Now today was something altogether different. We drove for 55 kms, not to a rural village, but to quite a large town. The municipality of Izalco, home to 70,000 people, is named after a nearby volcano. Over 70% of the people here live in extreme poverty. We parked and unloaded in the city square and were jammed into a series of rooms in one of the municipal buildings. The local government had set up several tents to shield the hundreds of waiting patients from the hot sun. There was a sound system with periodic announcements made between sets of upbeat, local music. From the outside, this Medical/Dental clinic seemed more like Mardi Gras!
We continue to see all types of interesting and challenging cases. Dermatologist, Dr. Channy Muhn was kept busy draining infection sites, instructing patients on proper wound care and even surgically removing a ganglion from a man’s arm.
He also consulted on one of Ross’ patients – a nasty case of neurofibromatosis in a 56 year-old woman. This is a severely disfiguring disease with multiple skin lesions, some of them extremely painful and internal issues as well. In reality, there’s not much we could do for her except remove one of the growths that had developed on her left big toe. It was really causing her pain making it difficult to walk in shoes. That was a quick procedure and I saw her soon after in the Pharmacy line-up, feeling much better but destined to battle this unfortunate disease for the rest of her life.
All departments kicked it up a notch to meet the demand, doing their jobs with that famous Speroway combination of caring and efficiency. With a few more local doctors joining us today, it was Pharmacy that really felt the strain. When the line-up became a bit long, we added more staff support to help pick and pack prescriptions. All in all, it was another very successful day that ended with a special presentation from the Mayor thanking us for coming and helping his community.
And speaking of best – these clinics just would not be possible without our dedicated team of student translators. Upwards of 15 fine young people in grade 10 at a San Salvador private school, work with all our teams, in one-on-one situations to support our work and facilitate communication with our patients. As you can imagine, they’re particularly crucial to our medics. By the end of the first day, they had their translators doing blood pressures, testing blood sugar levels with the glucometer and even assisting with surgical procedures as well! And make no mistake about it, it’s not easy for a 15 year old to ask patients personal questions and discuss sensitive issues. These situations come up time and time again and through it all, they are professional and mature beyond their years. What an experience it is for them and what invaluable support it is to us. We just couldn’t do this without these wonderful kids – they are an essential part of the Speroway team and we thank them for all they do for us.
After treating nearly 900 folks today, we’re gearing up for the biggest clinic of the trip tomorrow in the inner city slum called Somalia. We’ll finish off the week of posts tomorrow night.