Sunday, February 7, 2010

Dominican Mission

My home for this past week was this Mission room was on the third floor, right under the thatched roof fourth floor penthouse. I met an amazing group of selfless individuals who became housemates and family for the trip.
It was a week that I will remember for the rest of my life. I was part of a group that went on a mission to the Dominican Republic for an ophthalmic/ophthalmology trip. It is part of an international group that does humanitarian work all over the world. Some of the members of our group have participated in many that go all over the globe. We had hoped to help in Haiti too but because of the distance...10 hours from our compound, because our itinerary was already set and the missionary we stayed with had just returned from there (and was taking a neurosurgeon there when we left) we did not go. There was a group that had been there that day, overlapping our visit and was leaving the next day after we arrived. The stories they had to tell were as sad as you can get as well as disappointing about the amount of help being rendered.

Below, Dr. Gupta, our ophthalmologist, and me arriving in the Dominican. We left in 3* weather and arrived in 90!Others from our group getting on the bus for the 1 + hour trip to the mission house.
We didn't get too far when we had a flat tire....I thought someone was shooting at the bus at first!
We had a second one on the way home and 4 by the end of the week + two battery recharges...poor bus, but you will see the work out it gets!!
Entertaining ourselves while the tire was being fixed!...the beginning....this guy (Ron) and his buddy made me laugh all week!!! What a pleasure!
Veterinarian, Dr. Lisa Snyder and Sarah, the missionary's daughter. was just excellent. Cindy, missionary Gary's wife, was a wonderful cook and we ate well. Very healthy locally grown food made with imagination and great recipes!!
Next day, we started on our journey....each place we went to was at least an hour away and some 2+ hours (makes 4 hours of travel + work hours= long day) so we started early. We traveled to various places and had to decide how to set up with what we had. The first day was at a church built by Gary following a storm. He found a widow whose husband had been killed and promised to help rebuild her home. He ended up working in the area for two years and helped build not only her home, but a church and over a hundred other area homes. You could tell as soon as our bus arrived how much the people loved this missionary!
This was the parsonage living room that we set up our surgical area in. Optometry had the church sanctuary next door. We used the dining room table to set up all our supplies on and covered suitcases to make an area to work from. Ron (with the rabbit ears) was our equipment tech and ran our cataract machinery, while Lisa was the "circulating nurse" and opened sterile supplies.
Dr. Gupta did "A-scans" with Dr. Don Parker (a retired nephrologist in real life) to determine the strength of lens to be inserted in cataract patients.

Our goal was to finish each day before the sun went down so that we would not have to travel the difficult, winding mountain roads in the dark, especially if it rained (roads washed away). We did not succeed any day. Our lines were long and we wanted to help as many as we could. There were still days we cut the line off because travel in the rain causes mud slides and the road overlooks many hairpin turns.
Another flat tire....entertaining ourselves again!
Up at the crack of dawn to start another, Dr. Gupta, missionary-Gary, and Dr. Don Parker., ready to go.
Before breakfast...awake and smiling... Matt Patterson, Lisa, Jan, Gary and Sarah.
Second mission in school house with people lining up ready to go.
Kids, at end of day, going through our trash before we took it out.
Typical road traveled.
The mission house (first picture) that Gary built in the mountains had this bath house behind it where we took our flashlight each night to a refreshing, cold shower....brrr! The first time I turned on the water to wash my face, a gecko jumped up out of the drain at me. The next morning as I entered again there was a spider on the wall as big as my fist!!
Dinner with Lisa and Pete, her husband.
-the open air dining next to a mountain river that made beautiful babbling sounds all night.
Breakfast with missionary son Joey who was reading the Bible to Dr. Gupta.
Rechecks of day two surgical patients before continuing to next mission, with our optometrists.
Me with one patient putting in drops.
On to next place, a church that had a room on another part of the building in which to clean/sterilize instruments. This is Bernie, who sterilized our instrumentation between cases, an important feat when we had daily electrical problems, generator problems, bus problems, fan problems, and HEAT problems! We called him "Cookie" because he was "the cook" of our instruments. He needed to check our case progress frequently so that the next case was ready. In this facility, the room was separated by bars so we would say "Cookie, what are you doing in jail??"
This was a school room that we set up in...desk and chairs being used to set up on.
Even had to carry our own TP with us...ha! The bathroom was a unisex outhouse in the back with a string door holder and big water barrel that you scooped out to flush!!
Part of our group was a father /daughter team...Dr. Tom Chambers and his daughter (my roommate) Molly....neat people!
End of the day, on the bus for the ride home was Ron Harris, making faces at the kids outside....
-and here was the response he got back!
The kids were sweet and fun.
Next day, our work was at our mission, Mucho Agua (much water =big lake that was by our mountain). At 5 am I heard motorcycles outside my window and looked out to see people lining up for treatment! It was supposed to open at 9 but opened early because of all the people there so early.
This was the inside of the Mission Bible College that Gary built. Here I sat up instruments on top of two suitcases...worked well! We could look out the window and see the pretty! So hot too!!

Getting ready to do a case....we worked till 9:30 that night. Went to bed after a cold shower.
Next day we were up early to go again...and electricity doesn't come on till about 7. We used flash lights to get around to the bath house. Lisa missed the bottom step and broke her ankle!! The dogs came and licked her. She had it set in a hospital there and came back to the states to have it operated on. She was a trooper!! Purple heart to you, Lisa!!
Dr Gupta examining post-op patients...we did a total of 40 surgeries and saw 700 optometry patients. We saw many interesting cases and much more difficult ones than we normally do at home. The equipment that we used was dated too so all of that is a challange, yet so rewarding in the end.
Optometrists with our post-op patients.
-And on the bus for another 2 hour trip into mountains on the other side of the island.
A man wanting to have his teeth mission coming next week.
At a small hospital, our last place....several Peace Corp workers serving here, some from Alaska.
Tom and Molly...
The comedy club...Ron and Bernie...
Beautiful countryside, terrible roads (carsick me!)
Kids with friend...
-and another...
and another!
More kids who loved to have their picture taken and run over to see it.

Back at night, Cindy made dinner for us and Gary is finished with this mission except for a final trip in the morning. What an amazing couple!!
Next morning they took us on a river walk along the property behind the Mission. Kids come to swim, mothers to do laundry and get buckets to take back with them. The water is clear and the walk was gorgeous with ferns, natural growing impatiences and other flowers amongst the rocks.
Fake fishing.
The last day we spent on the beach. It was a beautiful place and we were ready to rest. I admit, I felt guilty to enjoy it after such an eye-opening week.
Below...a peacock on the property...

-and flamencos...
and a hut over the water...
and a sunset. It is a beautiful land, especially when you think of what is happening to people on the other side of this island. I was very grateful for this experience and for many things that I don't think I will take for granted for a very long time.
Our final group picture...back to the snow the next day!!


yaya said...

I'm so proud of you! What an adventure...We have so much to be thankful for in this country. I'll try to remember that next time I have to do cataracts on any given Wednesday! You're an amazing women with so many talents and such a big heart. Dr. Gupta is lucky to have you! P.S...thanks so much for the yummy vanilla!

Phil and Amanda said...

What an awesome experience. I'm sure very tiring, but how rewarding!!! I totally agree with Mama Starkey, sooo many talents! You're crafty, a great cook, mother, friend, and OH, you give up your time to go help strangers across the world. I admire that.

Matt PAtterson was there!? He's such a funny guy! I graduated with him and dated him in like 7th grade...for like a week. lol! It's so cool to see all the different people that have such big hearts!!