Sunday, February 19, 2012

Dominican Mission Part 1

 Our group of 21 landed, last week in the Dominican Republic for a 10 day trip.  The weather was glorious as seen from our bus window as we traveled about 2 hours to our mission home in the mountains for the week.
We stopped to get gas along the way...which of course is in pesos....scary to look at none the less!
Day 1
One day there and one day back is spent in travel, leaving us with 6 mission days in the field.
Each morning we awoke to our missionary's wife, Cindy cooking a wonderful homemade breakfast for us, with freshly squeezed juice right out of the yard!  We started each day with devotions and prayer followed by these delicious meals!!
Bananas are grown here and we picked them right off the vine!
Day 1 was spent right at the mission compound.  Gary Klein, the missionary, practices medicine here and this is his pharmacy.  Each day we were given a "space" to work in and convert to our OR=operating room, in about an hour's time.  An optometry team saw the patients first and then chose the ones we would see so we had extra set-up time.

This is Lisa, (a veterinarian in real life) on the left, who was on the OR team with me.  Jeff (an ophthalmology sales rep) on the right scrubbed cases with me and is here helping set up our converted room.
After a little shuffling, this is the configuration that we came up with for the day.  A swim mattress became a comfortable place for our patients to lie during their procedures.

Chris, on the left and Pam, on the right were our pre- and post op team.  They put drops in the patient's eyes and helped prepare the pre-op "testing" needed to choose the right lenses for each patient if they had cataract surgery.
At the end of the day, we would gather for dinner and share experiences of the day.
Many of our nights were rainy which was a problem because the roads in the mountains are poor.  This is one of the ways we traveled each day hoping the bus and truck carrying all the supplies could cross.  These folks are gathering water to take home.
Day 2
Another day of set-up at a different mission church about 2 hours away.  This is our means of sterilization...pressure cookers!  We brought propane with us to fuel the burners and sterile indicators to make sure the instruments were processed in the proper way.  Each load took more than half an hour.
Our "instrument tech" was Bernie who we called "Cookie"...because he "cooked" the instruments for us.
The second day, this was our work space...the living room of a parsonage!
Here is some of the pre-op testing to determine the lens to be placed in the patient's eye.  The surgeon (sitting) was Dr. Gupta, an ophthalmologist that I work with.  Dr. Parker (standing) assisted him in many roles including that of interpreter.  
 There were so many little things that had to be thought through and solved each day...example:  the old OR bed that we used, had wheels, so to prevent moving, we used plastic bowls to hold them still.  Each time one of us thought up another "innovation"...we would call out, "brilliant"!!

Here one of the church ladies helping to prepare lunch with her mortar and pestle.
A young surgeon in the area came  to observe and learn from Dr. Gupta.  He was thrilled as Dr. Gupta helped mentor him through a surgery.  His father (standing behind him) has been retired from ophthalmology for 10 years.  He came, unknown to his son and enjoyed watching him in action, -shushing us not to disturb him.
We remove cataracts in many small pieces in our country and never see an intact one.  Here, however, they were hard and our old equipment made that difficult so many were removed like this.
At the end of the day, we all pitch in to pack up all that we had brought and start the long trip home arriving late after dark and very hungry by that time.
Day 3....Again this day...Sunday,  we arrive at a mission church a long drive away.  This was a very small home next to the church whose owner allowed us to use it for the day. You can see ventilation is at a minimum on a warm, warm day.
Inside there was almost no furniture to move as we scope out our territory.  That is cloth over half the roof area and I'm sure it did not hold back rain when it fell.
This is a pass through from the kitchen to the living area.   No refrigeration in the kitchen.
**WARNING!!! Censored for the faint of heart!....
Each day we had new and unique bathroom conditions.  Each day we sent in one strong person to check them out for us.  Each day, someone came back shaking their head stating "You are never going to believe this!"
On this particular day, this was it.  The men just laughed.  We, ladies, had to form a plan of exactly how to use this.  Sigh.

PS...bring along your own TP and hand sanitizer!!!
Here is how we reformed our tiny cabin into an operating room this day and it worked well.  It was the smallest of any room we used the whole trip so we did have traffic problems all day.  Generators...and the noise and the fumes...were necessary in most locations to be able to function.
We found spare areas to spread out  our supplies so that we could easily access them.  Here is Lisa organizing from our suitcases.
She is also the one responsible for thinking up signs for our English, -just for us.
As the day progressed, "Cookie" needs a sweat rag, poor guy.  Service always with a smile!
And our pre slash post-op team (and me!) had swollen heat/feet!!!

To be continued.....


acorn hollow said...

You are doing amazing work but holy cow what conditions.

Jennifer said...

Amazing...grace...God bless all the work of your hands...

Julia said...

Oh Donna, what great work of charity that you all do. Although you are working in less than desirable conditions you are to be praised for your ingenious ways of coping.

I love the MASH OR sign on the door. The latrine on the other hand leaves me puzzled as to how the heck to use it. How is it flushed??

Thanks so much for the report of your mission. Get someone to snap pictures of you too please for your family and for us. Sending you love and hugs. JB

Kim said...

Donna, What a wonderful thing to be a part of. Bless you!

Stacy Crawford said...

What a neat trip! It must be fun working for a people who appreciate just the fact that you are willing to help. The swimming raft for a bed....WOW we are spoiled.

Those are one brave woman!

yaya said...

Welcome back DJ! I missed ya but I can see you all worked really hard and in some crazy conditions. Good job and I know you'll be blessed for all the good work you did. I hope you had a little time for some fun at the end anyway! I'm looking forward to seeing and hearing more about it. See you tomorrow! You are a brave soul!

Rebecca said...

I was so interested to see and read this post. Gary & I have visited the Dominican Republic a couple of times (years ago). Once to take a group of young people on a short-term assignment; another time to conduct a missionary retreat - and I guess a third time in which we visited my sister & her husband who were missionaries in San Juan.

My Aunt (now deceased) was a "career" missionary there many years ago.

It was so good to read of your ministry and see it all through your eyes.

Debby said...

I can only imagine those conditions. What a great mission trip. Not sure I could even survive that. You and your group are blessings for this mission.

Cro Magnon said...

Well done Donna; a true team of mercy. But it does make me wonder what happens to all the foreign aid that is given to them, and even more for next-door-neighbour Haiti.

Wander to the Wayside said...

What an experience - and a wonderful example of what humans can do when they work together for a good cause. But good grief, I can't get the image of you women squatting to pee in that little hole! What would you do if you had arthritic knees or a bad back? I'd probably have to pee in a container and then pour it in the hole!

Sue said...

What a great experience! Talk about making a difference!!


PS. When we visited Japan, many of the toilets were just holes in the ground. Needless to say, we women perfected the squat. Not much fun, though.

becky said...

Wow, this is an awesome effort requiring lots of guts and gusto!!! I'm so PROUD of you, web friend.

Darlene said...

Oh my, Donna, I had no idea what you would have to do in order to participate in this mission operataion. Of course the thing that really got me was your bathroom facilities. All of my children have travelled extensively so I did know about these holes in the floor from them. I don't think I could have coped with that, but maybe I could have, if I had done it when I was your age. I really had to laugh at Julia's comment on flushing. It really does make you feel sorry for those people. No wonder they would all like to come to the U.S.

I am so glad we are getting a report of this mission though, because I was wondering just what it was you had to go through and also just what kind of surgery you guys were doing. So glad to be so well informed now. It makes me eager to read the rest. I started with Day l as I wanted to read it in sequence. I kept looking for reports for quite a few days, so was happy to see this, although I must admit I am looking at it at this date as I did stop going to your blog for awhile.