Volunteers share their experiences
The following are just a few of the inspiring stories of those who've participated in a medical mission with help from Fairview's Medical Missions program.
Lynann D. Hughes, RN
Patients served: 2,000
This dream team was the first medical team ever to visit this part of Nicaragua. We witnessed severe poverty, devastation and helplessness.
I had an opportunity to work with a Nicaraguan dentist which had its challenges as we didn't speak the same language. The dentist was able to communicate with the patients and families, and that was outstanding. By the second day, I was anticipating her instrument choices and the week was exciting and rewarding. I truly enjoyed moving from village to village. I enjoyed watching the team transform the space we were given into a functional clinic in 15 minutes. Every location seemed to have its challenges in setting up our equipment, but I thrived on that. Doing dentistry in a folding lawn chair had its own challenges—as it would fold up on the patients periodically. We mainly extracted teeth, only filling a handful of cavities. I am so grateful we were able to alleviate pain for our patients.
We did bring hope to this area—and I know we blessed them with our own clothing, as we gave up our own shoes the last day of clinic. We are blessed as they are blessed.
Debra L. Vedders, surgery tech
Patients served: 132 surgical patients
I would like to thank the Fairview Foundation for the financial support given to me, making it possible for me to achieve a personal goal of volunteering for a medical mission! I am grateful for your support. Our mission trip was to Tejutla, Guatemala, which is located in the mountains in Central Guatemala. The people there have a hard life, physically and economically. It amazed me know they farmed the mountainsides. Consequently, there are many people with hernias from the physical labor involved in their lives.
I was on the surgical team. We were able to do 132 surgical procedures, which is the most ever done! Among the surgical procedures were 14 cleft palates, hernia repairs, hysterectomies, ovarian cystecomies, D&Cs, A&P repairs, scar revisions and many others. It is amazing how much you can do with so little. The people were very happy and content and very thankful for what we could do for them.
We had a great team. We were blessed by the people of Tejutla and I pray we were a blessing to them, and hope that we were able to touch their lives and help improve their quality of life. My trip was a rich and humbling experience—one that I hope I can do again!
Debra Berg, RN
Patients served: approximately 1,900
I found my medical mission experience to be a humbling, rewarding experience. Our patients' ages ranged from 6 days old to 105 years old. We saw many women and children; most of the men were in the nearby sugarcane fields working. Parasites due to contaminated water is one of the major health concerns in the area. Every person we saw received parasite medicine and a one-to-two-months supply of vitamins.
I was moved to tears each morning as we prayed for the people we would see that day in clinic. People would line up outside the clinic door for up to two hours before clinic began. I found the Nicaraguan people to be warm and compassionate. Since I do not speak Spanish, a smile was a common means of welcoming them to our clinic, as I was one of the first people they saw after registering. My smile was met with a return smile and an immediate connection was made.
The mission trip to Nicaragua was a highlight in my professional career. It has made me realize how wonderful our health care system is in this country. It opened my eyes to the impact a group of people can make in the lives of 1,900 people. Personally, going on this mission trip helped me attain a goal I have had for several years. My experience will leave a lasting impression on my heart forever.
Carolyn Koehler, pediatric staff nurse
2,500 patients served
A Jeep with a bullhorn announced our free medical clinics to the community at night, and each day the crowd multiplied. It was frustrating to feel rushed, but we knew it was our duty to do the best we could for the most people possible. Our patients had walked for miles, and many had waited patiently for hours. All were gracious and very grateful. At the end of three long days of clinics, we were amazed to learn that we had treated 2,500 patients.
A highlight of this trip for me was meeting the widow I sponsored through KenyaRelief.org. Willikister is raising 10 orphaned children of her son and his two wives, who died of AIDS. Her church and my modest monthly donation are her only means of support. We visited her sparse hut—a very long hike through the "bush." The simple gifts I brought were received with overwhelming joy. I also took her shopping at the local market where she haggled for dried fish (which looked like fly-infested bait to me.) With a washtub on her head to carry her stew ingredients, soap, tea, cooking oil, corn flour, dry milk, sugar and new flip-flops, Wilikister happily walked the long path home as the sun set.
Another experience I will never forget was our visit to the Igor District Hospital where the poorest people must go for care. Febrile babies and children lay lethargic on grayed stained sheets, some sharing beds. As I passed out little packages of gummy fruit in the women's ward, I held each hand and looked into each woman's eyes. Many started telling me their troubles in their native tongue, begging for help. All I could say was, "God bless you, we will pray for you," tearfully realizing there was nothing else I could do for these dying sisters.
Mother Theresa once said, "We can do no great things...only small things with great love." I'm a medical missioner because I can be. I will continue to do what I can...with great love.
Once again I am grateful to the Fairview Foundation for their encouragement and monetary support of Medical Missions. I am proud to work for such an organization.