March 24, 2018

San Juan de la Maguana, Dominican Republic: My Reflections

Two weeks ago I, along with fifteen other classmates, traveled to the Dominican Republic for a medical mission trip. We stayed in the city of San Juan de la Maguana in a guest house through Solid Rock International ministry. Throughout the week, we set up mobile clinics in the barrios or poverty-stricken areas. My eyes were truly opened to a side of the world I have been privileged enough to never experience. These individuals had dirt floors, no electricity, and no clean water. If this trip taught me one thing, it's that we truly take advantage of so much in the United States. 
A typical day in the barrios consisted of four different teams: Triage, Pharmacy, The Providers, and Home Visits. We got to experience being on each of these teams at some point throughout the week. 
The first day we set up in a school. I was given the assignment of triage. This consisted of working with an interpreter and getting the patient's chief complaint, a list of medications they currently were taking, and getting an initial set of vital signs. I have about six years of experience taking Spanish in school so I could speak very basic phrases to the patients. I was definitely thankful for our interpreters! 
In triage, I really was able to see that a prevalent issue in this country is hypertension. Most of my patients had blood pressures well over 140/90 mmHg. Our team had one patient whose blood pressure was so high her vision was blurry. She thought she was going blind. When we took her blood pressure, it was 210/85. The providers were able to give her the proper medication she needed, and within a couple hours, she could see clearly again. She was so thankful and it really touched us as medical professionals. 
I had the opportunity to triage these two adorable chicas! 
Day two in the barrios was spent also in a school. I was able to shadow an NP student that day! Here I got to see how amazing and intelligent NP's truly are! In this part of our clinic, I really got to see what medications were being administered for certain diagnoses. Parasites are also a prevalent issue in this country due to improper handling of meat and unfiltered water. Therefore, every patient in the clinic-- whether complaining of parasite symptoms or not received Albendazole. 

Having an assignment with the providers also meant getting to hold the cute babies while their parents received their treatment. 
That night when we were done in the barrios, we got to see where Solid Rock is building their new guest house + clinic! The view was absolutely breath-taking. 
Bienvenidos! Welcome! 

We saw cattle on our walk through the village. 

A home in the village. They keep all of their doors and windows closed to try to keep their houses cool. 

The third day in the barrios, I was given the opportunity to go on home-visits! This was by far the most memorable part of the trip. There were about five of us students and a preacher who went door to door in the village. We took patient's blood pressures and referred them to the clinic if need be. We also did ministry work and told them about Jesus. 

The people of San Juan were so welcoming and grateful for our presence there. They offered us what they had, which was not much. One man even gifted us a chicken... which we politely had to give back because that would have never made it through customs!

We also met this sweet girl, Nicole on our home visit. We referred her mom to the clinic- but she wanted to show all of us how she could stand on the scale! 

 We also got to teach the school children about dental hygiene! Thanks to a ton of donations, we were able to give each child a toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss to take home. Our interpreters helped us teach them how to brush and floss their teeth! 

Where we set up for our last day in the barrios. 

The view from the street + our team/bus!

The fourth, and last, day in the barrios I was working in the pharmacy. This was by far the most tiring of assignments! This job consisted of receiving the piece of paper with the provider's orders on it and then filling the medications in bags. For chronic conditions, we would give them enough medication to last them for thirty days. Solid Rock constantly has medical teams coming so their medication can be refilled when the next team comes. 
Here were patients waiting for their medications to be filled in the Pharmacy. 

This was our "Med Box" which we had all of the medications stored in. We even separated them by type to help the process run a little smoother. 
There was a horse behind the Pharmacy! 
The views from the bus on the way to the dam. 

We ended clinic early that day because we had seen all of the people that needed care in that particular village! We got to see the dam located in San Juan. This dam had once flooded the entire city. It was an incredible sight to see. 
Our team! 

Our last day was spent traveling back to Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, where we then flew home the next day. 
My experience in the Dominican Republic is one that has made a lasting impact on my life. This trip put so many things into perspective for me, but one primarily being that global health is something I have such a passion for.  To quote Mother Teresa, "We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean but the ocean would be less because of that single drop." I am so thankful to have been a drop in the ocean for the people of San Juan de la Maguana.