Medical Team in Cunan April 2018

Daily Updates from team leader Linda Brewster

Hola from Guatemala! Day 1

Dear friends and family,
We have had a full and gracious two days already!  Yesterday most of us left around 2am for the airport. For the most part we had pretty smooth flying. We had a flight from Boston, one from Louisville, KY, and one from Albuquerque, NM and we all arrived within a hour of one another in Guatemala City!  We had to go through customs with 24 mission bags filled with medications and vitamins and toys and toothbrushes  with Peter and Polly at the helm of that process.   You can only do that process once every 3 years as you have your passport stamped in a special way.  So we rotate the honor! The customs process was much less arduous than it has been in the past. That was one of the major gratitudes of the day.

We then loaded the bus with luggage and people and drove 4 hours out of Guatemala City through smoke and smog. The bus is like a small school bus (holds 32 passengers) but it is all decked out on the outside with Guatemalan decor.  Jose is our bus driver.  He is a great driver and has driven us on many teams.  He safely navigated Guatemala City and got us to Chichicastenango before dark : ) I think by then we were all exhausted!  We stayed at the Hotel Santo Tomas which is across from the open air market that happens on every Sunday and Thursday.  We ate dinner and went to our rooms.  I was asleep by 8:30 pm and slept til 6am.  A much needed rest.

I am grateful for this team.  They have gelled as a team and despite being tired had smiles on their faces and excitement in their voices.  It was fun today to get to show them some of the city and give them some history.

This morning after breakfast we went into the market.  It is a large market and filled with people.  It can feel overwhelming and close. I think everyone had a great time seeing the sights and sounds and smells of the market.  Some spent money. Some were there for the experience. The colors are vibrant.  The things to buy are endless and the number of kids pressuring you to buy is crazy.  Everyone got good at saying “No gracious” and moving on.

We visited the Catholic Church and experienced a Catholic service in progress.  We witnessed the candles and flowers that adorned the steps of the church and the servant outside the church burning incense and swinging smoke at the entrance.  I believe that they do that to ward off evil spirits.

We then ventured to the primary cemetery in Chichicastenango.  It is on a hill and a bit of a walk.  The mausoleums above ground are colorful and adorned with flowers and other things.  We also saw the graves of folks who had little money and many graves of children.  The crosses were numerous ad colorful. We saw a Mayan ceremony in progress and talked about the differences in our traditions and theirs. They believe in a bodily afterlife and continue to burn incense at the graves and visit frequently.

We then went to lunch at Los Cofrades. Food was good and with full bellies we have boarded the bus for Cunen.  We have our interpreters with us as well as Jose – our host and Nikki – the team coordinator for SAlud Y Paz.  We are getting a look at another part of the country with mountains and clean air – and yes tight corners and narrow streets and very bumpy roads.

Our hotel last night was luxury. Tonight we will be in a clean, safe hotel with no frills.  We might have hot water and electricity and we might not on any given day.  I will connect daily when I can!  I am going to send pictures via a separate email as in the past the pictures have hung up emails on this end.  The internet is not like to is in the US!

Know that we are already having an amazing experience and I look forward to introducing the team to the beautiful people in the Mayan villages. We are blessed to be a blessing and I know for sure that we will be on the receiving end of so many blessings during this time away. We thank you for your prayers and good thoughts.  They are so welcome.  Know that we are thinking of you everyday and praying for you as well.

Blessings from Guatemala!

Linda (for the team)

Day 2

Dear family and friends,
We made it through our first clinic day with amazing grace.We were in Xetzac – a village that has not seen a medical team before.  It was up 2000 feet from our hotel in Cunen.  We had just amazing vistas!  We drove through several villages before arriving in Xetzac, a village that spoke mostly Quiche.

When we arrived, it was around 8:30 AM and we had the clinic up and ready to roll before 9:30 AM. Not bad for the first clinic day! Exam rooms were made from strung rope and sheets for walls.  We had a pharmacy that could rival any pharmacy around.  They organized the medications and went to work counting and bagging the pills.  It really is a sight to behold.  With Chris at the helm, and Roger, Loren and Peter in the pharmacy, things got ship shape pretty quickly. Polly bounced back and forth between the pharmacy and the lab and Karen, Parker, and Sabelle helped out as well.

