by Tim Fallis
It doesn’t feel like a year ago that we all gathered at Pearson Airport to embark on our last Speroway Medical/Dental Clinic trip to El Salvador. But here we are again, back with an even bigger team of doctors, dentists, dental assistants, paramedics, nurses and other critical volunteers. During the next week, we’ll mount five day-long clinics in El Salvador’s most impoverished communities. If all goes well, we’ll meet, assess, diagnose, treat and help feed, clothe and educate over 5,000 local citizens, many of whom have never even seen a doctor.
We all met at the Avianca Airlines check-in counter at 2:00 pm today. We were pretty overloaded with contributions from friends, family and sponsors ranging from medications, anesthetic and surgical instruments to soap, clothing, glasses and soccer balls. (Everything else was sent on ahead in a massive shipping container.) To avoid extra baggage charges, we spent an hour redistributing equipment and supplies. (Over 50 handmade dolls went into my suitcase – would have been interesting explaining that to the El Salvador customs officer! Luckily that wasn’t necessary.) In the end, most of us made it through under the weight limit but it was touch-and-go for a while!
We got settled in the hotel by 10:00 pm and then met as a group to plan tomorrow’s “all-hands-on-deck” day of preparation. We’ll count thousands of vitamins and analgesics into individual packs. The Pharmacy team will review all their medications and related docmentation. The Medics will meet to review policy and procedures and take stock of their instruments and supplies. The shipping container of food, clothing, meds and equipment will be unpacked, piece by piece with everything catalogued and stored – ready for transport to each clinic site. The Dental team will test their mobile units, plan their treatment priorities and even how to optimize traffic flow so they can see as many patients as possible.
It’ll be a long but critical day as we gear up for our first clinic on Monday. But it’s also a fantastic way for the team to get to know each other and start building the amazing chemistry that drives real success. This team needs to be tight and in perfect sync throughout the week to make this really work.
My job will be to photograph and write about our experience. I’ll update the blog every night in an effort to keep you informed and give you at least a flavour for all that we’re seeing and doing here. Day one is done – here’s to a great week.