Agua Blanca, Guatemal Our first village

"...the connection to those families began long before our hike."

After spending months preparing and planning, the day had finally come. Today was the day we would hike through the vegetation to meet the families we been thinking of for so long. Despite having never met them, the connection to those families began long before our hike today. Like many others, I found myself imagining how this experience would go, what the faces of the the children would look like, and would I be up for the challenge?

"My eyes and mind were quickly jarred as I adjusted my definition of poverty."

I was able to ride in the back of a pickup today, taking in the surroundings in a unique way. My eyes and mind were quickly jarred as I adjusted my definition of poverty. As we traveled through the "city" you could clearly see the fight for financial survival. Dirt roads, corner stores constructed of tin, and women weaving their traditional dresses all evidence of this struggle. At a loss for words, my mental vocabulary was reduced to "Wow!"

"...as if someone knew it was at this point of the trail we would need a reminder..."

It wasn't long before we came to the trailhead that would answer all the questions we pondered the last few months. We started out with high hopes, full of spirit and energy. The hike into this village was primarily down hill, but it was also unforgiving. I found myself falling behind others and still others falling behind me. The trail was dense, wet, and rocky. It didn't take long for the first person to slip and it took even less for me to be next. The trail quickly drained us of energy, but it couldn't take our spirit. Somewhere near the end of the trail, when nothing could be seen through the surrounding vegetation, an uplifting sight came within view. My body was losing the battle to the mountain side. I was fatigue, sore, and out of breath. As if done on purpose -- as if someone knew it was at this point of the trail we would need a reminder, a simple primitive church appeared at a fork in the trail. The trail opened up to a clearing allowing for the sun to light up the cross affixed to the roof. This symbol served as a reminder of why I agreed to carry a heavy pack through this terrain. We pushed ahead and were rewarded by a humbling sight. Once the building, that we would make into our clinic, came into view; we were greeted by a long line of men, women and children awaiting our arrival. Our feelings of exhaustion were replaced with a sense of duty and pride.

"We were overwhelmed not only the number of patients..."

We were overwhelmed not only the number of patients but also by the gratitude showed by the families. I was at a slight disadvantage in talking to the patients about their conditions, but it was impossible to miss the appreciation in the smiles of those we treated. One of our patients that day was a young boy with impetigo (a bacterial skin infection). The location of the infection was very concerning because it was near his eye. This infection is very common among children here in the states, and worldwide. The difference -- here in the states simple antibiotics , which are widely available, are used to treat this. Unfortunately, this simple solution was not an option for this little boy. As a result, if it were to be left untreated, this could threaten his vision. Imagine that for a moment if you can...Your son or daughter could lose their vision to a common infection, that is easily treated, simply because he wasn't born in the right location. I say with great pride, that we were able to provide a powerful antibiotic to this little man.

"Our hearts grew a bit bigger that day..."

I was able for the first time, to offer a diagnosis and treatment plan to patients. It was a turning point in my life as a medical provider. It is a humbling way to start my career and continue my education. It was a hard day. It started quick and ended even faster, but when it was all said and done we had made a difference. The change was not only in the patients we saw, but also in ourselves. Our hearts grew a bit bigger that day, as they welcomed the people of Agua Blanca, San Cristobal Guatemala in with love.

Agua Blanca, Guatemal

Not our last visit

Brian Cardona, PA-S2

bpcardona@gmail.com

Credits:

Brian Cardona(https://www.flickr.com/photos/90102096@N03) Alex Nguyen(https://www.flickr.com/photos/66033655@N02/)

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