Monday, March 14, 2016

Gracias A Dios

Our group has a famous saying “gracias a dios” or “thank you god”, that we quote as we reflect back on our experiences and memories in Guatemala.  For our final activity, we all stood in close proximity in a circle, stating a memory, moment, or experience that we thank God for providing to us on this trip.  In my last blog entry I would like to share some “gracias a dios” moments that I feel are worth noting and sharing…

Gracias a dios for bringing together a down to earth, compassionate team.
Gracias a dios for the giving us strength and encouragement to provide patient care everyday.
Gracias a dios for opening our eyes to the reality of the world.
Gracias a dios for providing us delicious meals and clean water to do great things.
Gracias a dios for keeping us healthy and safe.
Gracias a dios for your breath-taking creation, providing a sense of peace.
Gracias a dios for the universal expression of smiles and laughter.
Gracias a dios for the opportunities to pour our hearts, souls, and minds.
Gracias a dios for improving the health and well-being of the patients in Patanatic over the years.
Gracias a dios for reminding us the value of simple things in life.
Gracias a dios for the healing power of prayer.
Gracias a dios for the moments that couldn’t be caught on camera.
Gracias a dios for early morning walks by the lake.
Gracias a dios for the phenomenal leaders and professionals on this trip.
Gracias a dios for late nights out exploring the city and enjoying each other's company.
Gracias a dios for a more valuable and noteworthy spring break than lying on the beach.
Gracias a dios for the incredible learning opportunity.
Gracias a dios for life changing experiences that we will never forget.

Madeline M. Mayer

Happiness at the End of Our Journey

And here comes the end of our journey. I write with an overwhelming mix of emotions as the sound of children laughing and the taste of rich tortillas still linger with me. My thoughts and memories of our experiences brings me happiness for the new friends I’ve made, sadness for leaving such an amazing country, and hope for those with limited resources in Guatemala.

The spiritual element of this trip was also such a remarkable experience. I’ll never forget participating in the Mayan spiritual ceremony for healing. We used the cleansing power of sage to sweep away unclean elements and illnesses from our body along with the power of symbolic candles to pay respects to the Mayan gods. It is truly awe-inspiring how much respect the Mayan people have for the land, fire, water, and air as elements of life. At the end of the ceremony, I felt refreshed and ready to experience more of the beautiful city of Antigua as a cleansed person.

Perhaps the most inspirational moments of the trip occurred during the home visits. Dr. Richard, a few of my peers, and I traveled up the mountain to visit people in their homes. Rabbi told us that as we traveled higher up the mountain, we should expect to see more telling signs of poverty—and he couldn’t be more correct. I remember one young man in particular, whose house was no more than a very small stone rectangle with a corrugated steel roof. All he had for furniture were just two small beds and a couple tables. This man, despite feeling sick, was so happy. He was so appreciative to see us and welcomed all of us into his humble home with such respect.

I also remember another home, which was slightly bigger, but housed four generations. What an amazing experience it was to see such strong women living together in the same household—a stark contrast to here in America where some children are immediately kicked out or leave at the age of 18. I saw in the eyes of these people the spirit of family. The great-grandmother made sure that she shook every single one of our hands that day. They were all so happy to see us and were so thankful that we had helped examine their health and medical conditions.

The home visit that touched me most deeply was most certainly the couple in their 90s who lived in a humble stone home down a treacherous steep path. I held the hands of the elderly woman as I performed her blood glucose test and noticed how strong and calloused her fingers were. I thought back to my days shadowing an internist at my local hospital and remembered seeing so many elderly hospice patients with complicated chronic conditions. I immediately wondered how we could help manage these two individuals’ diabetes or hypertension, which they would most certainly have. However, after completing the tests and Dr. Richard’s physical examination, it was found that these individuals were perfectly healthy! How amazing that these two individuals on this isolated part of the mountain were so fit in mind and body. I saw in their eyes the spirit of hard work and blooming health—I will always remember them.

This journey to Guatemala touched me so deeply; it is a bookmark in my life that will always stay with me. When we were coming back down the mountain, we met a lady preparing fresh coffee beans to be cooked. All we did was see her in passing, and she could not stop thanking us for helping out her community. She must have thanked us at least four times. Despite having so little, a persistent theme throughout these visits was that all of these people were so happy. They need not depend on the materialistic consumerism that plagues our society to feel fulfilled. All they need is each other and a good, home-cooked meal.

Drs. Eric, Lauri, and Richard were such a blessing to have as medical professionals on this trip. I have never met healthcare professionals as kindhearted and pedagogical. Each one of them, in their history and physical examinations or patient counseling, were so kind to the patients while teaching us more about medicine. These doctors are keen to treat the whole person, which I believe is one of the most important aspects of patient care, and they have refined my image of the holistic and compassionate physician I aspire to be one day.

The trip reminded me how blessed we are to be Americans. We have an excess of things here; and so we should always strive to live life to its fullest by making use of what we have, not wasting, and limiting our selfish wants to have more. Most of all, we should always have a good attitude and strive to be more happy. In the words of Miguel, the amazing father of Mishel and Diana, “Amigos and amigas…if you are happy, I am happy. If you are not happy, I am still happy.”

Gracias a Dios for the life you have given me; I promise to be a happier person and always help others to be happier in their lives.

