I have been back in Honduras just a little over a month and back in Ahuas one day over a month. This has been a busy but rewarding time.
Beginning on January 17th, we had visitors for almost two straight weeks, with the last group leaving on the 30th. A four man crew from North Carolina came on the 17th and left on the 29th, while a nine person pediatric surgical team from Minnesota and Spain was here from the 24th through the 30th. It was interesting to hear Spanish accents from Germany, Honduras, Mexico, Madrid and Cataluña; English from Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Carolina; and attempts at Mískito being spoken by all of these with varying degrees of success. At one point we were feeding fifteen people around the table in what is still referred to as the Marx house, while an increased number of surgeries vied with repairs to patient houses and a comprehensive review of the solar electric system for attention.
The North Carolina crew, when they were not criticizing me for talking “Yankee”, performed some much needed repairs on the patient rooms, fixed the ceiling in the overnight nurses’ quarters and began ceiling replacement in the devotional room. In addition, they spent many hours looking at the electrical system and determined that four of the eight solar batteries need to be replaced now while the remaining ones will likely need changing in the near future. (This was unwelcome news as we expect that each battery will cost about $2,000.) At their suggestion, we have reduced the number of hours that we run the generator each day, thereby cutting back both on diesel fuel consumption and costs. (As we continue to face chronic financial issues, a reduction in fuel costs is crucially important for the long term viability of the institution.) We have also noticed a marked drop in the number of cows and horses in the Hospital complex ever since the North Carolinians spent the last two days of their stay working on fence repairs.
We continue to heal critically ill people and attend to a wide variety of emergency situations. The visiting medical personnel focused on pediatric cases (e.g., repairing a child’s ear drum), but also removed gall bladders, performed laproscopic surgeries, did Cesarean Sections, and kept a radiologist busy with ultrasounds nearly from dawn to dusk. A baby born with a cleft palate while the medical team was here may be a candidate for a trip to Barcelona for corrective surgery next year.
The medical group also evaluated a severely malnourished child, fifteen month old Danelcy, who weighed a little over 21 pounds. She had traveled from Wawina with her mother, complaining of vomiting, diarrhea, irritability, fever and a distended belly – the classic symptoms of Kwashiorkor, a severe form of malnutrition caused by a protein deficient diet. Dr. Ovelio noted that in addition to being malnourished, Danelcy was suffering from anemia and pneumonia. He admitted her to the hospital where medications addressed the pneumonia and fever while dietary supplements helped to improve protein intake. In addition, our Preventive Medicine Program monitored her diet and worked with the parents to provide them with dietary information and advice. The visiting pediatric team saw Danelcy and donated funds to ensure that the little girl is receiving sufficient protein in her diet at least for the next several weeks. Last week Tomasa Gostas, the nurse in charge of our Preventive Health Program, told me that Danelcy and her mom had visited the hospital the day before. The child is doing better, almost all of the distention is gone and she seems more contented and healthy. The Hospital continues to provide dietary supplements.
Tomasa laments the lack of funding to make frequent trips to outlying villages or to purchase sufficient supplies for all of the malnourished children that her program sees. She mentioned the case of another child, five month old Olis, whose mother did not have the means to either purchase needed food or to walk the five hours from her village of Warunta to Ahuas where she could have received help. Olis died at home in mid December. A 360 gram bag of powdered milk, which costs about $4.00 or $5.00, if combined with eggs, sugar and flour would have kept Olis alive for a week. It is tragic that she died because of where she lived. If she had been in Ahuas, she would in all probability still be alive today. We hope for a better outcome for Danelcy.
Dr. Kenneth requested and was granted a three month leave of absence beginning in January. Samir, a young physician from Sangrelaya on Honduras’ north coast, came to Ahuas in late January to assist at the clinic during Kenneth’s absence. Dr. Samir is a personable young man who has quickly gained the confidence of both staff and patients. His family remains in San Pedro during his time in Ahuas.
