I recently returned from one of the most life-changing experiences I’ve ever had by spending 13 days in Honduras on a medical mission trip. I set off from my home in Salt Lake to meet with 10 medical providers, flying in from all over the United States, to spend time working in a government run hospital in La Ceiba, Honduras. Our trip started roughly, as the country erupted into protests following rulings by the government to privatize healthcare and education. This decision would deny access to the poorest of the people in this country. As we boarded our planes, we wondered what we might find when we arrived.
Medical coverage is fraught with challenges in Honduras. Most of the medical care must be paid for in advance by the families. When our doctors were in the ER, a man arrived who had been in a motorcycle accident. Before they could treat him, and understand what was wrong, they needed to order x-rays and a head CT scan. In the states that would be accomplished within minutes based on the severity of the accident. But in Honduras, before the man could be treated his family needed to arrive and bring money for the x-ray. Even after paying the CT scan was not possible, as recent power outages disabled the machine and there were not any technicians available to repair it. The family had to take him from the hospital to the only place in the city that has an x-ray machine. Our doctors could only offer so much assistance until they had the scans. Watching our doctors talk about the experience you could see their heartache at their inability to care for this man simply because there wasn’t the same access to medical equipment.
Sometimes when we are on a mission, we come to help meet the needs of the people. But as we walk around the hospital what we see are systemic needs that are much harder to solve. They need a tech to fix the CT machine, and consistent power to keep the machines running. Sheets are needed for beds and monitoring belts for women in labor and delivery. An ultrasound machine needs a wand specifically used for fetal monitoring. And much more pressing, they need people to give blood and money to pay for the most basic care.
It’s easy to look around and just see all the things that are lacking or get frustrated by the systemic issues. While that is true, it is also amazing to see the creativity and resourcefulness of the native providers in Honduras. The doctors are very well trained and committed to their work and patients. One doctor we worked with has been to the states many times. But she chooses to return to Honduras and work there because her people need her. As a young physician her goal is to work in Dermatology and make enough money so she can start her own clinic someday to help the poor. In the absence of having equipment or supplies, these doctors find ways to treat people and give them as much care as possible. The Honduran people are resilient and strong. They are kind, thoughtful, and so grateful for the doctors who come to help them.
As I walked through the terminal of the Atlanta airport to reach my connecting flight, I noticed on the wall a sign for an AED machine. Tears filled my eyes. As I thought about the lack of working equipment in the Hospital in La Ceiba this was a reminder how often do we take for granted this life-saving machine. Medical mission trips often changed the perspective on your life. I have an abundance of good in my life. And I see now that much of the world doing the very best they can, with so much less than what we have here.
If you know of someone who can help fix medical equipment, send them our way! There are so many places that desperately need their help. If you can, partner with us by donating. Every dollar goes directly to getting medical providers out on missions around the world. And if you are interested in joining a mission please contact us, we would love your help making a difference in the world!