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El Salvador Brigade A Success, 1,800 Patients Seen and Treated

From August 1st to 6th, MedWish engaged 40 volunteers in its seventh medical brigade, this time focusing on El Salvador. Over the course of a week, over 1,600 patients were treated in the field with supplies collected and packaged by our warehouse volunteers. Aside from the actual brigadiers, MedWish wants to thank everyone who helped pack bags and sort for materials in the lead up for the event. You are too numerous to mention in one newsletter. Travelers first met at Cleveland Hopkins Airport, at 4AM for a first flight to Texas and final connection to El Salvador. Unlike previous years, most of those in the group had never done medical mission work. There were 40, 30 being from the Cleveland area and another 10 first flying in from outside Ohio. Most were strangers to each other, something quickly rectified by a week of serving others in the field. The group also included nearly a dozen volunteers under the age of 18. This struck volunteer Dr. Howard Kimmel, Residency Director of Foot & Ankle Surgery at the VA Hospital in Cleveland. “These parents could have spent $2000 and taken their kids to Disney World,” said Dr. Kimmel. “Instead they engage them in a wonderful thing.”

After catching a connecting flight from Texas, the team arrived in Zaragoza, outside of the capital of San Salvador. There they met with their contact on the ground, Magda, and her team of El Salvadorian volunteers. The first day was almost like one at the MedWish warehouse as the volunteers had to unpack and organize the supplies into stations. These include general & acute care, an eyeglass station, ENT, dental, pharmacy, and even an arts & craft station to keep children entertained while their parents were treated. Nurse Gayle Marks worked one of the intake stations with a Spanish speaking volunteer and local runners that ferried slips of patient information to her table. “We just stood there for eight hours [receiving patients], and we didn’t move…it was wonderful,” she said, hardly dismayed by the sheer numbers of people lining up for care. Volunteers understood the need was great, but certain cases made for harrowing situations. Intake volunteers reported patients complaining of a common cold when, actually, volunteers could tell they were infected with a fungal parasite. Four cases were serious and referred to the local hospital for further treatment. Pharmaceuticals were in high demand, especially the kinds of OTC medications people here leave in the cupboard. Parents would line up for hours to get a baggie of 30 chewable vitamins or a single dose of ibuprofen to clear up a headache. However harrowing, our brigadiers returned emboldened to want to return and continue to help the underserved worldwide.

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