With or without visiting physicians, we continue to treat difficult and tragic cases:
- Early in his time at Ahuas when Dr. Ovelio had to leave to take care of an emergency dental problem, Dr. Samir saw a pregnant woman who came to the Hospital from Krupunta. Unfortunately, midwives had waited too long to send the young woman to Ahuas and the fetus was lifeless when they arrived. Gratefully, the mother, though still in the Hospital, is alive and doing well with the aid of several antibiotics.
- Last weekend, Drs. Ovelio and Samir attended to a young man who had been brought by boat to Papatalaya and then by truck to theHospital. He had been involved in a boating accident and came in contactd with the motor’s propeller. Arriving at the hospital, bones on both legs from the calves to below the ankles were exposed. The bone of the big toe on the right foot was completely outside of the foot. The two young doctors were able to put everything back in place and suture the wounds. Once the lacerations heal, they hope to put casts on both legs.
While we enjoy working with Dr. Samir, we are also looking forward to the return of Dr. Kenneth in April. His surgical skills are sorely needed if the Clínica Evangélica Morava is going to continue to provide a full range of medical services to the people of La Mosquitia.
The less exciting administrative work that I am involved with has seen small improvements, but I am hoping that by the time that I return to the States on April 1st, we will finally be able to point to some major strides forward.
My Administration Class, which began on January 13th, will continue until middle or late March but may finish when I return in May.
A computer and computerized accounting program which were purchased through the gift of an anonymous donor in November of last year will be the foundation of an imporved accounting system for which the Accountant and Secretary will receive training during the second half of February.
Another anonymous donation has covered the cost of extensive repairs to the tractor. Overseen by pilot and mechanic, George Goff, these will ensure that in the near future we will be able to transport our own lumber, firewood, maintenance supplies and medicines rather than paying someone else to provide that service.
The first of two medicine shipments made possible by Benno and Teresa Marx will arrive soon while the second should be here in March if all goes well. These, in addition to significant donations received or pledged in December when I was in Wisconsin will hopefully provide the foundation for a monthly medicine ordering system that should put an end to our chronic medicine shortages.
Staff efforts to reduce outstanding patient debts have resulted in the payment of some overdue accounts, but we have far to go in this area.
With significant support from the Lake Mills congregation, brother Bruce and Sister-in-Law, Nan, a new lab analysis machine will be brought to Ahuas in March with training expenses also covered by funds raised in Lake Mills.
In February and March we look forward to the coming of the Booth/Marx dental team on February 22nd, the arrival of Mark Ebert and Justin Rabbach on March 3rd to work on wells and maintenance, and a lab trainer and new blood analysis machine on March 17th.
I almost forgot my creature story for the month. Last Sunday I attended church at the recently opened Alfa y Omega congregation of the Mission Province in Barrio Naranjal here in Ahuas. As Pastor Adriana prepared to read the Miskito liturgy, there was some commotion in back of the nearly finished “Prayer House”. A teenager using a two by four hit the wall and several people whispered “piuhta” or snake. With the pit viper now dead, the service proceeded as if nothing unusual had happened.
The Clínica Evangélica Morava continues to minister in the name of Jesus the Christ. We are reminded almost every day how vital this ministry is to the well being of the surrounding population. In the first 11 months of 2014 the Clínica Evangélica Morava saw a total of 4,212 out patients, attended to 246 births, admitted 1,028 in patients and conducted 248 major surgeries. (During the last week of January alone we had people traveling from the two geographic extremes — Irlaya in the Zona Recuperada to the southeast and Sico in Colón to the west — to avail themselves of our medical services after 2-3 days of travel one way.) We continue to be concerned with administrative and financial issues, but we are doing what God called us to do – reducing suffering, curing illnesses, saving lives and winning souls for the Lamb.
I am grateful for your continued support of and interest in this vital medical outreach.
Clinica Evangelica Morava
Attached photos show Danelcy and the combined crew from Minnesota, North Carolina and Spain.