Friday, March 28, 2008

6,500 Prescriptions In Five Days – Amazing!

Since their return, the pharmacy team has been busy analyzing the Guatemala trip to determine what worked and what can be improved upon for future trips. The pharmacy, which traveled daily to the various sites packed neatly in plastic bins, played a vital role in the treatment of 4000 people in only 5 days. Doctors and dentists wrote prescriptions and sent patients to the very long “Farmacia” where three Canadian team members worked efficiently with their Guatemalan colleagues, to send people home with the medications listed below.

Acetaminophen (adult and kid's chewable) – 13,000 Tablets
Ibuprofen - 7,000 Tablets
Albendazole (parasite medicine) – 2,000 Tablets
Antibiotics (adult) – 3,000 Tablets
Antibiotics (children) – 400 Bottles
ASA Blood Thinner/Circulation – 2000 Tablets
Cough Medicine – 400 Bottles
Stomach Medicine – 8,000 Tablets & 180 Bottles of Maalox
Allergy Medication – 2,000 Tablets & 75 Bottles
Sulfa Antibiotic Eye Drops – 75 Bottles
Diabetic Medications – 3,000 Tablets
Adult Vitamins – 30,000 Doses
Children's Vitamins – 30,000 Doses

Pharmacist Chris Ritskes says, “Now that we’re home, it's a bit overwhelming to look back on the number of people that we were able to treat and to realize that we filled more than 6500 prescriptions with detailed explanations for their use. The impact that we were able to have in such a short period of time is amazing and it’s what motivates me to continue to find ways to streamline our pharmacy processes for the next trip.”

During their stay, Canadian team members learned enough Spanish words to communicate basic instructions to the patients. For the next trip, the pharmacy team will work with their Guatemalan counterparts to develop detailed Spanish instructions for the most prescribed medications.

Doctors, dentists, and support staff all send a big thank you to the exceptional pharmacy team who worked together so efficiently to make this trip a success for the people of Guatemala.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Dental Clinics Become an Integral Part of FTC's Teams

This year FTC was thrilled to add dentists and dental assistants to their team efforts. After the first day, it was evident that most had never seen a toothbrush or a dentist and consequently, they lived with chronic tooth pain and gum infections. Below are the reflections of Dr. Jack Cottrell,from Port Perry, ON

Scores of people were already clustered and waiting in the courtyard adjacent to the primitive cinderblock schoolhouse in Saxsuy, Guatemala as we unloaded dental equipment, food, clothing, toys and pharmacy from the supply trucks.

We had been briefed by FTC staff that most of these people are plagued by combinations of parasites, worms, dysentery or lice, a result of the lack of clean water and poor living conditions. They have never had a toothbrush, let alone been seen by a dentist. Oral hygiene is non-existent. Their woefully inadequate diets are many times filled with chips and cola. It is not uncommon for the children to be put to bed, even up the age of five, with a baby bottle laden with a white drink that they call "honey", which is a sweet slurry produced when sugar cane is boiled, reduced and cooled.

As the newest members to this seasoned FTC medical team, my wife, Michelle and I were excited and hopeful that our years of experience, those of Dr. Mimi, a dentist helping us from El Salvador, and our very talented translator Marta would be adequate to meet the needs of the indigenous people in this rural area of Guatemala.

Our excitement quickly turns to shock as we see patient after patient presenting with end stage oral disease – mouths ravaged with periodontal disease and riddled with dental caries.

Late in the afternoon, just before we closed the clinic a precious diminutive four year old named Ingrid, accompanied by her mother, timidly approached the door after hours of waiting in the never-ending line which had enveloped our clinic all day long.

