Cartagena 2014

Dr. Esteban’s blog

This has been a wonderful week . . . crazy busy and some internet/computer issues, so this blog entry will try to hit some highlights on the week.

On day one Michael Caldwell, our fearless Clinic Director, made the usual observation regarding how amazing it is that a group of individuals who hardly know one another, come from diverse backgrounds, have completely different skill sets, and virtually no team training can within hours set up an amazingly smooth running and effective field hospital - - a usual observation but still no less remarkable. Reasons for that really center around two things that make it possible: Egos get checked at the door, and there is a palpable sense that God is in charge. From moving smoothly through customs (Thanks, Anna-Cheri), to folding the team together with Colombian interpreters/students/church workers, to serving individual patients for which we were perfectly prepared (Dr. Jeff Menn removed a tooth from a young boy”s ear yesterday) . . . it is truly amazing.

Twinky, our Trip Director, with her husband, Rick, continue to demonstrate their unique gifts. Twinky’s energy and organizational skills keep us all on track and Rick’s problem solving abilities and sensitivity to cultural issues are invaluable. Twenty years in Spain as missionaries enables them to do so many things so well in this ministry that it would be almost inconceivable to pull off Cartagena without them.

Optical did fantastic all week. I don’t have a count, but based upon the number of glasses we distributed, the number will likely be between five and six hundred. We saw approximately 1300 patients through the clinic so that gives you the sense that optical was a hopping place. MaryBeth, Vickie, Ross, Anita and all our interpreters were able to help lots of people with their vision. Anita assisted on a number of surgeries and did a fantastic job. Vickie and MaryBeth were cheerfully compassionate all week. We began calling Ross, Dr. Ross, because he picked up so well and would take charge whenever I was tied up in surgery which was most of the time. But best of all, by the end of the week we had three interpreters running their own eye lanes and distributing glasses. They did a more efficient job than we gringos and had a great time. Fairwells for the interpreters this year were especially touching.

Pharmacy functioned amazingly well. Megan developed preprinted labels for common prescriptions that frees pharm staff up to focus on other very important issues. Tom Robinson was his usual rock solid self. There were also a couple exceptional interpreters in Pharm. Tom, who has led many med missions pharmacies said that this is by far the smoothest he has ever run. Even though they served all week in one of the few unairconditioned spaces, there were a lot of smiles and good times in pharmacy.

We also purchased all our pharmaceuticals in country. It couldn’t have been easier. The owner of the pharmaceutical supply company is a Christian and came out to the clinic to see what he could do to

meet our needs for the future.

Louis, Juan Mesa’s cousin from Colombia and an orthopedic hand specialist, worked with the team. His knowledge of local challenges for his people and compassion for them has been a wonderful blessing.

Monica, our Guatemalan medical student, assisted Andy Weiss, our ob/gyn M.D.

They have been working over at the new medical clinic seeing patients in a more controlled setting. She has been hardworking, cheerful, a great help per Andy, and very much enjoying her opportunity to learn. She was added to the team as a last minute replacement. She also worked one day assisting me in surgery. She is waffling between OB/GYN and OPHTHO for her specialty. It will be a difficult choice but one she knows will not be made simply by herself. She has been a blessing.

John and Jeff, our pediatricians, have been indispensible. I marvel at how they handled the swarms of families with kids coming through the clinic. The assurance that these mothers receive from these docs that their children are healthy and doing well certainly means a lot. Also having this level of expertise (over 60 years of practice between them) means that nothing slips past them that could be potentially dangerous. Their contribution to the team has been immeasurable.

We did have a lady have a heart attack in the clnic one day. We had a heart monitor with medications/IV in our emergency pack that stabilized her as we took her to the hospital. She was admitted and doing well when we checked on her yesterday. That could have been a terrible tragedy. It was good that we had what we needed to address the situation.

Angie, Dr. Caldwell’s Hyper-baric nurse, did a fantastic job in triage. With an interpreter, she did the job that typically takes 2-5 people to do. The clinic ran very smoothly as a result.

Blanca, Veronica, Diane, and Rosa were a great team helping in peds/med. There were lots of smiles, laughter and just great medical care going on in that department.

Dr. Milan, our oral surgeon, was his usual workhorse self. This year instead of birds, bugs, and dust flying through the clinic he moved up to a storage room. It actually was quite nice at the new clinic. He was as impressed as we all were at the wonderful vision and investment in the new clinic by the Colombian doctors.

Well, time to pack up and depart. There is so much to share and not enough time. Every single person on the team was fantastic, great leadership. wonderful partners with whom to work here in Colombia, and a clear sense that God is blessing our efforts with transformed lives.

Now back to the frigid North.

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