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Team Uganda :: Day Six

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Almost 1500 patients have been seen, inventory done, supplies repacked, and finally we got to spend the day just enjoying beautiful Ugandan scenery and wildlife. We also got to enjoy each other. It would be an understatement to say that this team has become a full-blown family. Taking a day to enjoy the company of the wonderful people with which we have served is much needed and almost therapeutic. God is so good, and I have seen His amazing love in the unceasing smiles, grimy hands, and stained scrubs of these teammates. There are no words to fully describe the joy of Christian fellowship. I realized that I have fallen in love with this group, and I will miss them terribly. We have all been so busy that we needed this day to just connect and reflect…but, hopefully not for the last time.

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The English word we see in the bible for “church” comes from the Greek word “ecclesia.”  It means “an assembly, a gathering, or a called out group.” It’s not a building where you dress up and act like you have it all together. It’s not a place at all. This week, we haven’t spent our days in fancy buildings adorned in stained glass, and we certainly haven’t followed the liturgy you might expect in a sanctuary. Rather, this group got down on their knees in therapy, treated bloody wounds, soothed sick babies…and smiled all the while.

We have BEEN church.

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And it’s where we belong. A friend recently reminded me that we are not humans having a spiritual experience, we are spirits having a human experience. At times like these, the things that usually saddle me with stress suddenly fade away, and I find life and breath in God alone. What we do now echoes in eternity. Each of us. There is a gift you have that someone else is waiting for. That’s why God made you the way He did.  The person is you. And the time is now.

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This week, this time of service, this love, this family. It was church. And I am eternally grateful for it.

In His love,
Jeremy R.

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Team Nicaragua :: Free Day

After our last breakfast at the Los Volcanoes Hotel, we loaded up the bus and headed on our way to Montilemar Beach for a day of relaxation. We stopped in the town of Leon where we toured the center of town, shopped for souvenirs, and grabbed a cup of Nicaraguan coffee. The cathedral was beautiful and is one of the oldest in Central America. Next top… rest and relaxation. After a short bus ride, we arrived to Barcelo Resort at Montilemar Beach. We settled into our rooms and spent the rest of the afternoon poolside. Before we knew it, the time had come for our last dinner as a group. We started our meeting with a sweet surprise – one of our teammates, Meghan, had made a video recapping our week. We shared highlights from the trip and talked about the lessons we hoped to carry home with us. Goodbyes are always tough, especially when you leave behind a piece of your heart. We are thankful for the friendships formed and the presence of God during the experience. In closing, we want to share a bible verse that has been on our hearts this week:

But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.

Exodus 9:16

With love,

Dan and Liz Buceti

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Team Nicaragua :: Day Five

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Today we went to a clinic in the middle of sugar cane crops. If you are not familiar with the appearance of sugar cane, imagine a giant corn maze that extends high into air. We were lost in the maze for about 10 minutes, but quickly found our route. It is amazing to see how the people in Nicaragua navigate without road signs or navigational tools to find these villages—instead, you turn right at the third tree and follow the smoke (trash burning means humans are near).

Joining us was an emergency department physician from Toronto named Chris. Planning his vacation to Nicaragua, he Googled “medical trips to Nicaragua.” PMI was one of the first results, so he contacted us to help at the clinic today. He was a tremendous extra set of hands, and we saw 195 patients!

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The community we saw was full of farmers and field workers, many of whom came either early in the morning or shortly after lunch. We encountered a couple of chikungunya cases (a mosquito born virus that has recently surfaced in Nicaragua), but the overall community was in desperate need for primary care. The cases were very sporadic: we saw three instances where elderly individuals were carried in by family members but left the clinic in a walker or wheelchair. Others arriving with canes and crutches from tree branches were able to safely support themselves with new walkers. Our occupational therapy group has enhanced the quality of life for all the patients who were seen this week.

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Their wound care skills played a significant role in staph infections and softball-sized burns from motorcycle accidents. It came to the point today where many individuals on the team donated their own shoes to patients who complained of chronic pain and had a lack of proper support. This was the quintessential example of “taking the shirt off our back,” but instead, the shoes off our feet.

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This is has been an incredible journey that we can hardly put into words, whether we were first timers or seasoned servants through PMI. Here are some statistics from the week:  We treated 789 Nicaraguans.  Pharmacy filled approximately 300 prescriptions per day.  Occupational Therapy distributed approximately 100 pairs of shoes, three walkers, two canes, and three wheelchairs.  We ran out of reading glasses—all of whom sought glasses to read their Bible.  In all, this means that almost 800 people experienced quality and compassionate care that they would not have otherwise received. It impacted our lives more than they may ever know. God is good!

