Carolyn Z., RN, MSN, CPNP PC/AC, PMHS

On July 24-30, 2011 I had the privilege to serve on a Medical Mission to Belize with the organization International Servants.  We spent three and a half days in a clinic that we set up in a school in Bella Vista where I was one of four licensed providers that saw patients, along with an outstanding medical team.  We provided well and sick care to over 500 patients, as well as physical therapy, respiratory therapy, patient education stations, and a vision station that provided eye glasses.  The other members of our team set up a Village Bible School and built a home for a family in the village.I had traveled to Belize before as a tourist, but through this experience I was able to see it from an entirely different perspective.  I feel honored to have spent this time with the people of Belize, who despite living in grass huts in the jungle and drinking from and bathing in a river, fail to let their extreme poverty break their spirit.The love the mothers have for their families is very apparent.  We were so busy that some of families that came on Tuesday were not seen until Thursday, but they never complained and were very grateful for everything we did for them.   Spending time with the people of Belize has taught me so much about resilience, and made me appreciate the little things in life so much more.  Just seeing the amount of dental decay and goiters makes me thankful for my toothbrush and iodized salt!

My most memorable moment is when a 17 month old little girl, Heilin, came to the clinic.  She had been hit by a car and fractured her arm 2 months previously.  The arm had been casted several times, but it was not healing due to the location of the fracture.  Her father had used a Skil saw to cut off the cast so one of our doctors could look at her arm.  When he took the cast off one could see the bone in her upper arm separate, and could imagine the pain and the damage that was being done.

There is no orthopedic surgeon to care for her in Belize; however, International Servants was able to arrange for her to travel to Scottish Rite Hospital in Dallas for evaluation. She arrived in the States with her mother on September 13, 2011 and had her first surgery on September 28.  International Servants still needs donations to help this little girl, as the process of repairing her arm is believed to take several surgeries. For donations the reader should go to www.Internationalservants.com   click on donate, then click by Heilin’s picture.

My first day in Belize I struggled with my confidence in accurately assessing the patients, as there was no lab, x-ray, EKG, etc.  I saw a young boy who was having daily episodes of loss of consciousness with pallor and cyanosis, which I felt was possibly related to a heart condition.  There was nothing I could do but offer a clinic in Belize City, which is over three hours away by bus and was being held in a month.  I learned that I had to trust my skills and pray I was doing the right thing.

On the first day I started to wonder “am I really making a difference?”   Seeing such poverty and people who live in such conditions can be overwhelming.  I then started thinking about how we were making a difference through the education we provided, such as simple hygiene measures, dental care, and food preparation.  This knowledge certainly made a difference in the lives of the families we saw.  I saw a girl who had experienced brain damage as an infant due to a high fever, and by giving every family acetaminophen we could possibly keep this from happening again.  I realized that I may be the only health care provider that a child has seen, and started looking at the grateful faces of the mothers when I told them they had a healthy baby or gave their children worm pills.  I saw the gratitude and love in the children as I held, hugged, played with, and examined them.  This one nurse is making a difference!