Today was a day filled with emotion. We loaded the mini-truck with supplies for both teams and then we all piled into the other truck which is covered and has two barely padded benches that face each other. The first part of the trip was fairly easy. We drove to the municipality of Pastrana. We then met the Municipal Health Officer and he dispatched his nurse Vilma, RN. Their ambulance went in front of us and blared announcements that we were having clinic. We had police on motorcycles with assault rifles escorting us in front and behind. The streets rapidly deteriorated to mud roads marked by huge puddles (perhaps small lakes?). We splashed our way along at about 10-20 MPH. As we went, people were waving and, at times, cheering. I guess it was our own mini-parade. I've never had that kind of welcome on my way to work in the USA.
We dropped off our first team at a barangay called Manny Banny. As we were getting set up, I wondered across the street to one of the small wooden homes. There was a man and a woman with their young son, Joseph. It was a simple, one room, 10' x 10' home with a dirt floor. On the wall was a shiny green and red sign that said, "Merry Christmas". Even more touching was the other decoration that hung on the wooden wall. It was a vinyl poster that said, "Happy First Birthday, Joseph". It even had Joseph's photo on it. It was from his grandparents. It grabbed me by the heart. Despite the language barrier, we had a wonderful conversation. They told me how frightened they were during the storm. They still had some leaking in the roof but they were glad to be alive and happy that no one in their family was hurt. I brought Rob over and introduced him to the family. Little Joseph kissed him on the cheek!! Talk about a touching moment. I wish you could have been there to experience it. It was one of those moments where time stopped and cultural barriers evaporated. We were friends.
After getting the first team situated, we jumped back in the trucks and the parade continued to Tangib about 45 min away. We set up clinic at the water department. They had a toilet that flushed but, then again, it would figure that the water department actually had water. We saw about 125 patients. Toward the end of the clinic, a helicopter flew overhead dangling a payload beneath it. The people jumped up and started desperately waving. They needed more food. For about 15 minutes, the helicopter flew back and forth before finally dropping the load several miles away. I felt bad for the people. I could sense the disappointment in the air.
After clinic, we passed out "Jolenns" (marbles) to many of the children and then played "Jolenns" with the police. Gosh, it was fun to hear the community laugh. The more that I travel, the more that I believe what my Dad told me years ago, that we can be great friends with all of the people that we meet. The only thing holding us back is that we haven't met them all yet.
We were very short on supplies. I can't tell you how frustrating it is to see someone with a severe skin infection and not have what I need to take care of them. We do the best that we can but I wish we could do better. If you are looking for ways to partner with us, please log on to www.medicalteams.org and donate. We really do need your help.