When we arrived in San Mateo for our first day of clinic on Wednesday, around 9:00 a.m., there was a long line patients young and old waiting along the side of the building. Patti, a familiar face and past volunteer from Antigua, and Antigua Rotary President, Edna, were there to sign everyone up and organize patients according to their need (cleaning, general dentistry or physical therapy treatment).
We had up to five dental chairs going on Wednesday, and treated 34 patients ranging in age from four to 76.
Maureen provided treatment to many people as well, including an older woman with severe knee pain. Maureen provided the woman with exercises to do at home and a cane to help her walk. Maureen’s care and concern for people she sees in these villages is evident. She noted, “When I walk people through the exercises it’s clear by the look on the faces that it relieves their pain in the moment. But it’s hard knowing there’s no follow-up care for them afterwards.”
Our second and final day in El Hato (on Monday) was met with a lot of commotion. Not only was it a school day for the children, there were two also two other rotary groups providing services at the school along with us, spanning medical (eye and ear exams) and limited dental care (extractions, mainly). That said, we were just as busy, if not busier Monday because a large majority of the children and many of their mothers clamored to receive dental care. We also worked together, when we could with the other rotary groups. After all, we want to serve the greater-good.
Tuesday, was a free day for the team. We explored the hobbit-inspired town of Hobbitenango and rested ahead of clinic today.
Today marks our sixth year in the aldea of San Mateo. We expect it to be a busy next few days.
We’ll spend two days volunteering in El Hato (today and tomorrow). After we accidentally left Dr. Coleman Bright, a first year volunteer on this trip, at Tom and Alma’s house (our amazing host family), we had a productive and eventful first day of clinic. (Don’t worry, we went back for him, of course!).
We had initial ambitions to have four dental chairs in one room and two hygiene chairs in a second room; but, one of the hygiene chairs we’d set up didn’t end up having any suction, so we had to move a hygiene chair to the dental room. Overall, we treated 40 people from El Hato, spanning cleanings, extractions and fillings.
Maureen, our physical therapist treated a steady stream of patients all day as well.
Tomorrow, we’ll see patients in El Hato until early afternoon. Afterwards, we’ll pack up and head to our second village, San Mateo and set up clinic there so we can hit the ground running Wednesday morning, after our free day.
After our 15 Portland-based volunteers made their way to Antigua, we spent yesterday afternoon unpacking boxes of supplies and taking inventory of the new things we brought with us to ensure we’d be all set for today.
When we arrived in El Hato to set up we found out we’d be working in two different, smaller rooms. So we got creative in terms of set up, but are confident we’ll make it work.
Today we start our first clinic day in the aldea (village) of El Hato. We’ll have four dental chairs and two hygiene chairs and expect it to be a busy and productive day.
Hello! It’s that time of year again that we make our way south to Guatemala to serve two local communities in need of dental and physical therapy care. Last weekend kicked off our 2020 adventure as we met at Auggie and Maureen’s house to pack supplies, get acquainted with new teammates and talk logistics about the week ahead. We’ve got a mix of seasoned volunteers and eager newbies and everyone couldn’t be more excited to serve the communities of El Hato and San Mateo.
Everyone is making their way to Antigua Thursday and Friday, and we’ll hit the ground running Saturday when we set up our clinic in El Hato.
By Thursday, the team was in such a groove that our last two days of clinic felt like they flew by faster than a jet taking off. We had a line of prospective patients wrapped around the building and the team worked diligently to treat patients as young as four and as old as 77.
As has become customary, many of the patients returned from years’ past to receive treatment. While we weren’t able to see all of them, we did ensure that people received a toothbrush, toothpaste and dental floss. Fun fact: The kids in San Mateo all refer to toothpaste as “Colgate” – it must be a popular brand here!
This year marks our fifth year in San Mateo. Over the years we have seen the town continue to grow. There is even a weekend dental clinic in town now.
Our first clinic day brought several interesting patients. One pregnant woman, who needed to have a tooth removed due to infection, initially did not want to receive treatment because her doctor had told her anesthesia would put her at risk of a miscarriage. The team let her know, that while they understood her concerns for her unborn baby, she would be putting the baby at greater risk if she did not have the infected tooth removed, as there is a risk of the infection getting into the bloodstream. Fortunately, she agreed to the treatment plan. In total, the team treated more than 60 patients in the dental clinic.
Last year, Maureen, our resident physical therapist, treated a woman with Spina bifeda. She gave her several stretches and exercises to help with her balance, incontinence and alleviate pain. All of these things were affecting her well-being and ability to socialize. This year, the woman returned for a visit with Maureen and was much improved. She had been doing all of her exercises, experiencing incontinence much less frequently, able to walk more easily, and now has a healthy baby girl too! Maureen showed her some additional exercises to continue to build her health.
Our second and final clinic day in El Hato started off with a flurry of excitement, as we arrived to see that all of the students were there. Normally, when were set up our clinic, school is postponed until after we’ve left, because of the limited space. Having the students there did lend itself well to ensure more of them were able to be treated though, which is always a good thing!
Before we left to set up clinic in San Mateo, Ervin, the school’s principal shared kind words with us, in front of the older, high school students, thanking Auggie and the Newberg Rotary for its commitment to the students’ education in El Hato. One thing that stood out ,about this presentation to Dr. Fox, was that she noticed many of the students who were working toward their high school diploma (which is not a mandatory thing in Guatemala), were kids we’d provided treatment to over the years.
Thank you to the help of our Antigua Rotarian partners (including Tim Ruth and Tom Olson) and Tim’s wife Patty, we were able to quickly transport the supplies from El Hato to San Pedro. We are all set to kick off a great next few days in San Pedro.
Stay tuned for pictures from our final clinic day in El Hato.
Today kicked off our first clinic day of the year! It was not met without a few hiccups that we were (fortunately) able to overcome.
First, during set up yesterday, we encountered a faulty solenoid in the sterilizer, which acts as a valve to release pressure within the device. Without a sterilizer, we wouldn’t be about to ensure our tools were clean. And normally, fixing this issue, requires a technician, but since we only had overnight to get it to work, Dr. Gonzales, Dr. Hartman and Tom Olson, our ever reliable Antigua Rotarian, tinkered with it and fixed it. Thank goodness!
Early in the morning, two of the four operatory chairs were operating without water in the handpieces, which made it difficult to fill cavities. Fortunately, again, Tom was able to fix it.
All in all – it was a successful and fruitful day, as the team provided care to more than 50 dental patients and five physical therapy patients. Every year we are so happy and grateful to be able to provide necessary dental care to the people of El Hato. We look forward to day two, tomorrow!
Tomorrow is our first clinic day in the town of El Hato! Like in years’ past, we operate the clinic at the school in town, and we arrived mid-morning to several classes of students participating in Saturday school. Saturday school is attended by the high school students. In between setting up the clinic, Auggie and Maureen visited with the students, and school principal, Erwin Chan Reyes. Erwin has been a great partner to us over the years, and, like in years’ past, the Newberg Rotary sponsors the Saturday school, ensuring students have resources (books and teachers) for their education.
This year’s dental clinic will include four operatories and two hygiene chairs in two different rooms in the school. In addition, Maureen will have the opportunity to set up her physical therapy clinic in a separate space at the school.
After setting up the clinic, we had a really fun adventure (and delicious lunch) at Caoba Farms, a local organic farm in Antigua.