Medical Mission and Telemedicine Program

A little while ago, I travelled to Sula and Manos Amigas for a surgical consult for two kids, a boy and a girl, with severe scoliosis. They aren’t orphans, but they live in Macuelizo (about 15 min away) and are family friends of the founders of the orphanage. From what I understood from the meeting with the parents, they were born without any indication of scoliosis and their condition has worsened greatly over the past 10 years. The medical resources here are rarely adequate for even mild medical cases, and many medical professionals just do not have the resources, knowledge, and exposure to diagnose and treat these conditions successfully. The boy cannot stand independently due to the severity of his condition, but is in a much better state than the young woman. She is not able to sit down due to the curvature of her spine, and often has trouble breathing and eating as well. Our goal was to successfully transport them from their home in Macuelizo, to the hospital in Sula for an X-Ray, and then to Manos Amigas clinic where they would receive a surgical consult from the brigade of US doctors who were there. It was difficult to see these two beautiful children struggle, but they had the most incredible spirit and exuded so much love. Upon arrival at Manos Amigas, we met with a surgeon who assessed their condition and sadly concluded that there was nothing that could be done for them in Honduras; that the surgery required could only be performed in the states, if at all. It was difficult to hear, but it was the first time in 10 years that the family had received a definite and accurate assessment of their children’s conditions. Even though the outcome was not what we had hoped, the family, two kids included, was so grateful for our assistance. Not only was it interesting to get to experience the surgical brigade, but to see the sheer number of people that traveled from miles away to receive treatment from these qualified US doctors made me appreciate our high-quality medical care even more.
In comparison to working in the medical clinic in Pommern, there did seem to be more resources available in Honduras. However, we did travel to a hospital and a US-sponsored clinic (compared to the small village clinic of Pommern), so that may not be a fair comparison. It does seem that medications are more readily available in Honduras, but they are extremely expensive, so the majority of working-class people cannot afford medication nor treatment. I instantly noticed the lack of basic medical knowledge, both here and in Pommern. The clinic in Pommern, however, put a lot of emphasis on educating the patients in order to prevent future ailments, while there doesn’t seem to be an education program here. Even the kids, the madrinas, and the padrinos at the hogar struggle with medical knowledge that in the US seems like common sense; they do not understand the proper dosage based on the instructions on the bottle, don’t know that a cold just needs to run its course, seem to never believe that the best treatment for most ailments is water and rest, and that not every bump, bruise, or cut requires a band-aid! It is difficult, especially with the language barrier, to explain to them how and why we’ve decided to treat an ailment a specific way, but with each and every situation that our treatment is successful, they seem to be understanding more and expressing less skepticism.
On the topic of medical work at the hogar, I’ll talk a little bit about the medical program that I’ve been helping establish here. Honestly, the majority of my time is spent working in medical, in one way or another. Two year-long volunteers are spearheading the program, and I’ve joined their team for the time that I am here. We’re establishing a telemedicine program here at the hogar in hopes of improving the non-emergency medical care for the kids here. Currently, every medical case (everything from rash to fever to persistent headaches) requires a trip to the hospital in Sula for a doctors appointment. Not only is that extremely costly and very difficult logistically, it usually results in either a misdiagnosis or a confirmation of what we already suspected. This new program involves us sending case information to US medical professionals that have agreed to be “on-call” via email for a week every 1-2 months. We provide them with the child’s medical history, current vials, symptoms, photos (if applicable) and the inventory of medications we have on hand, and they respond with suggestions for how to treat the ailment. In the past two weeks that we’ve been test-running the program, we’ve avoided more than 10 hospital visits! AND all the kids recovered faster without the added stress of a 45 minute drive on bumpy roads. We are all very proud of how successful this program has been in just the past two weeks! I was able to finish updating ALL the online medical records for the children, as well as creating an overview spreadsheet organized by dorm and age. For a type-A personality like myself, it was a perfect project. We’re hoping to establish this program for the long-term, to provide high-quality, sustainable medical care for these kids! Not sure who’s reading this, but any medical professionals who are interested in being involved in the program please feel free to reach out to me via email (georgiatechgirl1@gmail.com) and I can orchestrate communication with the other volunteers here at the hogar!

 

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