The Final Push

Our final days have finally arrived and it is with mixed emotions we count down these last 48 hours. I will spare you a rant as I haven’t completely wrapped up all my thoughts and in the meantime I’ll fill you in on our last two weekends of fun. We have been tourists to the max with the two crazy cats (and great friends) you see in the pictures below. Our Guatemala bucket list is nearing completion!

There were a couple of activities we had left on our to do’s for Quetzaltenango. The first was a day trip to Fuentes Georginas (warm water baths) and a stop at the Almolonga market. This particular market is where a majority of the produce for our area is produced and sold. We then see the individuals in our markets close to home. We hopped a chicken bus and set off stopping first at the market (30 min ride) and finishing the trip in Zunil. We then took the 9km ride to the site of the springs in the back of a out-dated Toyota pickup truck. Needless to say…on the way back it rained.

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Much to our surprise there were very few tourists there. We enjoyed a relaxing lunch pool side followed by an hour in some nice, natural, warm water. 20130729-154829.jpg

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That following Sunday we attended our first Xela soccer game. The team is called the SuperChivos (Super Rams) and this was just a friendly game as they are currently in the off season. They pulled out the victory and it was a great time! It’s fun to see the city come out to support their local athletic team. One of the main differences is it cost us less than $10 total to enter.

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We spent this last weekend, just returning this morning, touring the northern Peten region of Guatemala. This climate of this area is completely different (incredibly humid and tropical). Within the jungles sit a handful of Mayan archaeological sites. We had heard great things about this area, so last Thursday night loaded an overnight bus from the capital and traveled north for the eight hour trek. We then stayed one night in Tikal (the most well-known of these areas) and the following night in Flores (a lake town about 45-min from the reserve). It was fabulous…and a bit warm!

This photo was from the top of one of the temples overlooking the entire area.
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Our wonderful guide Josue (Joshua in English).IMG_1939

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Another view from the top…IMG_2744

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IMG_2763It was like pulling teeth to get this child-at-heart husband of mine to stop jumping off this dock with the locals. IMG_2088

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So there you have it. Our last two weekend in Guatemala complete and we head home in two days. Can’t believe its finally arrived! Prayers for safe travels…

xoxo, N

Details on Uspantán.

I wanted to give you all a little more insight (and a few pictures too…) about our trip to Uspantán.  The city of Uspantán is a four-hour drive from Quetzaltenango through the mountains of Guatemala.  In places the roads are questionable and the speed bumps (everywhere, yes on the highway) are many.  Roger and Vicki make this trip weekly, as they have a mission and church in the area that has prospered.  When in town for their 48-hour trips Vicki sees patients in her home clinic, while Roger works to expand the missions of the village church.

Uspantán is a municipality in the Guatemalan Department of El Quiché.  It is one of the larger municipalities within this department and has a population of 2,800.  It has one main street with a church and market at its center.  The middle of this street is lined with small wooden structures that house the market stores everyday.  We stayed at a local hotel, Hotel Gabriel, on the main street and walked, less than 5 minutes each day, to the church.  The clinic was organized the church building.

Patients waiting in the upstairs hallway…at times there were over 30 people waiting.

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The main church.  You can see the altar at the front and the benches for those waiting to check in or be seen.

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Looking down on Uspantán from the hill above the church.
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The waiting game…
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Outside of the church.  The clinic was held on the first and second floor of the stone building to the right.

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Vicki’s working area…minus Vicki.  IMG_2242

I would like to think our team functioned as a well-oiled machine; at least, the second, third and fourth days we did.  We were 11 members strong.  Our team consisted of:

Dr. Stuart is the President of IICD and primarily saw patients with chronic conditions (diabetes, HTN…).  Phillip was used as his translator but also was used as a nutritionist (big need).

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The pharmacy crew consisted of Toni (Doctor of Pharmacy), her husband JL (on the left), Tiffany (Registered nurse and Translator), Chris Lemley (History teacher), and myself.

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Our fearless driver Marvin on the right talking with Mr. Lemley.

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Doctora Meggie (DNP) working with a patient.

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Vicki Grossman (DNP) hard at work as well.

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Taylor (translator) and Dr. John Walley (pediatrician).  IMG_2302

On Sunday we saw around 90 patients total, Monday over 150 (we were working hard), Tuesday around 130, and Wednesday 90 patients.  It went by so fast and everyday there was a handful of people hoping to get numbers to be seen.  We treated anything from general aches and pains to severe heart problems and infectious diseases.  It was eye opening and life changing (last time I mention that).  We hope to work with this team next year when they return for this medical mission.

