On Monday, June 25, International Medical Relief (IMR) brought a team of 30 doctors and nurses to Escuela Integrada to provide wellness checks, health education and comprehensive exams for those with presenting ailments. The doctors included a physical therapist, ophthalmologist, gynecologist, foot specialist and pediatrician among other specializations. IMR provided the clinics to Escuela Integrada students and families at no cost.
“When the children from our school are sick, they can’t go to the doctor. They don’t have the money,” said Bradler Santos, principal of Escuela Integrada, in Spanish.
According to Santos, there are six major health concerns for the families from Escuela Integrada. They have problems with their teeth and oral health, and suffer from stomach infections, respiratory ailments, fevers, low vision, and difficulty with digestion due to poor nutrition and a lack of vitamins. The national hospitals in Guatemala do not have sufficient medicine, doctors or space to care for all the patients who are ill.
“If the children are sick, they can’t pay attention in class or study, and they miss many days of school,” Santos said. “If the parents are sick, they can’t take care of their children.”
The IMR team saw 199 patients over six hours, three hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon. Escuela Integrada students are on break this week, which allowed the team to use the classrooms and common spaces at the school for the clinics. Each patient’s first stop was a triage table where nurses assessed their vitals—blood pressure, body temperature, weight and pulse—and asked them about other presenting problems.
If the patients had symptoms of other ailments, they moved from the triage table to one of the examination rooms. IMR provided a small medical lab for fluid tests and diabetes checks, as well as a pharmacy where patients could fill prescriptions and receive over-the-counter medicines. In addition, IMR offered eye exams and reading classes at various strengths for anyone with low vision. A physical therapist was also available to demonstrate exercises and stretches for those with musculoskeletal pain.
“A lot of our families don’t know what causes their illnesses,” Santos said. “The IMR doctors help them understand the situations that make them sick. Then, they are able to tell other family members how to protect themselves, how to change their living situation to be in better health.”
Before leaving Escuela Integrada, all of the patients visited a health education table where they received information about washing their hands, protecting their skin in the sun and maintaining good dental hygiene. Patients practiced brushing teeth and flossing using a 3D model and received a toothbrush and floss to take home.
“The centerpiece of what we do is to leave the people with health education, to help them know more about their health and well-being,” said Donna Tully, IMR trip leader for the current Guatemala mission. “The medicines will get used up, but the education continues.”
A team from IMR first provided care at Escuela Integrada in January after Amy King, wife of GRACES board member, Kevin King, connected with a trip leader in November of 2017. The IMR team was staying at the same hotel as the GRACES board members during the annual Supporters Gathering. Later, IMR committed to providing clinics at the school two times per year, once in January and once in the summer.
IMR offers short-term and long-term medical mission trips for underserved communities around the world. They specialize in mobile medical clinics, sustainable health education and disaster relief. During their time in Guatemala, they will spend time serving communities in need, such as Escuela Integrada, as well as providing acute medical care for the victims of the Fuego volcano eruption.