From Monday, May 18 through Wednesday, May 21, 2015, two United States physicians and six medical assistants performed medical histories and physical examinations on 89 of the 90 students of Centro Educativo Técnico Chixot. This project was lead by Joe Hull, MD and Elizabeth Rose, MSW, MS, board member of Long Way Home. The other participants were: Alyse Fiamma, Casey Sussman, Giulia Fleishman, Olivia Hull, Alex Sinclair, and Stephanie Sinclair, MD, our second doctor.
The group stayed at Feliciano Perén’s Hotel Comalapa Sol. The Sunday before the exams were to commence, Dr. Joe (locally called Dr. "Yo"), introduced the history and physical form the group would be using to document the findings. The clinical data collected included: Temperature; Screening urinalysis using urine test strips to detect blood, protein, sugar, and signs of infection; Blood pressure and pulse; Height and weight; a physical exam with the doctors including listening to heart and lungs, palpating abdomen, using an otoscope and ophthalmoscope for looking in ears and eyes, and a tongue depressor to check throat and tonsils; and finally, a verbal interview with student and, when available, an accompanying parent, to review medical history and current problems. Joe also taught the basics of taking temperatures, blood pressures, pulses, and the urinalysis to the group.
In general, Dr. Stephanie Sinclair examined the girls and Dr. Joe Hull examined the boys. The group decided to use Casey and Olivia as escorts, shepherding the students between stations and assisting with translation from English to Spanish and back again. These interpreters were also an essential presence in each student’s examination, ensuring clear communication between the doctors, parents and children.
The remaining volunteers received station assignments - Giulia at urinalysis, Alex at temperatures, Elizabeth at height and weight, and Alyse at blood pressure and pulse. This structure worked well and was used throughout the three days of exams.
The medical form was distributed to each student’s parents about a week in advance so they could record the child’s medical history and current symptoms or problems. Many were in attendance to speak with the doctors about the results of the exams and the reasons why some students were referred to the Centro de Salud in Comalapa for further evaluation.
The most common complaints were abdominal pain and headaches. The doctors and staff have concerns that the students are not drinking enough water nor eating regularly. When they complain of thirst parents often give them soda, and they seem to be drinking only one glass of water per day, on average. Over the summer, LWH staff member Gabriela Queme surveyed every student's family and found that 32% of our children don't receive breakfast and many of those that do receive only a cup of coffee and a piece of sweet bread. As a result of the medical mission and the survey results, LWH is planning to implement a breakfast smoothie program in 2016 utilizing local fruits, veggies grown in the school gardens, and a natural supplement, such as amaranth, also grown on site. It is our hope that providing a nutritious and delicious licuado each morning will improve students' abilities to concentrate and feel more comfortable during the school day.
~Elizabeth Rose, LWH Board Member