We also wanted to specifically thank our team photographer, Marie Rodriguez, whose photographs beautifully captured the hearts of the Nicaraguan people.

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Love,
Nancy Wilford and Jackson Tucker
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Team Uganda :: Day Five

As we approach the end of the week, the trip is coming closer and closer to an end. Today, Friday, was the last day of the outreach clinic. It is an amazing feeling to know that this team has served over 1,400 patients in just five short but amazing days. We started out today with an extra thirty minutes of sleep which was awesome. We all met for breakfast, ate French toast, and had a great devotion together to start out the day strong. Following breakfast was a short thirty-minute drive to a small village Nyambindo.

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We were welcomed with warm smiling faces that will brighten anyone’s day instantly. Today was a much lighter day compared to yesterday, saying that we served about 200 less patients. Even though we served about half the patients, it was still an incredible day.

We were able to leave around 4 and get back to Masindi Hotel to “shop” from local vendors. I think we all bought our Christmas presents for our families. We had about two hours of down time then ate dinner at 7 with all of our drivers and some of the Masindi-Kitara Medical Center staff to thank them for all that they do for PMI. It was a delicious Ugandan style dinner, filled with local cuisine. We were surprised at the end of dinner with a Masindi dance group that was amazing. They were full of energy and excitement and got everyone in the crowd pumped. About half way through, some of the team members joined and danced their hearts out.

This trip has been an amazing experience that has shown me a whole new way of life. I am beyond blessed to have been apart of such an amazingly talented team and I am sure I am not just speaking for myself. We are all going to take away so much from this short, but life-changing trip. I would not trade this experience for anything in the world and I will never forget the people I have met, they have changed my life forever. God is good.

– Haley Oliver, Public Health Student at the College of Charleston

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Team Nicaragua :: Day Four

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We were blessed to travel to another beautiful location today. Tonalá is a farming community with an amazing view of the volcano as the backdrop to our clinic. When we arrived, there was a group of patients lined up to see us. Among the wonderful people we interacted with today, there were a few patients that stood out. One little boy arrived with his grandmother complaining of shortness of breath when he ran. As we listened to his lungs, we noticed he had a concave chest and appeared to be missing the bottom 2/3 of his sternum. When he took a deep breath, you could see a portion of his heart beating under his skin. Another patient was a 100-year-old man who walked in with great assistance from his family. By the time he left our clinic, he had a new set of wheels and a new sense of independence via a donated wheelchair. Being that it was a farming community, many of our patients arrived later in the afternoon after finishing their day’s work. One of these patients arrived in a wheelchair that was being transported via horse-drawn cart, which was certainly a unique sight.  No matter the challenges the people of Tonalá face, their joy was both evident and infectious.
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Although we planned on seeing 160 patients today, we got a rush of patients just as we were getting ready to wrap up for the day. Our team directors made the executive decision to allow us to offer our triage, consult, therapy, vision, and wound care services to these people as well. Knowing we were pressed for time but wanting to help as many people as we could, our entire team worked together like a well-oiled machine to give these patients efficient, quality care. In the end we treated 180 patients!
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We cannot recap the day without giving special mention to our team-director-in training, Alicia, who just finished the Accelerated BSN program at MUSC (which is not an easy feat!). Her graduation ceremony was being held today in Charleston, and she chose to come on this trip to serve the people of Nicaragua instead of celebrating her accomplishment with her classmates. So we surprised her with a graduation ceremony in her honor complete with a duct tape cap and a diploma signed by all of the teammates. Felicidades, Alicia!
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It has been wonderful to see the diversity of this region and interact with so many beautiful people. It feels like our team becomes stronger and more driven every day. As excited as we are for clinic tomorrow, it is bittersweet knowing it will be our last day of this trip.
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Team Uganda :: Day Four

During this season of Advent, churches often light a hope candle representing the hope we have in the birth of Christ. It’s one of my favorite moments of the year. When I came to Africa I was expecting desperation but hope is here.

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It’s in our team as we drive to clinic, excited to serve the unreached. It’s at the Masindi-Kitara Medical Center in the promise of new buildings and tools that are coming. It’s in the people who slept overnight at clinic waiting to be served. Their eyes light up when we hop off the van because help has arrived. It’s in the smile of each person that I register when I tell them I am glad they are here, that the doctors will see them soon.

