Gehlen Catholic Mission Honduras
Medical Mission Trip
On Wednesday, January 16th, 2008, fifteen health care professionals
from five states left the U.S. bound for Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and the seventh
in a series of medical / dental mission trips sponsored by Gehlen Catholic
Schools. Once in Honduras they would be joined by ten native Hondurans that
would assist in various ways.
This year's medical brigade was composed of:
Francis Seivert, Team Leader, Elkton, SD; Dr. Carlos Delgado, Emory University,
Atlanta, GA; Dr. David Goo, Emory University, Atlanta, GA; Dr. Jessica Doyle,
Decatur, GA; Warren Steinbrueck, Pharmacist, Le Mars, IA; Gene Lydon,
Pharmacist, Sioux City, IA; Dr. Richard Hettinger, Dentist, Sioux City, Iowa,
Luz Marna, Dentist, El Guante, Honduras; Susan Doyle, Nurse-Midwife, Atlanta,
GA; Jessica Sitzmann, Nurse, Omaha, NE; Leah Wernimont, Nurse-Dental Assistant,
Pocahontas, IA; Natasha Wernimont, Nurse, Chicago, IL; Sister Juanita Polak,
Interpreter, Omaha, NE; Julio Rivera, Interpreter, Decatur, GA; Father Jim
Tigges, Medical Assistant, Le Mars, IA; Carolyn Bickford, Medical Assistant, Le
Mars, IA; Sister Fatima Carcamo, Interpreter, El Progresso, Yoro, Honduras;
Fausto Suarez Andino, Interpreter/Driver, El Guante, Honduras; Angel Paz, Health
Promoter/Driver, El Guante, Honduras; David Castro, Program Assistant, El
Guante, Honduras; Tacha Alvarado, Program Assistant, Esquias, Honduras; Dona
Dulce, Cook, Sulaco, Honduras; Julio Martinez, Driver/Guide, Montana de la
Team Leader Francis
Seivert, Elkton, SD, said, “Our team this year encountered numerous medical
issues we have never seen or faced on any prior mission. We saw a great deal of
malnutrition among the Xicaque, more than ever. The Kids Against Hunger food
shipped into Honduras makes a big difference. I wish to thank this wonderful
group of people from both the United States and Honduras that made a difference
in the lives of so many. Our time spent in Honduras was well worth the effort
when you see the smiling faces of those you have just helped.”
Once each year, Gehlen Catholic School
sponsors this medical mission to central Honduras, the second poorest country in
the western hemisphere. It is nine plus years since Hurricane ‘Mitch’ literally
destroyed much of the infrastructure of this small Central American country.
Much of the country is still in great disrepair and health care, although
improved in the past few years, is still minimal to nothing in many remote and
outlying areas. The Gehlen program has successfully sent medical teams to
Honduras for the past seven years. In total, 142 doctors, dentists, nurses,
pharmacists, translators, and general medical helpers have traveled to Honduras
in these past seven years as part of the Gehlen program.
The best and most beautiful things in this world cannot be seen or even
heard, but must be felt with the heart.
~ Helen Keller
Faith takes the
out of our vocabulary.
Over the years the Gehlen program has sent
‘nine’ high school teams, ‘four’ university teams, and ‘two’ other Midwest
groups. The high school student team that will travel to Honduras this March is
the 22nd trip sponsored by the Gehlen program. With the high school team this
coming March the program will have placed 444 missionaries on the ground in
Once in Honduras this year's medical brigade
traveled north for an overnight stay in the village of Esquias. They prepared
that night by packing medicines and equipment for the next morning's long
journey into Montana de la Flor, the home of the Xicaque (Tolupan) people. With
five trucks loaded down by medicine and equipment the team of 25 headed out
Thursday morning, January 17th, to the northeast corner of Francisco
Morazon and their first day of clinic. The Tolupan of Montana de la Flor are the
oldest ethnic group known in Honduras. This group of indigenous people, composed
of five tribes, has lived in that area of Honduras for hundreds of years. Their
language, Tolupan, is over five thousand years old and is directly related to
the southernmost Sioux Native Americans, the Hokan Sioux. The Tolupan are one of
the poorest and most remote peoples living in Honduras today. In a normal
situation they would have to walk many hours to get any medical attention at
all. From where this medical team set up a base camp at a place called La Ceiba
(the furthest the trucks can drive), it can still take those who live even
higher in the mountain a few hours to get to clinic.
