Saturday, November 29, 2014

Top 20 Countdown #2: 100,240 Doctor Visits

Our first medical volunteers, our good friends Nora Laws and Pam Agner, came in the first months we were in Nicaragua.  They stayed three weeks and treated hundreds of patients, giving out medication that they had brought with them.  They were the first of 328 medical volunteers from various fields that have come over the last 20 years.

We started our health care projects with medical help with volunteers… for five years, over 4,600 patients were seen by these volunteers giving their time as well as bringing donated medications.  We would have two or three small groups a year, and then Hurricane Mitch hit at the end of 1998. 

Nora & Pam seeing patients
Nora called and said that if we wanted her, then she was getting on a plane and coming to volunteer for 3 weeks.  When we picked her up at the airport, she was sitting on trunks of medicines she had recruited from others.  And she was not the last to come, volunteers flooded in.

Dr. Don Stechschulte
In February, the Bucknell Brigade came with their 36 members and one doctor, Don Stechschulte.  After seeing about a hundred patients one day in a thrown-together church building in the resettlement camp, I heard him muttering as he cleaned his medical bag of dirt and dust, “What I would give for just a concrete floor.”

Representatives from Bucknell, including Don, went with Mike to the mayor’s office with their commitment to help build a permanent clinic in the camp, Nueva Vida.  While we waited for the mayor’s office to donate land in Nueva Vida, a temporary clinic had been running for six months.  The man who had built the clinic and funded it had promised it would run for six months, and now he was ready to leave, so we could use the building.  By the end of July 1999, we were running a clinic complete with a half-time doctor, Jorge Flores.
Volunteers with Jorge, circa 1999
Temporary Clinic building 1999
Family planning training with nurse Martha, main clinic building
Jorge doing ultrasounds

The Bucknell Brigade folks were true to their word and helped us fund a permanent clinic building.  They came and worked with the community to build the clinic, mixing all the concrete by hand and using materials made by the concrete construction materials business we had
started, and then working back at Bucknell on fund-raising.  While we were moving into the permanent clinic in January 2001, an earthquake hit and while the building did sway, it did not even crack!

For many years, our staff was minimal:  Jorge, the doctor; Henry to check folks in and provide wound care; Danelia to hand out medications; Pat, the counselor (part-time);  Maria, the person who cleaned; and volunteers.  We opened charts for each patient, which was not that common back then for clinics that worked with the poor.

In the fifteen years the clinic has been operating, we have opened charts on 20,462 new patients.   Medical staff have examined 100,240 people and treated 210,649 diseases or conditions.  Our staff has grown as well as our space. 

The clinic in 2001 consisted of one building with 3 exam rooms, 3 bathrooms, one office, one check-in room, one pharmacy, one wound care room, a large lobby, a large corridor that holds files, and an even larger room for storing medications.  In 2006, we expanded to a second building that now has a laboratory, two dental rooms, two bathrooms, a room for counseling and eye checks, a storage room and an over flow room, a large lobby and corridor used for trainings and support groups as well as waiting.

We started with a half-time doctor; now we have staff for these services:
  • A full-time radiologist who does ultrasounds as well as sees patients as family doctor, including free PAPs in our women’s health program and treats our HIV positive patients…Jorge 
  • A part-time pediatrician who sees children but has helped us expand our asthma services
  • A part-time general physician who also oversees the patients who have chronic conditions, pregnant women, and PAPs
  • A part-time orthopedist who controls pain and works with joints, muscles, and bones…he sometimes does surgery.
  • Danelia & patient
  • A full-time dentist, a hygienist, and a dental assistant who treat adults and children including children in the local feeding centers (see dental blog for more)
  • A part-time lab technician
  • A half-time counselor…Pat, who also with Becca does eye correction exams and gives out eye glasses
  • A full-time nurse who, besides doing nursing, also helps with the public health component
  • A full-time health promoter who oversees our public health component (see health trainings blog)
  • A full-time administrator who has her degree in pharmacy
  • Henry Checking in patients
  • A full-time pharmacy assistant who also fills in gaps in other areas…Danelia
  • A full-time assistant who checks patients in and does wound care…Henry
  • Three full-time people who clean
  • And me, who looks for money, equipment, etc.  I also help to gather all the staff’s dreams for the clinic and needs and put them into goals and objectives.
We have come a long way from those medical brigades working out of suitcases, but we have a long way to go because the need is so great.

Future Projects:
  • Build a third clinic building… awaiting funding, you can help by giving an alternative gift of 1 sq ft for $25!
  • Hire a half-time ob/gyn… awaiting funding
  • Hire a full-time nurse… awaiting funding


Counting down to #GivingTuesday on December 2nd, we’re highlighting the CDCA’s accomplishments over our 20 years in Nicaragua. Follow our countdown in this blog, on Facebook and TwitterHelp us keep doing more by giving $20. Our goal is to raise $20,000.