In the afternoon Parker and Sabelle took on the kids and a lot of kids at that. They played their hearts out and the kids were all over them – yoyo’s, fingernail polish, frisbees, coloring books and so much more…  It was amazing to watch them take on the kids with such maturity.  Parker also had Kate and Karen out there playing jump rope with the kids! There were  more than 50 kids there at any given time.

Kate and Meagan mastered triaging patients and getting the right info to the providers.  Today we saw 96 patients which is great for day.  We did turn away 20 people which is always heartbreaking. Nancy, Cathy and myself saw a lot of different ailments but all came to the same conclusion – they don’t drink enough water, they drink too much coffee and the kids should not be drinking coffee all day! Lots of heartburn and headaches.  But some serious things as well.  It was not unusual to see women who were 17 or 18 with one or more children. Birth control is not a topic of conversation in a lot of these communities. I’m always struck when I see some one who looks 80 but is 69. It makes me sad for what could have been with some health care and education about healthy living.

We left the community around 5:45 which is later than usual and returned to the hotel for dinner and worship filled with conversation about the places where God was at work in the day. Was there a place where he wasn’t at work?

I didn’t get this finished last night and so we are now en route to Chiul for another full clinic day. We ask for your continued prayers and please know that we are holding you in our hearts as well.

Blessings from Guatemala!
Linda

 Day 3  Guatemala grace to you.

Hola!

What a day yesterday was! We went to the village of Chiul – we have been there nearly every year.  There are always lots of kids who come to play from the community.  So there were tons of kids and everyone had a chance to play with them. Marbles, duck duck goose, jump rope, coloring and drawing and making paper flower were all happening things yesterday.

We saw 78 patients yesterday but did not turn anyone away.  We saw lots of children with many significant ailments ranging from  a 10 year old with deep depression from the death of his dad ( not uncommon) to inability to see and hear, to parasitic bellies and so much more. It is truly work that is heartfelt and emotional for everyone. Each team member interacts with these patients in some way. I think my pictures will tell more of the story.

In the afternoon it down-poured!  We were inside although there were some leaks in the roof here and there !

Kate learned how to do blood glucose’s and urinalysis’ and pregnancy tests! She did a great job. Karen and Polly tried their hand at triage. The guys hang together in the pharmacy :). Our translators are amazing. I can’t imagine the brain fog they must experience at the end of the day. Most of our patients speak quiche and so the translators hear English and move through Spanish and quiche…. back and forth!  We are so blessed with this group of translators.

After returning to the hotel we had dinner and then our time together where we talked about being servants of God, the hands and feet of Jesus and what that looks like. The team talked for an hour in very holy space.

Shorty after retiring to our rooms there was a knock at my door. Reuben- the bombero (fire dept person who travels with us and registers the patients at the door) had called and his 4 month old granddaughter was having a seizure and they could not find anyone to see her. So the mom and dad brought the baby to us and we cared for the baby as best we could. The baby had had a fever at noon and the mom had given her ibuprofen which we determined by texted photo was actually a decongestant/expectorant at 2pm. She started seizing at 6pm. It seemed a remote possibility this was a febrile seizure but a seizure started again soon after they arrived And lasted at least 20 minutes. She did not have a fever then. The baby stiffened and tremored her arms and legs and rolled her eyes back and arched her head back. It was a bit tense. She was also crying loudly so we knew her airway was good. Eventually the seizure stopped and she fell asleep. Chris went to the bus to hunt through 15 or more suitcases for infant Tylenol while I dug up a syringe in which to give her the medicine. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to give Tylenol every 4 hours through the night. We have her She had one more prolonged seizure 2 hours later and slept the night.  They are taking her 5 hours to Santa Cruz today to see a neurologist. Guatemala City is 10 hours away.

So everyone was up late listening to the baby cry while Kate and Chris and I were with the baby. I think it took Kate and I TIL midnight to be able to fall asleep.
By the grace of God she will be seen today and they will know what is going on.

We are now on the way to the village of Chutuj. We have been there before. I am looking forward to another full day with this team and the people of this village.

If you could pray for the baby – Laura and her family and keep us in prayer we would be grateful. You are in our hearts and prayers.

Blessings from Guatemala!
Linda.

