrapped around their body. They work from early in the morning to late in the day. You can see the men using hoes up on the hillsides, carrying cement blocks to a construction site, or lugging large bags of produce over their shoulders. The women are even stronger! They carry the water, search for wood, do the laundry by hand, and cook, all while caring for their children. It is a hard life. And it takes a toll on their bodies.

I saw patients with a general mix of musculoskeletal issues. My youngest patient was 12 and my oldest was 62. If they had been treated at all it was with a few pain pills, and once the pills were gone, the pain and disability remained. In some cases they had seen a doctor and even had an x-ray but no further treatment was given. I have one visit to give them the help they haven’t found within their own medical system.

My process is to hear their story, not just about their injury but also about their life. I do an assessment and begin to educate them. I explain how pain works and how it impacts their movements through loss of joint and soft tissue restrictions, and muscle weakness. I use pictures to show them the affected anatomy. The body is programmed to heal itself but the process can be held back by fear avoidance, or an inability to let the affected structures rest. Sleep is impacted which slows healing. All patients want to know what is wrong, why they have pain and what to do about it. Once they understand this they are greatly empowered to take care of themselves.

Every patient received exercises to help restore their function. They need to know what might hurt but is safe, and what kind of pain to avoid. I also taught them how to use heat and cold to decrease pain, self-massage, and how to rest their injuries. I issued splints or made forearm cuffs for some women with lower arm pain. The work goes on for them and they will continue to overdo so knowing how to use cold for inflammation or how to rest will help them in the future.

Any manual therapy I performed helped them for the moment, but more importantly it gave them hope that they could feel better. It was as if they could see a different future for themselves and they were so excited. One older woman with a crush injury to her foot a year ago kept saying, “Why didn’t anyone ever tell me this before?” She could already see a difference in the ease of movement of her foot with just the simple exercises and manual therapy. She was motivated to do the whole program I outlined for her.

Healing is a process. Like everyone else, these patients I saw in El Hato will not get better in a straight forward path. They will have setbacks. But they now have tools to help themselves. They have the power of knowledge and hope.

Gloria, former physical therapy patient, shown here with cooked food for the school children’s lunch.

In closing, I ran into one of my patients from two years ago who had severe neck and back pain from a fall. I asked her if she wanted to have me check her and she said, “no, I am doing fine now.”

Maureen Gonzales, PT
Guateam 2018
March 6, 2108

Welcome to the 2018 Rotary Guatemala Dental Service Project

Welcome back!  2018 brings another exciting year of cleanings, hygiene instruction, pain relieving,  drilling and filling here in Guatemala.

This year we have returning volunteers: Chief Auggie Gonzalez, Matthew Gonzales (2nd year hygiene student), Justin Mai (2nd year hygiene student), Maureen Gonzales (physical therapist), Dr. Mike Harper, Dr. Sarah Post,  Dr. Ben Gonzales, Dr. Adam Polan, Auggie Gonzales, Dr. Brittany Fox, Dr. Charlie Hartman, Lacey Cox, Piper Jahnke (3rd yr dental student),  and Tembre DeLong (2nd yr dental student).

We also have a couple new volunteers  on the team this year : Scarlett Kettwich (2nd yr dental student), Amy Balkins (1st yr hygiene student), Shannon Eckes (1st yr hygiene student), and Blake Lundstrom (IT).

As of Saturday 3/3 everyone has safely arrived in Antigua and we are all set up in  El Hato to start clinic with a full schedule of patients in the morning. A couple small hiccups thus far: missed flight, lost rotodent unit (temporarily), possibility of lost passport (recently found).

We have updated the website to new mobile compatible template and added instagram and Facebook feeds so that you can follow us on your favorite platform. We encourage all present and past volunteers to get involved by sharing photos and your stories on Facebook and Instagram.

This year’s IG tag:  #guatebuena2018

IG group : @commguatemala

Facebook page :

Final Clinic Day in San Mateo

The last day of clinic is always a half day as we have to spend time taking inventory for next year, and packing and putting everything away. That said, Friday was a very successful and busy day for the team! In total, we treated 40 patients in the dental clinic.

Pictured above (from left to right): Dental student, Piper, applies fluoride to a young boy’s teeth; Dr. Polan and Dr. Harper with their youngest patient of the day; Dr. Gonzales shows dental hygiene student (and brother), Matt the steps for doing a filling.

Before clinic ended Matt spent time showing a group of kids how to properly brush and floss, in the hopes of empowering the kids to have better dental hygiene.

Pictured above (from left to right): A young girl practices brushing some teeth; three young boys are excited to use their dental activity booklet; a young girl demonstrates her flossing technique that Matt just showed her.

The team’s physical therapist, Maureen, treated 21 patients from the villages of El Hato and San Mateo and 12 Rotarians and volunteers. Each patient received education regarding their condition, an exercise program, and, in many cases, manual therapy.


San Mateo Clinic Days 1 and 2

Wednesday and Thursday the team spent treating patients in the village of San Mateo. Over the past two days, the team has treated 131 people (63 on Wednesday, 68 on Thursday)! Patients have ranged in age from as young as three, upward to 65. The vast majority of people the team treated Wednesday were young children. Yesterday was a broader mix of children and adults.


Pictured above: The team uses a large community room to treat patients in San Mateo.

The dental team has experience working with children; though we have one pediatric dentist, Dr. Post, who works solely with children every day. As such, we work to pair her with our youngest patients. Dr. Fox also has a lot of experience treating children; so she and Dr. Post make a great pair here! They have treated our two youngest patients this year, both age three. It is a delicate art to be able to calm a child and carry out a procedure at the same time. These two do it with grace!

Pictured above (left to right): Dr. Post examines a young girl; Dr. Post and Dr. Fox treat the youngest patient of the day, a three year old girl.

Yesterday Dr. Andrews was in charge of triaging patients before they sat down in the dental chair to receive treatment. He worked with one of our star volunteers, Thomas Olson, who served as translator, to determine the best course of action for each person.


Pictured above: Thomas is excited to help translate for Dr. Andrews.

Also Thursday, Dr. Polan and Dr. Harper removed an extra tooth of a young man who stated it had been hurting him his whole life — or at least as long as he’d had the adult tooth in his mouth! Every time he would eat, it hurt him, he said. It also affected how he talked. He expressed is gratitude to the two for alleviating the pain he’d been in for a very long time.

Towards the of end of the day yesterday, the sanitizer malfunctioned. As I mentioned before, the sanitizer is a very important piece of equipment as he cleans (sanitizes) all of the tools. If it stopped working for good, the team would only be able to work for as long as they had the proper tools to carry out procedures. Fortunately, we have a second sanitizer this year that we swapped in for the malfunctioning one.

All in all, Wednesday and Thursday were very busy and fruitful clinic days in San Mateo! The team is looking forward to the final clinic day, today.