As explained in a prior post, last week during the medical missionary trip I attended in Guatemala, I worked in the triage team, where we took down the names, ages, and information of each person who walked into our makeshift clinic. We then took their blood pressure as well as their blood sugar levels. The people of Guatemala, especially those from Sumpango, Sacatepéquez are some of the kindest, most humble people you’ll ever meet, so it was a pleasure being able to meet as many of them and their family members as possible. A few of the cases from various patients that we saw included ones with TB (tuberculosis), one kid had partial liver failure and a kidney dialysis tube which had been inserted into his stomach seven years prior, people with masses on various body parts, lots of patients with scabies, urinary tract infections, worms, and/or h pylori bacterial infection, people with blood sugar levels over 500 (one woman’s blood sugar level was so high that both times I took it, the machine couldn’t even provide a number since the number was beyond recognition), and other such illnesses as well; not to mention, the line for our one dentist was filled with people needed teeth removed due to the lack of dental hygiene.
One woman in her early twenties sat down at my table with a black eye and explained to me that she had been trying to reach something in her cupboard, but it fell and hit her in the eye. As I have learned on previous missions, spousal abuse is quite prevalent in Guatemala, and when numerous husbands get their hands on alcohol, they turn to physical abuse on those closest to them, which are usually their wife and kids. We tried to help this girl as best we could by offering her medicine to soothe the pain, but more importantly by telling her to stay strong and to try her husband, should this ever happen again. As unfortunate as it is, this tip of advice is much easier said than done, and there are some things we just aren’t able to fully help in the course of a few days. However, on a more positive note, a grandma and her grandson who lived with her walked in, and upon explaining that I would need to take the grandma’s blood sugar level, the grandson immediately held her hand. I couldn’t wrap my head around how much love these people had for one another, and even though he heard firsthand accounts of terrible stories involving abuse (which are difficult for us to work with when there are no mental health counselors on the trip), the love that family members shared for one another was far more powerful than any type of abuse could ever be. After two full days of seeing well over a thousand patients and providing medical attention to those in need, even though people were waiting in line for hours upon hours, they were still kind and beyond gracious for us being there to serve them.
I have been receiving comments recently saying that the work I have been doing in Guatemala is amazing and I have really impacted the lives of those we treated. However, in my opinion, it is the complete opposite. From attending these medical missions and getting involved with the orphanage we stay at during the trips, the people of Guatemala have taught me so much about the world and about myself that I feel as though I am forever indebted to them for leaving such a positive impact on my life. We are often so closed off to the world around us and to those in need who are right beside us, as we tend to become easily engulfed in our own personal problems. Who can blame us though? Life happens and unexpected occurrences take place, which usually catch us off guard, so it’s difficult to find time to worry about anyone but ourselves.
What I love about these missions though is that twice a year, I am given a reality check and shown what is truly important in life, and that the world doesn’t solely revolve around me. There is much more out there than we realize, and there are so many people in need of our help, but when we all come together to help those around us, our collective efforts really do make a difference- just like on these medical missionary trips. We each have our own talents and skills that we can use to help those in need, and while I wasn’t able to provide medicine to the people we treated (seeing as this is a skill and talent that the doctors have worked hard to achieve), here I am writing about my experiences to try and spread the word and raise awareness. So you see, we each bring something valuable and unique to the table, and we can all be the change we want to see, but it starts with us.