Members of the mission team from Lander pose with a group of Honduran children near the town of Rio Colorado. The children are holding the coloring books with a nursing theme which they were given by their American friends. From left to right are Aubrie Phillips, a junior nursing student from Rock Hill; Jordan Bennett, a senior nursing student from Clover; assistant professor of nursing Dr. Leslie Myers; sophomore nursing student Ashley Steadman, of Ocean Isle Beach, N.C.; senior nursing student Anna Grace Mullet, of Greenwood; and professor emeritus of nursing Dr. Barbara Freese. (Photo by David Myers)
The medical mission trip to Honduras recently completed by Lander University Department of Nursing faculty members and students was so successful that a return trip has already been planned.
The destination of the July 10-17 trip, directed by Volunteers in Medical Missions (VIMM), was La Esperanza, in the southwestern mountains, close to the El Salvadorian border.
Each day, the U.S. team, which numbered 24 and included four physicians, three nurse practitioners, a surgeon and a dentist, visited one of the surrounding villages, providing primary care to the Lenca Indians, who are descendents of the Mayan people.
By the end of the week, they had seen more than 1,500 patients.
Intestinal parasites, caused in part by inconsistently pure drinking water, are endemic to the area, and a visit to the deworming station, presided over by Lander assistant professor of nursing Teri Lawson, was the first order of the day.
Skin conditions like scabies and lice infestations were common. So were skin funguses, which Lawson attributed to the fact that “it’s so warm and damp there.”
Dental problems were rampant, with the team’s dentist pulling 260 teeth. Lawson
said that dental problems could be seen in “even the very, very small children.”
The worst case was a young woman with a large dental abscess, whose pain was so great that at first she could not be persuaded to open her mouth. She was injected with a strong antibiotic and the offending tooth pulled, a process for which she was thankful. As Lawson put it, “we were able to fix something that had been bothering her for a long time.”
Lander University assistant professor of nursing Teri Lawson administers oral worming medication to an infant in Ojos de Agua. (Photo by David Myers)
The sickest person treated by Lander assistant professor of nursing Leslie Myers, a licensed nurse practitioner, was a woman with pneumonia. The saddest thing she saw was an undernourished woman breastfeeding two children, one of whom was an orphan. Both were old enough to be eating other food, Myers said, but “there was no other food to give them.”
In Togopala, the Americans met a girl with congenital hip dysplasia. “This condition would have been treated very early in life in the U.S., but this child was around eight years old and had yet to be treated,” said Lawson.
“Her parents told us that they had arranged for a medical team to come from the U.S. to do her surgery the next week, but they could not afford the hospital supplies and hospital bill. She would not be able to have the surgery unless they could come up with $400 by the following week.”
Lawson said, “our team was able to collect enough money amongst ourselves to pay for her surgery.”
Although Lencas have their share of health issues, in some ways their health is good. They lead an active lifestyle, with many employed in the production of crops like corn, beans, bananas and pineapples. They also walk nearly everywhere they go. As a result, they usually don’t have problems with obesity, diabetes or high blood pressure.
The Hondurans weren’t the only beneficiaries of the trip. Lawson said the six Lander nursing students who signed on “were able to experience multiple jobs within the clinic setting, from assisting the dentist to working as pharmacy assistants.” She was impressed with the degree of independence and initiative they displayed. “Watching them blossom was phenomenal,” she said.
This year, the contingent from South Carolina worked alongside people from six other states, but Lawson said that members of the nursing faculty have discussed developing a trip that’s specific to Lander.
Asked what came to mind when she thought back to the week she spent in Honduras, Myers said, “how fortunate we are here, how much we take for granted.”