The mother hoisted Ingrid into our chair and she spoke softly in a dialect that neither we nor our competent translator could decipher. However, her animated gestures told the story as she pointed to virtually every tooth in this young child's mouth. The bright operatory light revealed a dentition totally decimated by dental caries. Sadly, many of these rotten stumps were pristine newly erupted teeth less than one year ago. Suddenly, our elaborate dental equipment and years of experience seemed very inadequate as not even one of this child's teeth could be salvaged. Her expressionless fixed gaze did not change as we presented her with a coveted toy from our toy chest to comfort her. This behavior was reflective of a child who was febrile and dehydrated. A little girl who had cried herself to sleep night after night from the searing pain caused by rotting teeth and pus filled abscesses that punctuated her gums.

We proceeded to remove the most painful teeth, prescribe antibiotics, and to call the president of FTC Canada, Ken Dick, to the dental clinic to ask for special consideration to be given to this child so she may be sent to a local hospital to complete her treatment. Ken agreed that this little girl needed more extensive help and thankfully those arrangements are being made.

That evening, as we made our way back to the hotel, Michelle and I reflected on the need to establish a stronger preventive dental program for these people that have never been told that sugar and cola are bad for their teeth – perhaps if they received some education in this area, if we introduced a fluoride rinse program and improved the oral home care of these people, we would see a decline in dental caries and the teeth of these children could be saved.

A few days later as we boarded a plane headed back to Canada, we were comforted by the fact that during five days of dental clinics we treated more than 430 people – bringing friendship and hope to them in the process through the amazing work of FTC Canada.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Paramedics Answer The Call In Guatemala

This year, we were thrilled to have three paramedics on the team. Glen Canavan and Grant Rumford were an integral part of last year’s Honduras team, and for this year’s Guatemala trip they brought along their colleague, Christine Barber.

Along with the doctors and nurses, these paramedics took blood pressures, checked blood sugars, cleaned ulcerated wounds, started IV’s, and gave of their strength to each team member in so many ways – showing each of us the determination and the courage that is required in order for them to do their critically essential jobs on a daily basis.

Paramedic Christine Barber…
“With each day, I am increasingly amazed by the resilience and stamina of these people. To search for the words to describe their lives; there are no words that can do it justice. The incredibly hard lives they live is so evident in their sun weathered, cold beaten faces. Their hands, rough and calloused, reveal the endless years of hardship and daily physical labour they must endure, just to survive; hauling firewood for heat and cooking, walking miles for fresh water only to carry it back. The care and hope that FTC is extending to these people is immeasurable, and my appreciation goes out to FTC for allowing me to be a part of this very rewarding opportunity to help others.”

Paramedic Glen Canavan…
"After this trip to Guatemala, I have come home with a sense that FTC has a good infrastructure in Central America with their local team. Local governments are also trying to improve the living conditions of the people in their municipalities. However, it is a difficult task and they cannot do it without the help of organizations and caring people. Even though many of the people in this country have small homes to live in, most of them still live in abject poverty barely making enough to feed their families which means there is no money for toothbrushes, proper cooking stoves, or nutritious foods. I am excited about the possibilities for our local team to continue with social services that would educate and encourage these people to take care of hypertension and diabetes - ongoing medical conditions that must be treated well beyond our trip. It was a privilege to serve these lovely people and I am definitely looking forward to the next trip!"

Paramedic Grant Rumford…
“After coming back to Canada, Guatemala seems like another world. Here, people worry about a dent in their car, another raise, or what to do over the weekend. In Guatemala, every hour is spent trying to plan for the next two. What will they feed their children? How they will find a small job that day, and will they have enough bus fare to get there? During this trip, we were able to diagnose several serious medical conditions that people were oblivious to. Hopefully, knowing what they are dealing with physically will help them make some crucial lifestyle changes. For example, when we diagnosed diabetes, it was critical for these patients to understand that they can no longer drink cola which was wreaking havoc with their bodies. We made a lasting difference for many and knowing that challenges me to do more to help.”

Monday, March 3, 2008

Day 5 - Results

Two mornings ago we woke up to the tragic news that just a few minutes outside of Guatemala City, a bus loaded with 79 passengers failed to make a sharp turn which sent the bus careening into a ravine, killing 52 people. Each team member could not help but remember our own bus rides up the mountain's sharp curves. Marcelino, the bus driver we have had all week, drove slowly and we felt safe, but on Saturday morning we couldn’t help but thank God for giving us the safety we had prayed for before leaving the hotel parking lot, and we continue to pray for the injured and for those families that have lost loved ones.