Day 4  Buenos días

Good morning friends and family,
It has been a busy two days!  Lots of patients and little sleep! On Wednesday we visited the village of Chutuj. Someone described it as being on top of the world. T  he vistas were breathtaking and the people beautiful. We were at a school and when the younger kids got out in the morning there were so many kids that it was overwhelming.  Parker tried to use the parachute but there were so many kids under it and around it pulling on it we had to put it away!  We saw 75 people in this community – and did not turn anyone away.  Again we saw lots of headaches and stomach aches poor vision, poor teeth, poor nutrition, high blood pressure, diabetes, parasites, scabies, depression and so much more.

This village was high at 8000 ft and it was beautiful farm country. Gods country filled with sheep and cows and horses, fields, and valleys. The dress of the women and girls is amazing. Each village has its own unique print of the dress.Yesterday we spent at the clinic in Cunen. It is a walk from the hote. We rarely go there and it is a special place for me. We were privileged to be the team that finished the clinic 5 or 6 years ago and it was opened shortly after to the public It is a beautiful clinic with tiled floors and exam rooms and a pharmacy and running water!    We saw 103 patients there yesterday and so I did t get a ton of pics because I was so busy seeing patients!! But it is such a blessing to work with teams that always gel together and I get to be in an exam room and not worry about who is doing labs or pharmacy or triage or playing the kids. Chris ran the pharmacy all week and does an amazing job keeping things in order. People rotated spots like it was a natural thing. God equipped them well this week and that is a gift to the whole team.

Last night we were tired but we talked and shared and prayed together. We did have a bit of loud music from a church a distance away till after 10pm. Every church here has crazy big speakers and amplifiers and keyboards and drums and someone who tries to sing with their whole heart.

This morning we are headed to camanchaj to see the main clinic and then after lunch we will visit a home and school and finally reach Panajachel for two nights before heading home. Tomorrow will be a fun day on Lake Atitlan going to

Santiago and perhaps San Antonio for shopping and visiting Father Rothers church ( check him out on the web).  Some may zip line in the afternoon and other will rest or shop more. A bit of downtime before reentry.

Everyone has been touched in life giving ways this week!  Thank you for journeying with us and for your prayers. Know you are in our hearts.

Blessings, Linda

 

Hola! Day 6
 Dear friends or family,
Yester

day we left Cunen – said our goodbyes.  Pastor De alejandro prayed for us before we left.  The mountains were again beautiful!  We stopped in Sacapulas and got black salt – the one place in the world where it is mined in the Black River.  While there we happened upon a boys soccer game and found a sleeping baby in a hammock. We continued on to visit the home of Tomasa. Tomasas home was recently built anew by 2 teams. Her husband was killed leaving her with 5 small children.  They had no real home and their property
is a long walk up and down the mountain. It is cool and beautiful there. She tearfully told her story and it was so moving. She was weaving when we arrived and such beauty from her hands. We then went to Saludy Y Paz for a tour of the clinic and school. No pics – my phone was in the red zone . We arrived in Panajachel to Casa Texel Hotel. It is a beautiful new hotel that we are enjoying. We went to Penguinos for the experience of marimbas, hearing the Mayan cultural story, and having fun with making tortillas and learning about the dress of the people. We shopped a bit on the way back to the hotel. Kate was swamped with people trying to sell her things. We had to help extract her.

This morning we took a boat ride to a place across the lake for breakfast. It is one of my favorite places. Peaceful. Quiet. On the water.  We then walked to the Catholic Church in the town of Santiago. This church is the one where Father Rother of Oklahoma was killed during the civil war for helping the Mayans. We sat in on a worship service and visited the place where Father Rother was killed.

We then slowly made our way to the boat as we ran the gauntlet of people selling goods. Our return boat was heavy laden with goods!

Chris, Sabelle, Parker, Peter, and Meagan went zip lining this afternoon while the rest of us shopped. The shopping here can be addicting with the negotiating as well as all the beautiful colors.

Tonight we went to the sunset cafe for dinner. The food was okay. The sunset was clouded but present.

Tonight we have packed and will leave at 6am for the airport.  We will each make our way home over the next 24 hours.

We are tired but our hearts are full. We have experienced much in the past week and I hope that as team members return home there will be patience as they process all they have been through. I have thoroughly enjoyed this team. It has been a week filled with much laughter and with tears of compassion. God has been good to us.  I pray we have made a little difference in the lives of the people whom we met.

Pray for us as we travel. We will see you soon!

Blessings,
Linda