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Medical clinics held in isolated Honduran communities

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QUEBRADA DE LAJAS, Honduras - The music of Honduras is heartwarming, but finding medical care is heartbreaking for thousands of isolated and impoverished families. It's the beginning of a school day in Quebrada De Lajas, where children have arrived for their classes, but it's also the site where dozens of families have arrived to see the Missoula Medical Aid doctors and nurses. I have heard reports of community members walking 1 to 4 hours for various services offered. One woman told our interpreter, Rafael Chacon, that is the only time she can get medical care for her family, "When she gave birth to the baby was the last time she saw a doctor." While another mother, Rosa Maria Dominguez, did laundry, I asked her why so many people line up for the clinics. Carol Giselle Medina Antunez translates for Rosa, "She says because the medicine is free. Another thing is that not everybody in the community can go to the doctor and take the attention." The following are brief explanations of a few of the exams at the clinic in Quebrada De Laja. Missoula Medical Aid Director and Physician Assistant Fred Westereng examined a young man with pain in his ear and said, "He's got a pretty bad external ear infection...We'll give him some medicine for this." Rafael Chacon interprets, "Mom says the baby has no appetite." Emergency Room Doctor Tom Bulger replies,"She's come to the right place." Vision problems are common. Nurse Amy Westereng has many reading glasses for patients to choose from. In another exam, Fred Westereng explains, "This is a 4-year-old with a history of Down syndrome. He's been sick lately with a lot of breathing difficulty." One child came in with an eye infection that wasn't treatable with the medicines Missoula Medical Aid had on hand. "We'll write a prescription and give her some money, so she can go to town and get that medicine," Fred said. The team removed a troublesome cyst from one young schoolgirl. Her teacher stayed with her during the procedure, explaining that she is an orphan. The international nonprofit group Save The Children leads educational health fairs while the Missoula Medical Aid volunteers are holding their clinics. Nurses like Christina Schmitz use the festive gathering to administer parasite medication to all the children. Missoula also supports agricultural, nutritional and other outreach programs, including one for newborns. "This gets them ready for kindergarten," explains Westereng. A remote community elected a farmer named Santos to own an care for a cow funded by Missoula's Salsa Ball. Fred Westereng translates for Santos, "The cow is expecting, so after she gives birth, she will provide about 32 bottles of milk a day. Santos will provide that for his family and other families in the area. " Another farmer, Juan, is benefiting from learning better watering, fertilizing and growing techniques for small plots of land and teaching the improved techniques to others. Though their work is practical, these volunteers are filling a much greater need than they may realize. "The doctors give good attention to all the community...and that they have human...that they are very humanity people," Carol Antunez translates for Rosa Dominguez. The milk from Santos' cow not only will feed families around him, but will also supply milk and cheese everyday to the school children at Quebrada De Lajas. Missoula Medical Aid returns to Honduras in October. A grassroots effort that examines up to 6,000 rural Hondurans a year, operates on dozens and improves access to a healthful lifestyle is changing of lives in an historic region that much of the world has forgotten... but not Missoula.

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