Here are a few extra pics of the people and team hard at work (PICTURE OVERLOAD!).

Chris hard at work explaining those meds…in the background are Marisol (on the left) and Esperanza (on the right).  They are two health promoters in the area that work with Vicki to improve the overall health and wellness of the community.  Vicki is then able to see a handful of people out of her house-clinic once a week.

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Tiffany also helped to translate for Dr. Stuart.

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 Hope all is well stateside.  Looking forward to seeing some of you very shortly 🙂

Xoxo, N

Fun and Friends

Sincerest apologies for the delay in a post.  We have been traveling machines this last week.

To quickly reference Phillip’s last post, Uspantán was life changing.  The experiences we had there were ones we will never forget.  We worked with a fabulous team and feel blessed to have had the opportunity.  We feel as if the experience found us since it was not something we had planned when we initially made the decision to go abroad.  I will post some pictures from that trip on a later date.

This post I’m dedicating to a little bit of vacationing we did the last week.  We met the Lemley’s the weekend we went to Uspantán.  They are a lovely couple from the Dallas area that have put their United States lives on hold to do mission work for the next 2 years.  Chris will be teaching history to 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th (too many grades if you ask me…) at the Inter-American School in Quetzaltenango.  Megan has received her Doctorate as a Nurse Practitioner and will be helping out Vicki at the clinic.  They’ve quickly become dear friends and accompanied us on part of our excursions last weekend.

Our first stop was Panajachel to the area of Lago de Atitlan.  This area is a natural lake, flanked by two volcanoes.  The view is breathtaking and tops one of the touristy sites of Guatemala.  We considered it a “must do”—when in Rome right—so, we boarded one of those school bus, public transportation, “chicken buses” at the main bus terminal (Yikes!) and took the four-hour trip to the lake.  That was an experience all it’s own.  What a better way to celebrate the fourth of July weekend, correct?!   We relaxed by the lake, took a boat trip to a neighboring village, and enjoyed the sites.  This city still maintained the Guatemalan feel, with lots of local goods while adopting a bohemian feel as well from all the tourism.  For instance, our travelers guide describes the neighboring lake-village of San Marcos to be famous for “it’s holistic and healing centers, veggie cafes, yoga and rebirthing classes and all things esoteric” (Rough Guides).  This is a great way to sum up the feel of this area.  It often is a retreat for the locals from the chaos of the Capital.

A couple different scenery pics for you…

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We then parted ways with the Lemley’s taking another (not public bus) small bus to Antigua.  This city used to be the capital of Guatemala prior to 1776.  Many earthquakes ravaged Antigua, leaving handfuls of buildings in a state of ruin.  The city has a completely different feel from Panajachel.  It is definitely more classic and upscale, well-manicured streets, clean, and adorned with Cathedral after Cathedral.  Tourism is heavy here as well with numerous language schools, museums, and foreigners.  While the city if beautiful, we left feeling like it didn’t give an adequate representation of how 99% of the country lives.  We were happy to return to our quaint little apartment in the city that never sleeps!

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IMG_2625My husband is a goof ball.

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All in all, the trip was great.  We can check those things off our Guatemala bucket list.  It’s crazy to think we only have two weeks left here.  How the time flies.  Hope everyone had a great fourth of July!

 Xoxo, N

On mobile clinics…initial thoughts

We’re only a day removed from completing our mobile medical clinic in Uspantán, Guatemala, and I’m feeling compelled to share some initial thoughts.  You might be saying to yourself, but, Phillip, we didn’t know you were in Uspantán.  By the way, where is Uspantán?  Why a medical clinic there?  What do you mean by ‘mobile’?  Long story short, Guatemala suffered a 30-year-long civil war that ravaged the country.  Most of the death and destruction occurred in this very town in the Guatemalan department of El Quiché.  We’re here because the public hospital sees very few patients.  There’s a church with accessible rooms.  And, there’s an intimate connection between helping the sick and the teachings of Christ.

In the past, I’ve been connected to healthcare in many ways: a grandfather who practiced for 50 years as a cardiologist; a wife who’s a nurse; myself, many hours volunteering in the emergency department of a public hospital; JRM Foundation heart assessments.  All of these experiences have provided me perspective.  All pale in comparison to what I’ve seen in the last four days.  This is a bold generalization that definitely DOES NOT apply to all.  But, much of what I’ve seen in the past are providers and patients who’ve forgotten what it means to selflessly care for others and the gracefulness and appreciation that comes with being cared for.  Many project an entitlement to care and an entitlement to compensation.  Many forget that we’re here to do God’s good work, and others forget how other’s talents can generously bless us.

