Sunday, May 13, 2012

Honduras 2012

After a three-hour plane ride from Atlanta International to Honduras, we land in Tegucigalpa.  Walking down the stairs to my first ever steps on Honduran ground, I have mixed emotions of excitement and nerves.  Excited to see what God shows me and hopefully to save vision.  Nervous to be outside of my comfort zone and needing to find ocular results without the use of fancy equipment.  But I know that next to me I have 17 fellow students and 2 staff doctors to be my encouragers, my second opinions, and my support throughout the week.  As I focus on them, excitement takes over. 

We got into Tegucigalpa around noon, and got to eat lunch at our first mission home.  It was absolutely delicious - crispy torillas, topped with a scrumptious meat mixture and cabbage.  We then got a tour of the mission home, including the "man cave," and the medical clinic on site.  In addition to the medical clinic, His Eyes Missions does other services as well.  They have a sewing mission, a clothing drive mission, and a food mission.  The clothing drive is obvious, but sometimes, clothes are in poor conditions and cannot be used.  In order to not waste the fabric, the fabric is used in the sewing mission.  They teach women how to sew, so that they can sell the products for profit to support their families.  On our first full day there, we got to participate in the food mission to deliver pre-packaged meals to the local villages.  Below are some pictures from our tour.

Lunch Saturday - welcome to Honduras :)

View from the first mission home

Iris Flowers!  Picture in Valerie's office at the clinic

Valerie's office in the medical clinic.  All equipment donated by Wal-Mart

Dental station!  The clinic had everything... for really affordable prices for the locals!

Man Cave!


Little girls' dresses made at the sewing ministry

On this first day in Tegucigalpa, we also made a trip to the grocery store to buy snacks for the week and souvenirs.  I got 2 bottles of clear vanilla for the equivalent of $1.  Similar bottles would probably cost around $20 or more in the States!  What a steal!  The popular snack choice for everyone to get a feel for how the locals snack was plantain chips!  So delicious!  I also got some yummy cookie snack packs.  Within the grocery store was the Honduran version of Starbucks - Espresso Americano.  The popular choice for the gringos was the mochachino, a frozen, blended coffee drink with cookie crumbles mixed in!  After the long day, we were ready to just relax around the mission home.  We had a quick Bible study from Dr. Smith, played a couple rounds of the game Mafia, and then hit the sack.

Sunday, we woke up to no electricity and no water!  There had been a storm that night that knocked out the power, and I guess without power the water couldn't get pumped up to the mission house.  For this reason, we took "bucket showers," by literally taking water from a bucket and dumping it over ourselves!  We were getting ready to go to church and had planned to make pancakes for breakfast.  However, this yummy breakfast plan had to be postponed.  The sermon was a beautiful sermon about the Body of Christ.  The minister spoke about how every part of the body is important.  God would not have given us a certain part of the body if it didn't have an important purpose.  In the same way we are each an important part of the body of Christ.  Each of us is unique, we work together, and we are all important!  He spoke about the need to make sure each of our brothers and sisters in Christ is healthy and that we hold them accountable.  Because just as we struggle when a part of our body is hurt, so does the body of Christ when one of its brothers or sisters is hurt (spiritually or physically).   After church we ate lunch and then got to deliver food (pre-packaged rice meals) in the local villages.  While delivering the food, we got to pray with the families and just talk with them.  It was very humbling to see their living conditions; it was also very ironic after complaining about not having electricity or water that morning.  One woman during this venture stood out to me.  She was 89 years old and still working around the house to take care of her family.  She had a sick grandson, but didn't stop.  Many people her age would have their children and grandchildren taking care of them, but instead, she was doing a lot of the work still.   After we gave her and her family 7 bags of meals, she made an effort to give each and every one of us a hug!  We took a picture with her after she gave us all a hug.  She really was the sweetest little old lady! :)

The podium at the church says, "Live only for Christ."  The church was also decorated for Mother's Day!

With the sweetest lady who gave every one of us a hug.

