I had become interested in doing a medical mission trip after attending a lectureship series in altruistic health care. I had done mission work before and knew that this was an area of interest. The lecture given by Dr. Paat only fueled my desire to go out and help people with the skills that I would acquire within my first year of Physical Therapy school.
I had applied to the Guatemala trip and was ecstatic when I had learned that I was selected to attend.
The preparation process included a lot of pill counting, organizing supplies and packing everything in a very strategic manner. Before we knew it was our day to fly out and to visit the people of San Lucas Guatemala. It was our first day of clinic, our first day seeing patients, our first day testing our Spanish speaking skills and my first ever pediatric physical therapy patient as a student physical therapist. The day itself was unbelievable and the trip was more than I could ask for.
On Monday we arrived at Colonia Xejuyu and before we even stepped off of the bus there were women and children gathering to see what we were all about and to get in line to see a physician. We quickly set up our triage, clinic, and pharmacy in a covered pavilion and were seeing patients within a half an hour of arriving. I had been Pediatrician Nicole Huntress and a second year med student Maya. I was loving minute of my first day. We were helping patients with everything from scabies and ear infections to arthritic joints and tight muscles. I was beyond excited when I was able to work with a child that had a stroke in the past year. My hope for the future is to be a pediatric physical therapist and this was a great opportunity to be able to work with this little boy and his mother. After gathering the history of the little boy from his mother we learned that about a year ago he was unable to walk or talk and lost control of his right side. As I was able to work with the little boy I assessed his range of motion, strength, tone and mobility. He had high tone in his right arm and was unable to open his hand and extend his elbow on his own. He had also lost muscle control to his right side of his face. As he sat on my lap and I taught his mom exercises and stretches that can help with his recovery and prevent an increase in tone and prevent a potential flexion contracture. After talking with the young boy’s mother it was apparent that he had made great improvement in his walking, running, and talking ability. I was able to talk the little boy into playing a game of tag so I could assess his gait. The smile on his face and excitement he expressed as we ran around the pavilion was enough to instantly break my heart. The fact that I was able to help him and put a smile on his face had made my entire trip and it was only day 1! I am so grateful for the opportunity to work alongside dedicated and caring attending doctors, medical and pharmacy students, and volunteers. To our team of 24, thank you for making this mission unforgettable and I look forward to the future, to the possibility of working together again!