Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Turning this ship around

Last evening I prayed, I prayed to God to help us out a little here. Coming to Honduras this time I had many more expectations and a great deal more anxiety. Jenny too. She has given up her whole career in Mexico to fulfill a calling. She is finding out what Anita and Steven have already learned. Just because God leads you somewhere it does not necessarily mean the road will seem smooth. Where she comes from in Mexico it is very much like the States. They have fancy cars, fancy clothes, nice homes, heating and air-conditioning, bathrooms and hot water. She had a prestigious job and a decent salary. After her husband died she recognized that there was more to life. The bulk of her family is here in Honduras and so it all seemed to make sense. All that said it is not easy to give up for ever the comforts you know so intimately. Where am I going with all of this….

Since my arrival I think I was just going through the motions. I was absorbing the energy that Jen was sending which was one of desperation, anger and doubt. She has two children in college and this was probably not the most convenient time in her life to make such a drastic change. I can relate as I am sure many of you can as well. Last night as we seemed to be reaching rock bottom, with the Youngbergs needing to go to San Pedro to beg for a loan to cover the cost of the loss from the vocational school, Jenny throwing up her arms with the ignorance of parents and the prospect of changing a medical system in a country where I can’t get them to bathe made it all seem just plain impossible. However, suddenly we found ourselves laughing and talking about how God has influenced our lives. I’m not a bible pusher even though it may sort of sound like it right now, but something changed for us all with just that small conversation.

This morning I got up and I had hot water! It was a miracle…..maybe? ……actually two electricians from the states had arrived to help complete part of the new daycare area and they were not about to take cold showers. They went out back to figure out why the hot water wasn’t working, low and behold they discovered the people who live in the huts on the plantation had figured out how to work the pop off valve to get hot water so it was constantly empty. With great gratitude I began talking with the electricians, discussing the plans for a telemedicine system here and all the trouble I’ve had with up loading via satalite when suddenly the one electrician said that I was in luck as he worked with K-Love a giant satalite driven radio station in the US and he was sure we could work out something to increase the bandwidth. Then Jen arrived smiling and energized. She said “ Bridgette, I done prayed last night and I recognized what you all have been trying to tell me. I need to look ahead not behind, if I keep up with my thinking I’ll go crazy and rot here.”

Our first order of business was to speak with the local doctor to get his input on what would be the best improvement for the medical system here. We told him about some of the technology we could offer with some non-specific ideas about using electronic medical records and community health nurses. Then we waited patiently for him to be a neigh sayer. He is a crafty businessman and very successful. He doesn’t’ have any motivation to change the current system as he benefits quite a bit the way things are. However after barely a pause at all he lurched forward and began speaking with great enthusiasm. He was very supportive and he spoke the truth….it will not be esay and there are a great many obstacle but we need this! That was sooo great!

Then we went to see the Youngbergs and found out that the banker called them and asked if they needed a loan, they didn’t even have to try to find him. He had heard we were struggling and was proactive in helping. Anita and her mother nearly fell off the chair.

"It seems like we may be able to turn this ship around afterall".

In the end I recognized what changed…..we prayed, we let go and let God……

Monday, May 23, 2005

Bugs, Strides and Common Ground

Bug update: It took me a few days to de-bug my quarters, thanks to a bottle of Raid I smuggled in. It also took this many days to convince the plantel grounds keeper that having a bee hive outside my door was really not my idea of neighbors and I wouldn’t be lonely if suddenly they went away. This year I have added one more level of protection above and beyond my mosquito net, I have hung all my bags to avoid as much as possible bringing home more friends with me than what I left with. I do not wish to have a repeat of that event. More on that at a later date.

I had a successful day today. I was able to connect to the University by satalite and actually arrange for a mental health consult for one of the children terrorized by the bus shooting. I can honestly say I never had to council a child who witnessed her friend being shot in the face. I felt professionally crippled. What do you say……..I can’t imagine what the men and women in Iraq are going through daily. We have tragedy in the US that mentally traumatizes but it is not the usual and it is likely that a person will never have to live experience again……I can not promise her that, I can’t promise her safety. I decided that as with any traumatic experience for children it is important to let her talk about it as much as she needs to, giving her permission to experience all of her emotions rather than attempting to make her move on and bury those thoughts. We are going to have a group meeting for those involved and others who want to attend because they are experiencing fears. We’ll see, I would still like some professional advice.

Yestarday the guardsman caught two men trying to steal trees from the far corner. This is a beautiful plantation and some of the trees are very old making them worth quite a bit of money. They were able to cut down 3 pine trees before they were caught. One man they actually arrested the other escaped but everyone in town knows who he is so it is just a matter of time before he gets snagged. I don’t know what they were thinking. It is pretty difficult to hide a three story tree crashing to the ground mid day! The other two they had taken in the night and they were much smaller.

A note on road construction……they started working on the road that passes by the plantel ( a dirt road) last year when I was here, they put up a sign this week anouncing it would be only 8 more months to completly pave a 1.5 mile stretch. Not so different from Rochester.

And so I complete the day with chocolate cake that was made to celebrate Jen’s daughter coming home from college, three cultures, two radically different lifestyles, one common ground……chocolate!

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Back to Work

It’s 4:30 in the afternoon and I feel like a slab of bacon lying on a rock in the desert. The Hurricane passed and with it the cool weather. It had been so cold I was sleeping under my clothes layered over me like a blanket. The people here are not used to that kind of weather. In the end we had a load of rain but no major winds and no major mudslides. The government called it a national emergency and closed up the country in preparation. We were lucky because just like Haiti, there is no infrastructure to support a major storm. In October of 1998 Hurricane Mitch developed as a tropical wave in the Carabean Ocean and quickly grew to a devastating storm the crushed the coast of Honduras. Half of the mountain above Pena Blanca collapsed and washed out hundreds of little villages, killing thousands of people. The city of San Pedro was flooded and many people drowned. At that time there was a bit of warning and the government tried to evacuate cities and villages at risk but residents were afraid of looters and they didn’t want to leave what little they had. Honduras has yet to recover completely from those losses.

Now that the rain passed it was busy day in the clinic. Typically we see a great variety of illness some we can treat and inevitably some we can not. Today we ran the gamut from minor aches and pains to major social atrocities. One has only to listen for 5 minutes passed the chief complaint to get to the true illnesses behind many of the presentations. As I have said before, in this society it is very male dominated with woman having so few social rights. We are treating a few HIV patients and sadly enough the women do not feel they have the right to protect themselves from getting the disease. There is a feeling of powerlessness to rebel because of a lack of self worth combined with the economic constraints associated with the risk of single parenting. But that is not all, even deeper rooted in the social structure, there seems to be a sense of moral obligation to support the man’s wishes, even though they recognize it is a life threatening situation. There seems to be a similar situation in India which is leading to world health crisis as the number of HIV patients sky rockets daily. The awful part of the whole mentality is that a man with HIV is not shunned, but once a woman becomes positive…..they are worthless.

We are also still fighting the battle against TB. Right now the government still has no funds to treat the disease appropriately and resistant cases are popping up more and more frequently. We had a man today for which the health department did not even try to treat. We don’t have the resources to treat him either. Our hands remain tied in every way possible. We can only educate on how to prevent the spread of the disease. As you can see public health is equally as important as medical therapy.

We are meeting with the local doctors this week to discuss the pooling of resources. Hopefully we can develop a more effective medical model for the region. I recognize that to some this seems like a pipe dream, but if no one ever dreams it how can it come true…….
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