Making a Difference In Guatemala: My medical mission story

Guest Blogger: Wendy Barton

I work for a company called CompHealth, and it is our purpose to make a difference for our people, providers, and clients, and our community. Helping to fulfill this purpose through my daily work is something I’ve always been really proud to be a part of. My significant other, Paul Williams, and I recently had the opportunity to extend our purpose nearly 2,900 miles away to the people of La Antigua, Guatemala, as part of a medical mission trip.

CompHealth, in partnership with the Making a Difference Foundation and International Medical Relief, sponsored five CompHealth locum tenens physicians from family medicine, internal medicine, hospitalist, and ob-gyn specialties to provide care in some of the country’s most impoverished areas.

I felt so many emotions — humble, grateful, proud, and a lot more — throughout my time in Guatemala. It was physically exhausting and deeply fulfilling to play a small role in helping bring care to people in need.
Each of the pictures below give you a peek into my trip, what I learned from physicians who joined us, and some of the experiences we had together.

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We held clinics in schools, orphanages, and public spaces around La Antigua. We provided medical care, dental care, and health and hygiene to almost 1,000 people in areas where medical care is scarce and dental care is almost non-existent.

 

Our CompHealth physicians included: Dr. Christine Kramer, Dr. Jeannine Brevik,
Dr. Marye Lois McCroskey, Dr. Maya Green, Dr. Victoria Mohr, and that’s me in the middle!

 

Paul and I became the “runners” for our team. We were some of the only non-medical personnel, so every day we helped with set up and flow and once we got started, we helped ensure we kept people moving through the process. We matched up the patients with the best physician type that we could, ran patients and results back and forth to the lab, and did anything that any of the physicians or other medical staff needed to see more patients, more quickly. We loved every minute of it!

 

 

At times when the clinic was at its busiest, the wait was two hours or more to see a physician or dentist. I never once heard anyone complain or even seem bothered that it was taking so long. They were just grateful to have the opportunity to be seen.

 

 

We saw so many families and especially a lot of moms with their children. One of the translators mentioned that even though the location we were at was particularly poor, everyone was dressed in their very finest clothing. The people didn’t want to be treated any differently and so they presented the best version possible of their families.

For parents who had never had the opportunity to have their children be seen by a physician, hearing from our doctors what a great job they were doing raising their children was priceless. Many would smile and you’d notice sense of peace come over the parents’ faces.

 

Dental care is almost unheard of in Guatemala. Teaching how to brush your teeth and providing fluoride to the kids was especially rewarding.
One of the days when we had the dental group, we saw more than 230 patients and they pulled 83 teeth!

 

Our doctors quickly adapted to the people of Guatemala to figure out how to best serve them. A simple example is changing the question from “Are your drinking water each day?” to “How much water are you drinking in a typical day?” because we found the answer was often very little — maybe four or six ounces or less a day.

Due to how the clinic was set up, I could often overhear our physicians’ conversations and how they were interacting with the patients. I was continually impressed and inspired.

 

 

I had no idea there were so many volcanoes in Guatemala! There were three just in the area where we were, one of which was still active. Last year, many of the people of La Antigua suffered greatly during a volcanic eruption.

 

 

 

Due to our role, Paul and I got to know every volunteer well. Everyone was amazing and they all had interesting stories and backgrounds and different reasons for volunteering. One thing that was consistent was everyone’s big heart and their stamina for long days and not stopping until every patient had been seen.

I left Guatemala with a lot of memories, gratitude, and even more pride in what we at CompHealth do together every day. I know what we do makes a difference for so many people.

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If you are interested in more information about CompHealth or working locum tenens, please visit their website. If you want to work with the Making a Difference Foundation to go on a medical mission, please call us at 1.866.603.1322

About the author

Sarah Trescott

I am passionate about our focus to help ignite and amplify the passions of others. Some of my passions include: making healthcare more accessible, helping providers find medical missions, playing ice hockey, reading a great book, and enjoying the amazing Utah mountains.

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