Friday, February 19, 2010


We drove inland again today to a village called Verapaz. Here, nearly 2,000 people live at the base of a volcano. The drive was beautiful with striking views of the mountains and lush green valleys below. But it wasn't quite so picturesque back in November when heavy rains triggered a massive landslide driving water, mud and hundreds of huge boulders into the village, killing several people and burying homes and cars. The scars on the mountainside, where the mud, water and rocks began their downward journey, are a constant reminder of nature's destructive force.

Once again, we set up in a large school and welcomed the locals in around 9:00 am. And once again, we saw some interesting cases. We met William, 17, who has done his best to manage the severe pain of an ingrown toenail for the past four months. Within ten minutes, Dr. Steve had him on a table, local anesthetic in and the toe expertly treated. Then there was 59 year old Audelia, a diabetic with an infected finger requiring immediate draining. She was in and out in no time.

One of our local dentists, Dr. Mimi was feeling unwell today but she came and worked valiantly until mid afternoon when exhaustion and dehydration began to take a toll. But yet again, she insisted on finishing up her assigned patients. Dr. Tony was consulted and suggested IV fluids to help her make it through the rest of the day. Feeling that an IV line hung from the wall behind her would hinder her ability to engage and treat her patients, Mimi asked Lexi, one of our Paramedics to inject a dose of Ondansetron, a powerful antinauseant, directly into a vein on her left hand while she continued to treat the patient in the chair! Now that's commitment!

While the line-ups today were long again, nowhere were they longer than in Distribution.
Sonia, Janice and their team of refreshing interpreters from a local school patiently distributed underwear, shirts, toothpaste, soap, face clothes, baseball hats, balls, handmade dolls, hair barrettes, small jewellery packets, school supplies and eco-shopping bags. Adults also got food bundles including servings of Vita-Meal, a specially-formulated, highly nutritious rice and lentil mixture.

While the Medical team must sit all day, and the Pharmacy crew must stand all day, the Distribution team spends much of their time on their knees fitting shoes to over 800 people! Why shoes? Because this year, we've got thousands of pairs of Crocs to distribute! The Crocs have been a huge hit and FTC is incredibly grateful for this donation.

Later in the day, the entire group walked up to see the devastation caused by the landslide - it
was a remarkable sight. Piles of massive boulders, mud and debris were littered everywhere. Another relief agency was on-site distributing free food for victims who had lost everything. The whole experience only served to strengthen our commitment to help these people.

On the walk back to the Clinic site, we saw a little boy seated in the doorway of a rundown home playing with his new tennis ball and wearing his new Crocs! That was all we needed to see and it made the Distribution team's efforts all worthwhile. Thanks, Sonia and Janice!

We're off to Somalia tomorrow, an urban slum like no other. We'll be in tents, right in the
heart of it all and could see well over 1,000 patients by day's end. It'll be quite a bit different from our previous clinics but we're primed and ready to go.

This week is drawing to a close too quickly for the FTC team. We're making a difference on the ground and only hope we can get back to El Salvador sooner rather than later.

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