Monday, July 6, 2009

Fair Winds and Good After-care, El Salvador

It’s the last day of services in Pasaquina, El Salvador. The same crews that transformed the Pasaquina Elementary School classrooms into the biggest hospital in the area are now converting them back into 1st Grade Math, 3rd Grade Reading, and 4th Grade English rooms. Meanwhile, the last of the waiting patients are being seen, final prescriptions written, and last health education pamphlets handed out for this country.

Which is not to say that the doctors and nurses didn’t go full steam ahead to the very end. In fact, some of the cases most in need of attention came yesterday and today. Doctor Ken Iserson, Project HOPE’s senior medical officer, saw the only case of Rickett’s, a rarer form of malnutrition caused by vitamin D deficiency, in a toddler yesterday. The boy’s mother brought him in with the complaint that “His feet are funny.” Not just his feet, though—his legs are obviously bowed outward, and under x-ray the ends of his bones significantly mushroom up, a signature of Rickett’s.

Fortunately, he got care just in time. His condition is not irreversible, and the Ministry of Health here has been in campaign against all forms of malnutrition for several years. His case got immediate attention from them, which is very good, as it’s usually not as simple as just adding more D to his diet. Most likely, he’s getting a normal amount of vitamin D, but not absorbing properly. Now, its in the Ministry of Health’s hands to find out why.

Project HOPE volunteers were also on the scene doing some non-medical assistance today. Diane Speranza and Elizabeth Roughead both participated with about 10 sailors in what the Navy calls a “COMREL” Project—military shorthand for “Community Relations,” their way of reaching out to the local communities where they harbor to lend a helping hand. Diane and Elizabeth both “got their lumberjack on” by clearing low-hanging limbs from trees that were directly over the Leones Special-Needs School. The trees were threatening the corrugated tin-roofed building, so the Navy/HOPE team cleaned them up, cleared the gutters, and even trimmed the hedges. (All this, of course, after due time was spent playing with the kids.)

That’s just two snapshots of all the activity today, though. Our Ops boss, Tracey Kunkel, represented HOPE at the El Salvador closing ceremonies today, and volunteer nurses Jane Bower, Ann Russell, Elise Chamberlain, Tina Weitcamp, and Meg Candage all were at the Subject Matter Expert Exchange with Salvadoran Ministry of Health educators, discussing El Salvador’s public health education program, rabies and dengue control, atraumatic dental practices, and El Salvador’s public contraceptives and sex education push. And on top of that, all the rest of the HOPE nurses were trying to get the remaining patients packed, together, and ready for their helo ride home.

Thanks for reading-Jacob

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