Health Outreach

Quesada, Guatemala 2014

Sat, Jan 25, 2014.

This year’s trek started out quite interestingly.  Despite being the warmest day in over a week- and followed by extreme cold weather subsequently- there were issues with our plane just backing-up from the gate!  It seems as though the front wheels of a plane sometimes needs salt and ice to get enough traction, just like a car.  The plane made it to the de-icing area (-10 degC), and we noticed that the small 3-across seater, had a nice gap at the main door.  We prayed for proper pressurization of that door once we got airborne, about one and a half hours late.  The arrival into Houston was hectic, as I assigned the fastest sprinters to run to our connecting gate so that they could hold the plane.  The plan was successful, and we then arrived in Guatemala City on schedule.

As project leader for Team Quesada, I had to check out the new digs…. The municipality of Quesada and Quesada Solidaria, together built a wonderful community building.  One section of the new edifice is for the medical clinic.  I looked at the second floor area, and assigned four operative chairs in the first two large rooms, with a half wall to divide each of them into two separate area.  The third large room was designated as the surgery room.  One of the medical clinic’s treatment rooms was made into the diagnosis and anaesthesia room.  The team unloaded the luggage vehicle, as well as the storage room, and moved everything to the second floor.  Unexpectedly, Team Quesada went to build the foldable treatment chairs, and assemble the ADEC units.  Stocking of the rooms began, until I said enough is enough, as it was getting really dark, and we still had to travel to our hotel in Jutiapa.  We all had a very good night’s sleep after a full day of commuting and heavy lifting.

Sun, Jan 26th.

Bright and early, we went to the clinic to set up more things.  Diego, who is Eloisa’s husband, stays with us the whole week.  Diego brainstormed every possible place to put the compressors, and we finally settled on the roof!  We had hoses going down into the windows of the second floor- looked funny, but worked out greatly! 

Air was on, so we were a green light to go!  At 10:30 am on Sunday, we were able to start diagnosing and treating children.  This short four hour run was a great way to see if machinery was operating well, and that we had all our needed supplies.  The rookies: Shirley, Charline, Anita, Bahar, Dr. Alex, Dr. Peter and his wife Sheila, got a taste of what they signed-up for, and all loved it… but that was only the first day, and a half day at that….

That evening we enjoyed a celebratory meal at El Solar, a restaurant in Jutiapa.

Mon, Jan 27th.

This was our true first day of the clinic, and full-time, i.e. 8am to 3pm (extended by 1 hour from previous missions).  On our arrival to the site, we saw upwards of 50-60 children waiting anxiously (some were REALLY ANXIOUS) in line for treatment.  The people in and around Quesada are all pretty orderly, respectful, and honest.  The patients and their parents were not trying to jump the queue, or any pushing & shoving, nor any theft of the toys, clothing, or stationary supplies we were handing out.  All things mechanical went smoothly, so I could concentrate on triage (diagnosis station), and administering local anaesthesia.  One could see on their faces that the children and parents were noticeably happy by our mission.  A long and tiring day, but it was truly rewarding to the Team Quesada members.  Amongst the minor mishaps was the resident doctor having a seizure in her room, and falling backwards from her chair, hitting her head on the concrete wall.  I noticed a commotion, and then came to her aid… she was OK.  As for the dental clinic, one patient with Down’s syndrome and a history of epilepsy, had a seizure well after her treatment.  The situation was handled very professionally by Drs. Stephen & Alex.  Many positive comments and constructive points and suggestions were offered.  These ideas will be used for future missions.

Tues, Jan 28th.

Now that the Team members have a good idea of the system, and the flow of the new clinic, then it is good that everyone turned it up one notch, in terms of intensity, speed and concentration.  This day seemed to have some louder crying, with one child setting off a chain reaction, especially amongst the really young children.  Definitely, the four restorative dentists Drs. Mark, Peter, Alex and Stephen, were able to fix many more teeth.  With the great help of a dental assistant Charline, who is also a regional representative for Dentsply Tulsa Endo, Dr. Mark performed the first root canal for Health Outreach in Quesada, on a pretty young girl, on her central incisor.  Without that root canal, she would have lost her infected middle tooth!- a great victory that the entire Team can share.

Wed, Jan 29th.

Each day brings its own challenges.  But this day seemed to go much the same as the preceding days.  As a minor trial, Dr. Alex was called upon midday to handle the triage position.  He did such a great job of diagnosis, treatment planning and administration of local anaesthesia- that he was asked to perform this role for the following day.  That evening, we went to a waterpark just outside of Jutiapa.  The water had cooled down over the course of the afternoon, but the waterslide did offer ample excitement, as the vertical drop on the slide was something unlike anything else found in North America… perhaps a bit too fast!  We enjoyed a simple meal at the waterpark restaurant that evening.