If you want
happiness for a lifetime,
Great works are performed not by strength, but perseverance.
~ Samuel Johnson
This team became the first Gehlen Medical Team
to set out on foot for a one-day clinic in an area called Monterey, 2 ½ hours
north of the base camp of Le Ceiba. Because the mules and horses that had been
hired for the journey did not show, the team members were forced to carry all
their medicines and equipment by hand. The trip even further up the mountain
required crossing six rivers and was often arduous and dangerous.
Fr. Jim Tigges,
pastor of St. James Catholic Church, Le Mars, on the trip as a general medical
assistant commented, “This trip was another chance to experience the simple yet
beautiful faith of a people who live in and with poverty every day. Their joy
and happiness despite having nothing, causes me to stop and thank God for the
people and the things in my life that really matter: water, food, life.”
Because the Gehlen medical teams have started
to shift focus primarily to bringing health care to the Tolupan, this year's
medical team spent their entire Honduras medical mission in Montana de la Flor
with the Xicaque.
During their mission with the Tolupan, this
medical brigade treated 627 Tolupan. Our patients were 17 % children, ages 5 and
under, and 73 % female. Our two dentists saw 91 patients and extracted 193 teeth
while in the Montana de la Flor – 7 teeth from one patient alone. During our
trip to Montana de la Flor our two pharmacists filled 2,154 prescriptions and
were kept busy by the three doctors, the two dentists, and the three nurses on
In the middle of
difficulty lies opportunity.
Children are a gift from the
Lord, a child is a reward from Him.
~ Psalm 127:3
Some of the major illnesses / diseases our
team treated were: a great deal of malnutrition, malaria, dengue fever, chagas
disease, diarrhea, parasites, funguses, hypertension, diabetes, asthma and
pneumonia, other pulmonary problems requiring nebulizer treatments, urinary and
vaginal problems, many infections, fevers, skin diseases (head, body, feet), a
good deal of tuberculosis (in and out of treatment), scabies, lice, many
pregnant women with minimal to no prenatal care, many lacerations and wounds
from machete injuries, ear problems, total body pain, otitis media, strep
throat, and a great many eye problems due primarily to burning wood in the
homes. We consulted with every known pregnancy in the area about health issues.
Our nurses checked blood pressure on all patients, temps on some, and gave shots
On coming into clinic each patient received
piperazine and mebendazole for parasites and worms, all children were weighed
and measured, and this was followed by an examination by our nurses. Throughout
each day they triaged those who were the sickest to the front of the line – to
be seen by one of our doctors as fast as possible. Each patient that came to
clinic, along with receiving their prescribed medicines, also received soap,
shampoo, toothpaste, a toothbrush, and vitamins to take with them.
Our country is the world - our countrymen are mankind.
~ William Lloyd
is no religion greater than human service.
junior high language arts teacher at Gehlen, on the trip as a general medical
assistant commented, “Though we gave the people of Montana de la Flor medicine
that would eliminate their parasites for a month or two, I felt frustrated that
we couldn’t do more. This medical mission showed me how important our water
projects are because clean drinkable water would lessen the parasites that
plague them daily.”
In a typical year, Gehlen Catholic High School obtains free
medicine from four different humanitarian agencies to be used during
international medical mission trips like this. This year we were able to get all
of our medicine from MAP International, Brunswick, Georgia, and purchased the
rest from HyVee Pharmacy, Le Mars, Iowa. Much thanks to MAP and those at HyVee
For a more complete explanation of the Tolupan people go to Anne
Chapman’s book Masters of Animals.
director of Gehlen Catholic Mission Honduras, commented, “This year’s trip was
once again an incredible experience. To a non-health care professional like
myself, I am always amazed to see and hear what these doctors, dentists,
pharmacists, nurses, and translators do during a mission experience like this.
It is a great testament to them to give of their time, talent, and treasure to
bring health care to a very poor people. I know they will never forget their
Seivert also gave praise to the many wonderful
friends in Honduras that helped make this mission trip a success.
Click above to browse the January 2008 Trip Photo Album...