Volunteering with Free Medical Clinic in El Baston

The weekend before Christmas, our friend, Cheri, visited Nicaragua with a team of medical students from Wayne State University to offer 3, 1-day free medical clinics to the less-advantaged folks of the area.  Justin and I helped on the final day, in a town called El Baston, by doing intake for the patients, translating between doctors and patients, and making lunch for the med students.  

 

Justin gathering medical information from patients

Justin gathering medical information from patients

In total, the clinic saw over 100 people on Sunday in addition to the 250 patients seen in Ostional on Friday and Saturday.  It was truly an incredible experience to watch so many people line up and wait, for hours, to be seen by physicians.  

 

People waited for hours to be seen

People waited for hours to be seen

Most interesting were the number of people who came with no medical problems, but who created an ailment just to receive the attention from the students.   Patients presented with everything from high blood pressure to ulcers to albinism.   The most devastating case was a 6-year old boy with undeveloped legs.  He also appeared to hallucinate, crying and reaching out for people who were not there.  It was unsettling, to say the least, to witness this boy in so much discomfort and not be able to convey his feelings to us.  

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As people waited to be seen, I encouraged a number of the kids to play a game of soccer with me – truly one of the highlights of the day!  I also really enjoyed simply interacting with everyone while they waited – asking them questions, comforting crying children, and making people laugh.  Everyone seemed to find my broken Spanish incredibly entertaining, but supported my effort to practice my Spanish.

 

Passing the time playing soccer

Passing the time playing soccer

The day proved to be quite rewarding for both the volunteers and med students, as well as the patients who received medical care.  I am hopeful that more opportunities like this one will become available for the amazing people in and around San Juan del Sur.