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Their smiles reflect the hope that our medial providers will provide healing. It was in the heart of the blind man who walked to our site today without knowing where he was going, just trusting fellow villagers would lead him to the doctors. Hope is here. It is alive. Desperation doesn’t have room when there is so much belief, excitement, and joy.

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We may be in Uganda, in the heat, missing our families, and seeing banana trees instead of Christmas trees but we are celebrating Advent all the same. We are filled with a renewed hope along with the people of Uganda. May we continue to celebrate it throughout the rest of the year. “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn” “Every number has a name, and every name has a story,” or at least that is what we hear at NewSpring Church back in Charleston week after week. The scenery looks a little different tonight (though stunningly beautiful) as we are far away from Charleston, but the expression holds true.

– Meredith Speer

Today we showed up at another rural clinic site. We registered 430 people…001, 002, and so on until we reached 430. For our team that amount of patients is daunting but each number is attached to a name and each name has a story. Bryan’s job for a couple mornings this week was to assign these numbers, and mine was to get the story, to dig in deeper, and to pray that God would use my education as a Physician Assistant to know what to do with that story.

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After hearing each name, and each ailment and “the story,”   I had to discern a diagnosis, and then pray, really pray, for discernment and that God would go above and beyond my limited knowledge and skill set, lack of diagnostics, and limited formulary to use me as His hands and feet, and there is no better way that I would rather spend the beginning of my honeymoon and my life with my new husband. Love from Uganda from the newlyweds. We love yaul and y’all too! Ams, we have a GREAT “both sides, both sides” story to tell you.

– Ashley and Bryan Worley

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Team Nicaragua :: Day Three

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Today we traveled to the beautiful Pacific beachfront community of La Arenosa. Our clinic was set up under grass huts right on the beach!  It was the perfect mid-week location to give us a boost of energy for the remainder of the trip.

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We saw 110 patients from babies to an 85 year old man.  The fewer patient turn out was possibly due to local graduations and a healthier population in general, but we were grateful to be given additional time with our patients.  The patients we encountered today were as beautiful as the surrounding scenery. The children loved to interact with team through games, thumb wrestling and tickle fights. We even taught them how to listen to their lung sounds and heart beats.

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The occupational team once again had two extraordinary patient cases- a little boy and an elderly man. The little boy with cerebral palsy was fitted for a new pair of foot braces and the elderly man walked out of the clinic smiling with his new pair of shoes and walker. The joyful faces of all the patients today reassured us that our work is making a difference in their lives.

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Love,

Meghan and Brittany

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Team Uganda :: Day Three

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Today was an amazing day in the fishing village of Bugoigo on Lake Albert. We pulled together as a team and treated 362 patients over the course of 9 hours.

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Today we saw a lot of patients who suffered from Malaria, Typhoid, and worms, and Dr. Randy even performed a surgical procedure at the end of the day on a man who suffered from a cyst on his temple.

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On a personal note, I’ve been incredibly excited to serve in triage this week, and even started working in my own triage station yesterday. As a nursing student about to start clinicals next month, this has been both an amazing and challenging experience far beyond what I could have ever imagined! God’s been so good as I’ve gone out on a limb beyond my own capabilities, and have trusted him to give me everything I need to be His hands and feet here in Uganda.

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Our therapy team has been hopping this week! We have seen between 45-60 patients each day, and have had our minds, skills, and creativity challenged each day. The most common complaint we see in the therapy area is low back pain. In this part of world, nearly all of the men “dig” (farm) for a living. A life-time of being bent forward at the waist with a hoe or shovel takes its toll on the lumbar spine. Likewise, the women spend their time with domestic duties, including sweeping (using a broom with no handle, typically), carrying water, carrying children, preparing food, and cleaning. We have also seen our share of knee and shoulder injuries, plantar fasciitis (many of the people do not wear shoes), wrist sprains, and old fractures that have not healed correctly.

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In addition, we have had the opportunity to work with children with developmental conditions, patients with post polio syndrome, and a variety of wound care.

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Our team has been outstanding, including a physical therapist and physical therapy assistant, as well as eager workers to help with everything to exercise instruction, to adaptive equipment construction, to playing music to soothe some of the upset little ones.

 

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We’d also like to send a special “shout out” to all that have supported us on this mission and the prayers and support of our Stillwater, OK partners and Sunnybrook Christian Church!

March teams. If you would like to help PMI bring quality, affordable care to those most in need in Nicaragua and Uganda, download an application and apply before December 31!

