Well, here is my first report of the medical mission I accompanied to Machuca. I left last Monday about 3 and arrived back at the home on Friday about 3. I was there as a translator. This is something I have hoped to participate in for the last 9 years so I was thrilled to be asked. And, I'll say right up front that the entire experience was wonderful. I'll tell you some things now and hope to write more tomorrow, Sunday.
The team of Doctors, Dentists, Nurses, Physical therapist, gofors, dental assistants etc. came from North Carolina. This is their second or third mission to PAnama with the Episcopal Church - and at least the second to Machuca. They brought two people wo could translate and all of them had taken a course in survival English and English for medical professionels - so they had some basis for communication as well. There were 4 or 5 translators from Panama.
I was assigned to translate for the Dentist team, so I will write about that first. There were two dentists and two assistants from the US and we started out about 9 AM on Tuesday morning using the creative dental chairs (made from weight lifting benches brought down by the team) to pull teeth. When we arrived there were people waiting. I gave out numbers, which is what is done in many health care situations here in Panama. Then each person filled out their basic data (or I did it using their cedula (identity card) as my guide. Some couldn't see well and I expect that there were some who were challenged to read and write. Then we started right in. The first woman had 4 teeth to come out and I don't remember about the second. Basically, the first day the Dentist asked a question, I asked it in Spanish, listened to the answer and translated it to the dentist. Both the dentists became more fluent in Spanish as the time went by, although one was saying "it is dead" muerte in stead of bite down "muerde". But we were all laughing about that including the patients.
About 10 AM two dentists from the Ministry of Health came with an assistant. They set up using school desks, the kind with a broad arm to write on, as dentist chairs. We spent the entire first day pulling teeth. I wish I knew how many teeth and broken off roots were pulled. Some of the patients were kids. We also gave the kids a flouride painting. Many people were asking for cleaning but we didn't have a set up for that. We did check the teeth of anyone who wanted it. I learned more about the programs that the Ministry of Health has. For children in primary school,during the school year - March to december, teeth are checked, cleaned (I think) and fillings are done free. If a primary school child goes to the health clinic for dental care the fillings are $1.25 - Maybe more for a resin filling in secondar front teeth.
I know this may seem inexpensive - but after paying for the bus to go to the clinic (about a 15 min. drive) (They could walk but it takes about an hour.) and paying to see the Dentist $.50 the amount is higher than most of these people can afford. Just about all of the people in Machuca are poor - although I belive that few are in severe poverty. For adolescents the fillings are 2.00 and for adults 4.00 (in the back teeth). For a bridge or false teeth they have to go to a private dentist. This involves a bus ride (which costs) and then they can probably make a payment arrangement with the dentist. We saw a few people who had partial bridges.
We closed down arond three. In the three days we saw over 150 dental patients. More about day 2 later!
The dental clinic was located in the school building along with a very successful children's program and the pharmacy. The medical clinic was up a long hill in a new building that has been a cooperative effort of the past teams from North CArolina and the people of Machuca - I believe.
The first day one woman was transferred to a hospital in (fairly nearby) Penonome after a house call was made. She has kidney failure and was feeling better after having been to the hospital and having fluid reduced.
More later, maybe even more tonight!