Cecilia, daughter of Valerie and Felipe (the missionaries) loved holding the cats!

The cutest dog you ever did see!

Before ending the day, we had to make about 70 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch the next day, fold some brochures to handout at the brigade, and make sure all of our stuff was packed away to move to our second mission home, since another mission team was coming in that night.  Making peanut butter and jelly was a trip as every bug in the surrounding area decided it was a good time to come into the mission home... and of course, once we stopped making sandwiches, the bugs decided it was a good time to leave - Murphy's Law never stops, no matter what country you're in!

It's Peanut Butter Jelly Time!!


Maria watching out for bugs!  We didn't necessarily want extra crunchy peanut butter ;)

folding brochures

the brochures to be handed out

Our Eyes - a Christian Perspective

view from the mission home at night!  All the lights were stunning, and this picture just doesn't do it justice...

The next day was our first Eye Brigade day!  We started out the morning with two wonderful women on our trip, Lauren and Amanda, making us the pancake breakfast we couldn't have the night before!  It was a very delicious way to start the day!  What a wonderful day it was to see patients.  I spent most of my time in the optical/dispensary handing out glasses, sunglasses, and drops.  One man was a very rewarding experience for me.  I gave him everything he needed and asked if I could pray for him.  He said yes, and I said the short little prayer that everyone on the trip said.  However, when I was done, he continued praying a much more elaborate prayer.  It really touched me to see his grateful smile and obvious appreciation for all we had done for him and the rest of the Honduran people that day.  I also spent some time in the retinoscopy and direct room.  I was able to get a look at persistent hyperplastic primary vitreous where basically, the fetal vitreous in the eye doesn't breakdown.  That could possibly be the only time in my life that I get to see such a thing!! 

Lauren fixing up some pancakes!

donated glasses organized and ready to give away!
Dr. Smith and Amanda with some children at the first Eye Brigade

Justin doing some direct

Brittany, my little sib, using my PanOptic

The man in the black jacket had the nicest words of thanks to tell us all.  He lives in the town.
That night, we traveled to the second mission home we would be staying at - La Casa LAMB with the LAMB Institute.  This mission is actually a children's ministry, but we were just using the house to rest our heads.  However, this mission home made this portion of the trip more like a retreat than a mission trip!  It was located in a very nice, gated neighborhood in Tegucigalpa.  We even had a Wii system to play Just Dance 2!  We had a lot of fun at this mission house with a change to laugh and bond together. 

To give you an idea of the town La Casa LAMB was in!

Hammock in the back yard!

Show off those dance moves

Playing some Wii Dance!

The next day's eye brigade was an unfortunately slow day.  They tried to advertise a lot before we came, but not very many people showed up.  However, as we started examining patients, I began to think that God gave us all that we could handle.  We saw a lot of disease that day!  I actually found a degenerative myope, meaning that this man was so near-sighted from such a long eyeball that there was stretching and atrophy in the back of his eye.  Unfortunately, he had been this way for many years, so there was not much we could do for him other than give him some readers and sunglasses.  However, he was a GREAT sport in letting us all look at the back of his eye with the BIO.  We also found a woman with glaucoma, a woman with a retinal detachment, and I found a little high hyperope girl.  We were able to refer many patients who needed to be referred for surgeries and chronic treatment.   However, I took the opportunity to put glasses on the face of the little girl with a great deal of hyperopia.  It was so rewarding to see the smile on her face when she looked through the glasses.  Her eyes had been working so hard for her life, having to accommodate so much!  The glasses were able to improve her acuity and relax her accommodative status!  I was so, so happy to have helped her!  The day was short because the drive was very long, so we needed to leave around 3:30 to make it back for dinner.  While we didn't get to see many patients, we made a difference for everyone we saw! :)

With the girl with lots of hyperopia after getting her glasses.  She wasn't good at smiling for the camera, but she was very happy!

If you carefully in the teaching mirror of the BIO, you can see some of the atrophy in the eye of the man with degenerative myopia.