It is hard to believe that Saturday was our last day of clinics in Guatemala – a country with very polite, humble, and appreciative people. Saturday's location was only 15 minutes from our hotel in the community of Sabana Grande. This is an urban community that is not without the same vast needs that we have seen all week, and when we arrive we are once again thankful that our Spanish team has gone on ahead.

The Spanish team from Feed The Children Guatemala has been arriving at the sites several hours before us each day, in order to have everything set up so that we can begin working immediately upon arrival. This has meant early mornings and late nights for these committed team members, and we could not have done this amazing work without their help. Central American Director, Efrain de los Rios has been a gracious host and we know that he has spent many hours organizing this medical/dental trip which ended on Saturday with incredible results.

In just five days, our team has treated more than 3500 people bringing relief to sickness and unbelievable tooth decay and gum disease.

Oscar, 14 months old: Scabies covered his body and he had bronchitis and two infected ears - antibiotics, skin medication, and cough medicine were prescribed.

Odelin, 3 yrs. old: Seems to have some kind of muscular dystrophy – she cannot walk and her mother cannot afford to find out why. FTC Canada is paying for a proper diagnosis to determine what needs to be done.

Yany, 14 months old: Throwing up for 5 days so she was dehydrated – nurses started an IV with antibiotics to kill her infection.

Josue, 6 yrs. old: Dr. Jack removed 4 front teeth that were black – antibiotics for the abscesses on his gums that were oozing with infection.

Marilin, 42 yrs. old, Josue’s mother: Dr. Jack totally restored this woman’s central front teeth that were black with cavities – she now has a beautiful smile and was so grateful.

These are just five of the thousands of people that we treated. Over the next few days, we will highlight additional stories and team members.

Sir Winston Churchill said, “Sometimes our best is simply not enough – we have to do what is required.” This week we brought life changing results to the humble people of Guatemala through a very dedicated medical/dental team who by dispensing kindness and hope, along with skill and medication, have done so much more than what was required.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Day 4 - Relief

After a day of rest yesterday, our team was back to work and headed to San Guayaba, which is another community in the region of Palencia. As our bus moves through the city toward the mountains, young women sweep the streets with homemade brooms while groups of young men plant trees along the roadside and climb ladders to trim hedges that grow above 10 foot walls. All around us people are beginning their day and a refreshed team is excited about who they will meet in San Guayaba.

Once again we climbed the winding mountain roads with clouds of dust billowing behind the bus. We are surrounded by mountains as we climb to an altitude of 2500 meters where 800 people are waiting for relief from toothaches, ulcers and blood sugars that are so high they will not even register on our glucometers. Nurse Anna Jewell starts two IV’s to help with hydration while Paramedic Glen Canavan cleans an ulcerated wound that has become infected. Nurses and paramedics look into sore throats and ears and send patients to the pharmacy where they will receive medicine to take home.

Pharmacist Chris Ritskes and his team meet each evening after dinner to package more of the vitamins donated by caring Canadians to the children of Guatemala. Nurse Charlene Dart’s sister, Karen Dallas, wanted to do something to help the children of Guatemala and so she became creative with the unit on money for her grade three class at Dr. MacGillvary School in Courtrice, Ontario. Through a coin drive, this class raised $330.00 which purchased 186 bottles of children’s vitamins that have already been distributed to some very needy children.

To date, our pharmacy has distributed more than 5000 vitamins, 500 doses of Ibuprofen and/or Acetaminophen, and hundreds of antibiotics and parasite medications. The pharmacy team works non-stop and the line seems never ending. However, at the end of the day, this team knows that they have distributed much more than vitamins and antibiotics taken home in small plastic bags – they have dispensed kindness and brought relief to more than 2000 people in some of Guatemala’s poorest communities.