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Team Nicaragua :: Day Two

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Today we traveled to Comunidad el Proyecto. We saw over 140 patients today and every one had a unique story.  We would like to share with everyone two special patients whose impressionable stories were too touching not to share.  One we will call “El Vaquero,” (the cowboy).  Everyone’s heads turned while he was waiting his turn outside the clinic and he quickly became a celebrity amongst the team.  I (Anna) was given the privilege to be his provider and was given a glimpse into his life.  The cowboy shared his struggles and ailments, as Pastor Todd joined and prayed for him.  After our encounter, he then made his way through therapy where he received new shoes and learned some pain relieving exercises.  It was apparent how much impact these twenty minutes had on our cowboy and likewise on us.

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Later in the day we met Elijah, an eight-year-old boy with cerebral palsy.  His mother had spent eight years carrying him and caring for his every need.  The mother’s commitment to her child enabled him to be here today.  The MUSC OT team came to Nicaragua with one children’s wheelchair that they worked on for over an hour to fit specifically for Elijah.  The minute that Raegan (MUSC OT student) put Elijah in his new chair his mother shed tears of happiness and took many pictures to remember this special moment…. as did we!!!!

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Applications are now being accepted for PMI’s February (nurses and non medical needed) and March teams. If you would like to help PMI bring quality, affordable care to those most in need in Nicaragua and Uganda, download an application and apply before December 31!

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Team Uganda :: Day Two

It’s the end of clinic day 2 and it was nothing short of a success. This morning we set out for the village of Mirimo Kalwala located about an hour and a half from our hotel. When we arrived to nearly 300 people waiting to be seen by our medical staff. Since we were all well seasoned veterans at this point, everyone jumped out of the vans and hit the ground running, efficiently setting up each room for triage, providers, therapy, glasses, pharmacy and family planning.

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Being a severely impoverished region of Uganda, we had been forewarned about the possible severity of cases. Sitting in the therapy room, it didn’t take long for us to realize that. Within the first 30 minutes, at least three patients, unable to walk, had been carried in seeking treatment from our therapy team. One woman who was carried in actually walked out with the assistance of a walker. The day only seemed to get better as it wore on.

 

Children were running amuck around the clinic site when we first arrived and thanks to Children’s Ministry, we kept them busy. Soccer, duck-duck-goose, red light-green light and dancing were all activities that our team got the children involved with. Never in my life have I been a part of a more intense game of jump rope; at one point, I think we had 8 children jumping at one time.

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At the end of a very successful clinic day, Seth and Bear from Needtobreathe had the patients and team members clapping, dancing and singing to drum and guitar. Umoja means unity in Swahili and there could not have been a more perfect moment in time to define such a word. As I sit here caked in my sunless tan of African red dust, I am grateful for my team members who have quickly become friends and the opportunity to embark on another adventure tomorrow.

 

Love and Gratitude,

Kristen

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It’s the end of day 2 for me as well, but I have had a little bit different PMI experience so far. I have spent the first 2 days at PMI’s facility Masindi-Kitara Medical Center performing surgery as well as assisting their very own Dr. Godson on a few cases. It has been a very humbling and touching experience.

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Many of the patients came from many miles away and waited on a bench outside for hours, just in hopes of being able to undergo procedures that day. No one complains. They all just look at you expectantly when you to get the next patient. Several even returned the next day to begin their wait again. These people are incredibly tough and resilient. They have gone through many procedures typically done under general anesthesia, with only local anesthesia or some sedation. Again, there is no complaining, only stoic patience and true gratitude. It truly reminds me why I went into medicine.

 

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Also, I have suffered severe technology shock. As doctors/surgeons in the US, we are incredibly spoiled. The resources, facilities (even the small facilities) and training we receive make things easy. I have always thought I could perform many of my more common procedures in the dark. I have learned over the past few days, sadly that is not true. The power and lighting is unreliable at times. The staff at the medical center takes it all in stride, and many procedures are finished with battery-powered headlamps.

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Despite these limitations, Dr. Godson and his staff have been able to provide many procedures and excellent quality of care, despite the limitations. I feel fortunate to have been a part of helping their patients and sharing some tricks that may make some things easier for them. It has been a great experience.

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Randy Baker

Applications are now being accepted for PMI’s February (nurses and non medical needed) and March teams. If you would like to help PMI bring quality, affordable care to those most in need in Nicaragua and Uganda, download an application and apply before December 31!

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