I recently came back from a medical mission trip to Guatemala, and let me say, it definitely didn’t disappoint! This was my fourth time going back since 2009, and it was a blast! Medical missionary trips provide some of life’s best experiences, and I am fortunate enough to have been able to attend this past mission, which will forever leave an imprint in my mind. We worked in a poverty and disease stricken city called Sumpango, and turned a church into a makeshift clinic, providing medical care to people who either haven’t received medical care in years, or haven’t received medical care at all throughout their lives. I was assigned to work in Triage, which was the first place the people came upon signing in outside and waiting in line. The rest of the triage team and I took people’s blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and wrote down their basic information as well as what was wrong with them. We then assigned them to a doctor and escorted them to that part of the clinic. If there is one thing that I have realized from spending time in Guatemala these past few years, it is that Guatemalans, especially from Sumpango, are some of the most humble, kindest people you will ever meet. So as the day progressed, I met incredible people who constantly thanked me, even though I was merely taking down their information. “Muchas gracias doctor” was a common phrase I got used to even though I wasn’t a doctor; but hey, I wasn’t going to correct them. This was the one time I could let me ego boost up a little bit, so I gladly accepted being called doctor.
After having taken down the information of quite a few people, the next man in line came in our tented area and sat down next to me. I began conversing with him, wrote down his name and age, and asked him what brought him in; what was wrong with him. “Tengo disfuncionado,” he said, meaning “I have dysfunction.” Since people had been waiting in line outside for hours to see us, I had set up my own table to see extra people so we could hurry things along, before this man walked in. By no means am I fluent in Spanish, but I was doing pretty well working alone and whenever I needed something translated, I would just ask fellow volunteers around me. I thought maybe dysfunction was a type of disease or illness specific to this town, so I called over someone from my trip to find out what was wrong with this man. “Qué paso,” she asked. “Como estás?” “Tengo disfuncionado,” he replied again, in a low voice. She took a few seconds to think about it and responded with “Tienes una esposa? He answered this question of whether he has a wife with “Si.” She then asked, “Quieres tener divertido con tu esposa?” meaning, do you want to have fun with your wife? The man’s face lit up as if it were Christmas morning and he let out a happy “SI!” It turns out that this whole time he was talking about erectile disfunction, and seeing the look on his face upon giving him the medication he requested was beyond priceless, showing us not to take things in life for granted. Of course this was one of the most minor cases we saw, but it was definitely a memorable one.
A while later, in walked an 82-year-old lady who had been having troubles with her eyesight. She mentioned that is was beyond difficult for her to see, as things had been blurry to her for quite some time. We handed her a pair of prescribed glasses that had been in one of the duffel bags next to us, and when she put them on, she shed a tear. Being able to see clearly was such an amazing feeling for this woman, and seeing the joy that we were able to bring to her was one of the most rewarding feelings one could have.
By the end of the trip, we saw over one thousand patients, with various illnesses, and truly made a difference in the city of Sumpango. More stories from this trip are yet to come, but for now, I’d like everyone to take away one thing from this post. Don’t take what you have in life for granted. Not everyone is as fortunate as we are, so truly cherish what you have and those around you. Some of life’s simplest items such as glasses and sight are overlooked each and every day, but if we learn to appreciate all that we have, you’ll notice that the quality of your life will improve immensely.
The elderly lady in the middle is the one who received prescription glasses, thus improving her vision for plenty of time to come.