When we embarked on our year long journey, we only had a handful of travel details confirmed. One was obviously our one way flight to Bangkok, another was our hostel accommodations for our first few nights and the last two details were my trip with Palmetto Medical Initiative (PMI) in Nicaragua and Brian’s bone fishing extravaganza in Belize!
What is this PMI organization you speak of exactly?
I’m not necessary a mission trip sort of gal, if you will. I never considered participating in such a trip prior to last year and to be honest, I wasn’t fully aware that organizations such as PMI were completing medical mission work internationally. With that being said, I was very fortunate to work with several individuals in Charlotte that had gone on similar trips and who were willing to openly to share their experiences with me. Upon learning more, I was blown away with all the good work being done!
Traveling has really heightened my awareness as to how many people in this world of ours truly do not have access to good medical care, basic medical care or just medical care in general. As you can imagine, this causes a tremendous number of individuals to suffer from various symptoms and diseases for far too long and unfortunately, this leads to what could have been preventable deaths.
What I admire most about PMI is the utilization of short term mission trips and volunteers to support and create long term, sustainable medical care to the people that need it most. The goal is for their various medical clinics to be self sustaining within one year and their clinic in Uganda illustrates that this is, in fact, possible. PMI is ambitious as well. The organization hopes to open 20 medical clinics in high need areas all over the world by 2020. I had heard phenomenal things from others about their experiences with PMI and I trusted that it would be the case for me as well.
The PMI medical clinic near Chinandega, Nicaragua opened earlier this year. It’s fully staffed year around with extremely knowledgeable and caring Nicaraguan doctors and nurses. We visited the clinic one afternoon and the head doctor at the clinic spoke with us and informed us that since the clinic’s opening, the clinic has been operating smoothly and the community appreciates the high quality of care accessible to them.
Did you know that many doctors in Nicaragua don’t even perform a physical assessment of any sort (aka they don’t touch their patients) during an appointment? We actually experienced this type of care first hand when Brian went and saw a fairly reputable doctor in Guatemala so it’s unfortunately not exclusive to Nicaragua. When patients leave PMI’s clinic, they are pleased to be receiving comprehensive medical care at a low, affordable cost.
What was the goal you all set out to accomplish over the course of the week? Great question.
We spent a week traveling to a different rural communities surrounding the clinic and providing care to people who desperately needed it. Additionally, and arguably more importantly, we created an awareness about the permanent clinic near Chinandega where the locals could go to receive care whenever they needed it throughout the year.
On the first day of our “mobile clinic” I took a second to look around at the organized chaos that was unfolding before me. I was so impressed with the fact that we were able to provide such well rounded, comprehensive care to these individuals. Need to see a doctor or physician’s assistant, or work with a physical or occupational therapist, or talk to a pharmacist about your new medications, or get a cavity removed, or receive nutrition counseling, or even receive a pair of glasses so that you can finally see? We were able to help patients in need of all these things!
I had several roles and responsibilities at clinic. I spent several days in pharmacy working as a pharmacy tech which certainly kept me busy. All I have to say is that I will never again complain about having to wait at the pharmacy for my prescriptions to be filled – they are working HARD behind that pharmacy counter! I also spent a few days in registration where I like to think I put my limited Spanglish to work. All I have to say is thank goodness for our amazing interpreters! I was able to have a lot of interaction with the patients during my time in registration which I loved! Even though there wasn’t a specific “nutrition” station at clinic, the PAs and MDs were wonderful about consulting me on patients that needed some additional nutrition counseling which I really appreciated. Over the course of the five days, our team helped over 1,000 patients in five different communities which is pretty remarkable.
I’ll share one of the stories from clinic that pulled on my heart strings! A younger guy came into clinic on our fourth day and explained to the PA that his ring finger and middle finger on is left hand have been joined together since birth. When Michael, the dermatology PA, asked him why he didn’t have the fairly simple surgery to separate his fingers done when he was younger, the guy reported that his dad was afraid that if he had his fingers separated another finger would grow in it’s place. You and I laugh and assume he’s making a joke but believe me, he said this with a straight face. Michael assured him that this wouldn’t be the case and so he eagerly agreed to proceed with the surgery. The young man also shared with Michael that he was getting married in a few weeks and he wanted his soon-to-be wife to be able to put a wedding ring on his finger during their wedding ceremony. It was one of the sweetest stories! The Nicaraguans we were lucky enough to spend time with over the course of the week were some of the most loving and appreciative people I’ve met which, of course, makes everything worthwhile!
If you ever consider doing any type of medical mission work, check out PMI. “Improving the world’s access to medical care one clinic at a time” is not PMI’s tagline; however, I think it should be!