Sean Lewis

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Bubbles and Blessings

I honestly do not know how to start. This trip has been difficult for me to process. I have felt almost every single emotion in these short six days, and sometimes even all of them at once. This trip has taught me so much and has exposed me to things I have never seen before, both good and bad.

Every drive we have is full of beautiful scenery where there are hundreds of different plant life, terrace farming, vibrant flowers, mountains filled with greenery, banana trees, lemon trees, avocado trees, and multiple volcanoes. I am always mesmerized because it looks like a painting. The view of the mountains and scenery is forever implanted into my mind.

The streets here are something I have never seen before in my life. The streets are extremely crowded with venders, tuk tuks, buses, motorcycles, and wild dogs. The little shops that line the streets are so colorful with shades of blue, orange, yellow, and red. The dogs run all around, sit under tables at restaurants, and apparently try to get into hotels as well. One night we were all out at night and were walking back to our hotel. Our hotel has sliding doors that they leave slightly open all the time. So, when we all walked in, the dogs decided to walk into the hotel with us. Now imagine dogs running around a hotel lobby with 12 people trying to chase them out. I asked the hotel clerk if this happens often, and he said it’s the very first time it has ever happened. So to say the least, there is never a dull moment on the streets of Panajachel.

Now about the amazing people here.  I cannot say enough to give these people justice. These people are so incredibly strong. The land here is filled with hills, and the hills aren’t typical hills. They are incredibly steep. These people hike up these mountains with baskets on their heads, babies on their back, difficulties with walking, and poor vision. The mother’s love for their children, the brother’s love for his sister, the child’s love for their parents, and all the love that I have witnessed has been so beautiful. O have made many relationships with these people. Mynor is mi amigo who loved playing  with burbarjas (bubbles) with me. This little boy was shy, but he lite up with the biggest smile when I gave him burbarjas and played with him. Even though we did not talk much, our laughing and smiles was more than enough communication. I will never forget mi amigo Mynor, for he taught me so much with little to no words. What a blessing it was to meet him. I also was able to speak Spanish to multiple women who were so thankful, kind hearted, and vulnerable to me. I felt so welcomed into their village of Patanatic.

I cannot describe how influencial this trip has been and will be on my life and nursing career. I have made life long friendships with my wonderful team members. I have learned so much from the medical team, my new family, and an incredible 12 year old, Grace. I have found my nursing role model and who inspires me to be the best me and the best nurse. I have found myself through this trip, and I am a better person because of this trip. Gracias a Dios.

Maria Hill

A Loss for Words

After arriving back in the United States less than 18 hours ago, there is a whirlwind of emotions flying around in my head. Currently, I cannot even find the words to explain this entire experience. Life is not about how many words you can say about a particular experience, but rather how much you cannot say about it. I have never been loss for words in my life, but uniquely enough, it is quite a great feeling. When my fellow students ask me to describe my spring break to them I will not know how because I am truly lost for words.

Several experiences standout from the past week and have a special place in my heart. Home visits with Dr. Richard served as an eye-opening experience to me. When patients were too ill to walk to the clinic, a group of students brought a mobile pharmacy and travelled into the different sectors of Patanatic to provide medical care. As we were walking to the first patient’s house, the houses people were living in were much different than I was accustomed to seeing in the United States. Various materials that people could find where used as the building materials for houses. When we arrived at the patient’s house a young man invited eight people in his house he had never seen before, and brought us all a seat to sit on. Dr. Richard performed his exam on the elderly man, and told him how he was very healthy for his age. As we started to pack up to visit the next patient, this same man who gave us chairs to sit in, did not let us put them away. He carried all of the chairs out of the house and thanked us a plethora of times. This type of generosity and thankfulness is something I have not seen in my life. Eight strangers, who spoke a completely different language, were allowed into this man’s house and were treated like family.

The school visit on Friday was another great experience, possibly even the highlight of my trip. The school we visited in San Andres was a truly unique and special experience. I played soccer, basketball, blew bubbles, and chased kids while they were riding bikes for an entire day. Sometimes I got so involved in the games we were playing that Rabbi had to tell me to turn my energy level down a notch, which was a very hard thing to do. Whether it was teaching my newly acquired friends how to shoot a basketball, how to dunk, or just being a child with them, this day was one of the most fun in my life. For all the fun games that occurred, I also shadowed Dr. Lauri the entire day. This experience was very shocking. Many of the children that Dr. Lauri was examining had their teeth rotting at six or seven years old. This was particularly sad to see ad shows the importance of brushing teeth on a consistent basis. Another case that stands out in particular was about a young, asthmatic boy. When he became sick, he complained about shortness of breath. Dr. Lauri prescribed an inhaler to him; however, to make make this treatment for effective an air chamber should be used with the inhaler. While the mobile pharmacy did not have this chamber, some of the people used a water bottle to create a makeshift air chamber. After the device was constructed, the boy used the inhaler and the face he made when he was finally able to breath was priceless.

The medical service trip to Guatemala was the experience of a lifetime. I would not trade this opportunity for anything in the world. The doctors, students, and citizens of Guatemala all were amazing people that helped to make the trip possible. Sometimes being lost words is best, especially for an experience like this.

Jacob Noll