Thurs, Jan 30th.

If the goal of the mission is to help as many children as possible, then this day showed the goal being achieved by the members of Team Quesada.  We knew all our roles, and went about with professionalism, and intensity, right at 8am.  We also knew that there were many children from the day before who already had medical history forms filled, and had already been treatment planned.  These children were at the front of Thursday’s queue, and the triage dentist, Alex, went about anaesthetizing many children to get them ready for the treatment rooms.  There were so many patients that day, so the group agreed to all work until 4pm.  That day saw the most number of children, and resulted in the most number of procedures done- 198 fillings/extractions/root canals/pulpotomies.  The group that night enjoyed a nice meal celebrating Chinese New Year’s Eve at La Fuente, a Chinese restaurant in Jutiapa.

Fri, Jan 31st.

Fresh from our high producing day on Thursday, the last day, Friday is only meant as less than half a day.  The team continued their high work ethic, and everyone went about their roles with the same high level of intensity.  The resultant numbers of procedures was over 150!  Then came the saddening dismantling of our 6-day dental clinic.  A clinic that served around 300 children, with more comprehensive care than they had ever received before.  A clinic that produced over 890 procedures in that short time.  And now the clinic stands empty, waiting for future volunteers to provide their skill, expertise, hard- work, and above all compassion to help the most needy of all, the children.  Some tears were shed at our final luncheon.  Some positive anticipation was nevertheless felt by the members, as we were packing for Week #2, a mission for the next week to Rio Dulce. 

On our 4 hour trek towards Antigua, we passed by a project that Quesada Solidaria is working on, it is called San Gabriele, a project for single mothers.  The volunteers saw directly the conditions in which many of the children that we treated, live.  They were happy to see us, as many of us were still wearing our medical scrubs, knowing that perhaps in the future, we can treat them also.  The children hugged us, and took many pictures with us.  The team members also saw the recently built house that was constructed all for about $2500 USD.  This sturdy house with roof, will provide a home, rather than a temporary shelter, for a mother and her new child, for many decades.  Diego and Eloisa, of Quesada Solidaria, recounted many stories of many women being treated as property by their husbands, and sometimes abused for even seeing male medical/dental practitioners, for fear of extra-marital affairs.  For some men, the role of the wife is to bear and raise children for them.  Many men also have substance abuse, leading to spousal abuse.  Just a simple story that I can recount involved a mother of eight who came with her children for dental care in Quesada.  After anaesthetizing two of the children, I brought them upstairs to the treatment rooms.  While climbing the staircase, I noticed the mother as I passed by, holding the end of her skirt well below her knees in a very guarded manner, and trying to maintain distance between us.  She was trying to guard herself as I, as a male was passing her.

This eventful day also saw a bit of an adventure, as the van carrying all of the Week#2 equipment and supplies, broke down in the highway.  After quickly checking-in to the hotel, a couple of us big–strapping (sarcasm) men went to retrieve the luggage and supplies from the highway, and then returned to the hotel in Antigua for some well-deserved sleep.

Sat, Feb 1st.

A beautiful, sunny day in Antigua was enjoyed by all.  We started at the famous cross on the hill, and then descended down towards the city and enjoyed a nice walking tour of the former capital of Guatemala.  We even saw puffs of smoke (like endodontic sealer on an x-ray!) emitting from one of the Volcanoes, Fuego.  The team members also had a nice day of bargain-hunting and haggling in the famous marketplace of Antigua.  We enjoyed a chocolate museum, in which we tried some fantastic samples, including tasty chocolate liqueurs.  By late afternoon, the Team #2 members had arrived from cold, snowy Toronto, and were getting settled in for their short half-day stay in Antigua.  The big van for week #2 was also being loaded.  All the Health Outreach volunteers for weeks #1 and #2 were now at the same hotel.  It was a strange mix of relief, and celebration of a job well done by week #1 team members, and the nervous anticipation, and excitement by the week #2 team members.  We all shared the great traditional Saturday dinner of both teams at the Las Palmas restaurant/and Salsa dancing bar.  A wonderful night for a great group of kind, and very compassionate people!

Sun, Feb 22nd.

We sent off Team#2 into the inaugural mission for Health Outreach to Rio Dulce.  It will be a new adventure for the charity.  As for Team Quesada, we were chatting over breakfast the great experiences of the week- many events that we will never forget.  We are already thinking about 2015!

Daniel Lee

Project leader, Quesada 2014

2014 Quesada Stat Summary.pdf


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