Me performing BIO on the man with degenerative myopia with Justin, a 2nd year, looking on
Dr. Valerie Colby praying with the woman diagnosed with glaucoma

3rd years

The most amazing translator!
That night when we came home from the brigade, we started talking with Amanda, the full-time missionary with the LAMB institute.  We asked her about her children's ministry, and she told us about how they remove children from terrible home situations.  The children come from drug addicts, abuse, and horrible situations, but then get to stay with care takers at the LAMB institute after they're removed from their homes.  Amanda was telling us about how she was surprised to learn that many of these children don't know how to play when they come to the institute because no one had played with them before.  It's easy to think that this is an "instinct," but we understand quickly that playing is a learned behavior when watching children from troubled backgrounds who didn't get the appropriate attention growing up.  We felt very touched by her stories and her mission, and we had plenty of left over kids sunglasses and glasses that we wanted to put to good use before going home.  We asked her if we could go with her to the institute the next day to give eye exams to the kids.  This wasn't a part of our original plan.  Originally, we were supposed to have a free day full of village shopping and seeing a famous Christ statue.  We shifted around our plans to make time to see the children, and I'm SO glad we did. 

In the morning, we went shopping at a tourist gift shop in the mall and a pewter shop.  I got a few good souvenirs, but I would've gotten more if I had more time in Honduras to "shop around."  For lunch we got a local favorite known as pupusas.  Pupusas are cheese-stuffed soft corn tortillas, topped with cabbage and other vegetables.  They were delicious and VERY filling.  After lunch we went to give screenings to the children.  It was a lot of fun, and I actually got to see a child with anophthalmos (meaning no eyes), which was very rewarding when I later got to spend a lot of time playing with her! She had so much energy, joy, and a love for dancing that you couldn't help but smile when you were around her.  We gave her a pair of sunglasses, and she absolutely adored them!  Her name is Yolani, and if I could've brought her home with me, I would have!  Most of the day was just checking to make sure they were within normal limits for a child and giving them a pair of sunglasses!  After the screenings, we simply got to play with the children.  Some of us got to play soccer with some of the older kids at the institute, while others stayed inside playing simple games with the younger children.  What fun it was!  That night, we got to go to a fancy steak restaurant called El Patio.  We had to have meal buddies, and after getting our steaks served to us, I understood why.  They were huge, not to mention the fact that we had lots of appetizers served to us before the steak main course even came out!  It was a great night. 

View of the city from the bus!

optical :)

Little kids on the street - too cute... especially the little boy trying really hard to tie his shoes just right!


Time for some pupusas

Jamaica (hi-mai-ka) juice.  Made from Hibiscus plant, and absolutely delicious! 

Gorgeous windmills on the drive to the LAMB institute

Checking out the kids eyes

Trying to keep his attention by making the "counting fingers game" more of a challenge

Using my PanOptic to get a quick view of his optic nerve


She's so precious! 


Direct Ophthalmoscopy

Amanda loving on the children

Gina fell in love with Dr. Smith

Tyler Groce taught Elias how to give flowers to the chicas!  We all approved and, of course, had to get a picture with the new ladies man!

The school at the institute

The new boys dorm - under construction

Gina and her boyfriends - Dr. Smith and Tyler

Alex! He was so, so cute

Van cheesin' with her new friend
Yolani smiling in her new sunglasses

Our steak dinner!  See why we had meal buddies?

With Soren - Valerie and Felipe's son

With Jana and Felipe just before heading to the airport to go home.

Taste the rainbow!  I have an obsession with seeing slogans in Spanish

The entire gang: Dr. Smith, Dr. Savoy, Jacque, Tony, Janelle, Nathan, Matt, Jenn, Brittany, Ema, Elena, Justin, Tyler, Lauren, Van, Jessie, Amanda, me, Jen, and Maria.

Overall, it was a fantastic trip! I'm so thankful for the 19 other people that God placed me with on the trip.  I learned a lot about myself and optometry in the process.  Now, off to being a 3rd year!  That is so incredibly hard to believe!  Until next time, Dios le bendiga (God bless you!)

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