Thursday, September 25, 2014

Medical 2 of 3: What is a Mobile Medical/Dental Clinic?

Putting the two words “medical” and “camp” together may sound very foreign to the American ear. I remember when we first started working internationally, and the organization we were partnering with was planning a “surgery camp.” Doesn’t that just sound like the worst kind of summer camp to go to? When I went to summer camp as a kid we did things like archery, horseback riding, and swimming. Nobody was getting a knee operation. Internationally, the word “camp” is used a little wider than it is in America. The word comes from the Latin campus which simply means “level ground” and that is what we are looking for in our “camps” - level ground. Or sometimes just somewhat level is all we can find. We travel to different villages, and if there is an established nurse with a health post, we set up in or near the health post. If there is no health post, then we look for level ground to set up our tent. Sometimes that is in a school compound, but sometimes it is just an empty piece of ground in the village. We usually have both a doctor and a dentist with us. We also carry about 200 lb. of medication and supplies. We set up in the health post or tent and announce to the village that we are ready to see patients. Usually that is when the dam breaks we are flooded with people until we turn them away for the night. People are registered and then get to see the doctor, dentist, or both depending on their need. The doctors are able to do check-ups and physicals, prescribe antibiotics for infections, and provide medicine for high blood pressure, STDs, asthma, fungi, and many other ailments. The dentists are able to do cleanings, extractions, tooth restorations (for cavities), and even provide dental crowns. Of course a main focus for both the doctor and dentist is education. Simple medical education about hygiene, diet, and basic teaching on how our bodies work is extremely helpful. The fact that quite a few people in their thirties and forties in the high valleys are missing half (or nearly all) of their teeth is proof that oral hygiene education is greatly needed as well. We usually stay in one place for two or three days, seeing around 60 patients a day. Usually part of every day the doctor will do house calls to those people who can’t make it out of their homes. Those are usually the hardest times for the doctors. For many of those patients, usually with failing hearts or livers,  there is not much we can do except ease some of their discomfort. Sometimes just being with them is the best thing we can do. With everyone we see, we have the opportunity to share with them and pray for them as well. After the second or third day, we pack up and are on our way to the next place.