Sunday, August 10, 2008
Honduras Mission with Siempre Unidos
I am just back from Roatan, where I volunteered for a week at an HIV clinic run by Siempre Unidos. This is the "seldom seen" part of the island where the locals live and a good wage is $5.00/day. Honduras is the poorest of the Central American countries and has the highest prevalence of AIDS of any Spanish speaking country. Siempre Unidos California was established as a non-profit in 2005 and provides medical screening, treatment and employment to HIV patients in three clinics. Two are on the mainland and one in central Roatan island.
Along with a group of 20 volunteers, we visited the clinic in Roatan to provide medical care, bring needed supplies and work on several building projects. We also started a small jewelry making micro-industry. It offers fair wage employment to women who are discriminated against because of AIDS and have been fired from jobs. The jewelry and sewing workshops are already established on the mainland but it was a first for the Roatan clinic.
Two gynecologists performed pap smears and gyn consults for the patients and I was the first visiting doctor to provide general medical care.
The pap smears will be processed at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco for free. For many women who have several children, this is the first time they have had a pap smear.
Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley/Oakland and Sutter Marin also contributed needed supplies and $$ for our visit. Each volunteer lugged two 50# suitcases filled with supplies and medicine. (It was easier to return with the empty cases!)
Despite the heat and humidity, we worked with the local nurse and doctor to accommodate all the patients. The local public hospital sent referrals to us also once they found out we were there. There was little I could do for the young man with thrombocytopenia (low platelet count) or the 34 year old mother with liver enlargement and ascites. It could be cancer and she could get a CT scan on the mainland but she didn't have the money to travel there. Since she is a regular HIV patient at the clinic, they will continue to work with her to get her the care she needs.
One young pregnant mother with diabetes had already had a stillbirth at 7 months. They will work closely with her, even doing home visits in the village, to make sure her blood glucose is controlled for this pregnancy.
Diabetes, (very high) hypertension, gastritis, arthritis, itchy skin, headaches are all common problems I deal with every day in the U.S. Limited pharmaceuticals made treatment in Honduras difficult. Now that I have the experience of seeing the limited pharmacy at the clinic, I can advocate for a better supply of needed medication. The patients are grateful for anything and are extremely compliant with meds. High doses of Lasix worry me when there is no way to check potassium or sodium levels. I adjusted medications for many patients who were taking too many medicines that could have adverse effects when taken together.
I'll post more photos of the trip later after I get some laundry done.
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