Catholic Medical Team Returns from Eighth Consecutive Medical Mission to
"Never Be The Same Again"
On Tuesday, January 14th, sixteen health care
professionals from throughout the United States embarked on the 8th
straight medical team mission into Honduras, the second poorest country in the
western hemisphere. Along with a high school team each year Gehlen Catholic
Schools sponsors this medical team mission. This team was joined in
Honduras by many of our closest Honduran associates to carry out this difficult
but rewarding experience. In total, 158 doctors, dentists, nurses, pharmacists,
translators, and general medical helpers have traveled to Honduras in these past
eight years as part of the Gehlen program. Over the years the Gehlen program has
sent ‘nine’ high school teams, ‘five’ university teams, and ‘three’ other
Midwest groups. The high school student team that will travel to Honduras this
March will be the 26th trip sponsored, in part or full, by the Gehlen program.
With the high school team this coming March the program will have placed 547
missionaries on the ground in Honduras.
religion in your heart should be visible in your life.
This year’s medical brigade was composed of Francis
Seivert, Elkton, South Dakota; Gary Carlton, Richard Hettinger, Gene Lydon, and
Herb Kuehne, from Sioux City, Iowa; David Goo, Susan Doyle, and Philip Goo from
Atlanta, Georgia; Warren Steinbrueck and Fr. Jim Tigges, from Le Mars, Iowa;
Sister Joan Polak, Omaha, Nebraska; Leah Wernimont and Carley Wernimont,
Pocahontas, Iowa; Marianne McNeil, Baltimore, Maryland; Diana Rann, Merrill,
Iowa; and Natasha Wernimont, Chicago, Illinois. The primary Hondurans who
helped carry out the medical team’s work were Sr. Fatima Carcamo, Fausto,
Angel, Julio, Juan, Dulce, Lillian, Monchin, Carlos, Paula, Bridys, and
Cecilia. They were cooks, drivers, translators, and medical personnel.
Over the last few years the Gehlen Medical Team program
has focused on only one area in this medical service: the Tolupan people of
Montana de la Flor. Richard Seivert, director of the program, described the
Tolupan as being one of the most remote and isolated peoples throughout
Honduras. At the current time we believe only 1300 Tolupan still live in Montana
de la Flor. Seivert said that because of their isolation it is hard to get
medical care and treatment to them. From Esquias, Honduras, where our student
teams' base camp exists, Montana de la Flor is another 4 to 41/2 hours beyond
that through some of the worst kind of mountains, roads, and paths you can
possibly imagine. Seivert said this year has been especially hard on all of
Honduras, including the Tolupan, because of the very heavy and persistent rains
that have inundated the country. The Tolupan, for example, have once again lost
their bean crop, which puts a high premium on food. Once again this year the
medical team did have access to Kids Against Hunger food and used this on a
daily basis in their treatment of the highly malnourished. We also obtained a
couple cases of the most widely used RUF (ready to use food) in the world –
Plumpy Nut. It was shipped into Honduras for our use from the Dominican
Republic. Plumpy Nut is used throughout the world by many of the leading
government and private agencies working against malnutrition and hunger in the
world; like Doctors Without Borders, UNICEF, and the World Health Organization.
Our team saw children with SAM (severe acute malnutrition) and MAM (moderate
acute malnutrition), and many with under nutrition. Some of the veterans on this
team admitted to seeing many more children with malnutrition than in previous
trips to Montana de la Flor. Because of this our team did use the MUAC (mid
upper arm circumference) bracelet used around the world to measure the level of
malnutrition in a child. They used this in conjunction with height and weight
standards to identify those most in need. Quite honestly the amount of Kids
Against Hunger and Plumpy Nut food we had did not go very far. The team members
said they did their best with what they had.
When our eyes see our hands doing
the work of our hearts, the circle of Creation is completed inside us,
the doors of our souls fly open, and love steps forth to heal everything
~ Michael Bridge
Nurse Leah Wernimont said,
“The entire Honduras experience gets better with the passage of the years. It
breaks my heart to see some of the Tolupan people doing so poorly this year and
it makes me want to return.”
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 when necessary.
Every person you
meet is an opportunity for kindness.
One's life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of
others, by means of love, friendship, and compassion.
~ Simone De Beauvoir
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.
Team Leader Francis Seivert
said, “This was a very difficult trip for the entire team, not only physically
because of the rain, mud, roads, and travel, but emotionally because of the
level of malnutrition we saw in the children. It rained each and every day we
were in the mountain, but I thought the team did a wonderful job of adjusting to
the circumstances. We must never lose sight of why we go and who we serve.”
It is well to remember that the entire universe, with one trifling
exception, is composed of others.
~ John Andrew Holmes
Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.
~ Helen Keller
Of the roughly 1300 Tolupan we believe exist, our
medical team saw just under 1,100 of them. Our base camp was located at a small
village called La Ceiba. The total team spent their first day in La Ceiba
treating patients. On day two the team divided and one half stayed in La Ceiba,
while the other half climbed 3 ½ hours to a small area called Monterrey. The
team used horses and mules to get to Monterrey with all the medical equipment
and medicines they were carrying. The next day the team packed their gear and
headed by truck to Lavendoros. On the fourth day the team traveled to the small
village of San Juan, and on their last day they were back in La Ceiba. The only
dentist on the team was Richard Hettinger from Sioux City. Dr. Hettinger saw 91
patients and pulled 295 teeth during his short stay in the mountain. During
their mission with the Tolupan, this team treated 1096 patients. Of this total,
23% were children 5 and younger, and 68% were female. Our pharmacists filled
3,288 prescriptions and were kept very busy by the doctors, nurses, and dentist.
In a typical year, Gehlen Catholic 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 Pharmacy.
Please open the following link for a more
detailed daily log of
this trip written by Dr. David Goo.
For a more complete explanation of the Tolupan people go to Anne Chapman’s
book Masters of Animals.
Please click the following link for a short explanation of
Today’ written by Herb Kuehne, PhD. Anthropologist, who was with the Gehlen
Medical Team on this trip as an anthropologist and translator.
Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.
~ Mother Teresa
Richard Seivert, director of Gehlen Catholic
Mission Honduras, said, “ I always have high praise for the medical
professionals and translators on our teams. They take vacation time during their
busy year to go work for the poor of Honduras. That says a great deal about them
as people. I am always pleased with the results because I know they have made a
small difference in the lives of the Tolupan of Montana de la Flor. I only wish
we could do more.”
You will find hundreds of photos from this year’s trip by
clicking the link below.
Click above to browse the January 2009 Trip Photo Album...