Speaking of the technicalities, Nikki spent her time helping in the pharmacy, ensuring medications were accurately dispensed and practicing her Spanish along the way.  (I must say I’m very proud of how my wife has put herself out there to accept the challenges that come with learning a new language.  She’s really smart.)  I split my time between translating for Dr. Bob Stuart, Internal Medicine and doing nutrition consultations.  It’s been a long time and my consultations commenced with a degree of anxiety, but after awhile I was pleased knowing some of my knowledge was being put to use to educate others.  Unfortunately – not too different from what America has done to itself – these people have been affected by the bottom line where the unintended consequences of ‘productive’ and cheap food production have led to chronic disease.  Combine this with very little access to all levels of healthcare, and you see a community of people who are surviving longer on calorie-dense foods, in turn procreating at a greater rate, but who still lack the ability to make wise decisions and improve their standard of wellness.

My heart aches for these people.  As mentioned, they’ve seen firsthand the brutalities of war.  Many have personal stories of being kidnapped; many have stories of watching entire family’s throats be slit while forced to witness, eyes open; others live out their lives to old age all alone.  It’s those kind of people in whom you find yourself asking, “How do you even live on?”  But, it’s in these same people you see the beauty and resilience in humanity.  It should come as no surprise that many of these people who have found a will to live are supported by an unwavering faith in a higher power.  It’s in these people I find hope and a motivation to do good work…for them.

I write with a joyous exhaustion and an awareness of this great blessing that has been bestowed upon the Mann household.  We were very fortunate to be accepted into a very humble and talented team – a team without ego and pride.  During our time together, there was a level of calm and synergy I can only assume are side effects of a group of people who are united in their purpose.

There was no entitlement.  There was only pure, genuine patient care.

Que Dios le bendiga,

Phillip

C.P.R.

I can’t believe another week has blown by. We are practically halfway through this journey of ours, and I know the second half will breeze by faster, as we have multiple trips planned. Starting tomorrow — in the morning, we are taking off at the crack of dawn for Uspantan (and by we I mean Phillip; I leave later in the day). This is a small town about 4 hours north of us, rich in indigenous peoples, primarily speaking the Quiche language. A medical team is headed in from North Carolina to see over 100 patients a day. There are two physicians and two nurse practitioners. Phillip will be assisting with nutrition consults and translation, while I am holding down the fort in the pharmacy. There, I will also be assisting with some translating (believe it folks…I’m capable). Phillip is off first, due to transport glitches, with the trusty organization driver Marvin. Many a Christian CD in tow, they are driving four hours to the capital to pick up the incoming team, and then another five hours to Uspantan. Pray for them!

On another note…I helped to teach CPR this week. Am I qualified? Questionable, but I did it. CPR is a part of their second-year anatomy program and is not an actual requirement to become a Guatemalan physician (little frightening). There are only FIVE…yes FIVE…AED’s in the entire city of Quetzaltenango. That’s nothing and who’s to say people even know how to use those five that are around. The course is taught by Dr. Cifuentes (trusted, and possibly the best, orthopedic surgeon in town) and her husband, Otto, also CPR certified (I believe). Dr. Cifuentes has taught at San Carlos University (the public university in town) for over 25 years. The last two members of the team were a medical student, preparing to apply for an OBGYN residency and then myself. We taught two days in a row and each class had 60, second-year, medical students. Reminder, it’s a six-year bachelor’s program here. Dr. Cifuentes (Chici for short) shared with me that she sees 500 students their second year and by fourth year there are only, at most, 150 left. She then selects ten to round with her in the OR. Chici, on top of teaching, does most of her non-emergent surgeries Friday and Saturday, while organizing multiple physician teams from the states (plastics, primary care…etc) to come down. She’s a VERY busy woman, to put it plainly.

All in all, this experience was quite eye opening (again). I had absolutely NO instruction of what was expected of me, and was definitely thrown to the wolves. They don’t even use check-off sheets or hand out certificates. Fortunately for them, the group I taught the second day ended the class much more informed than the one I taught the day before. I was so thankful Otto was there to help me translate bits and pieces as I walked them through the CPR procedure and the AED. The process in the states is constantly changing and its very difficult for the appropriate materials and instructions to make it to Guatemala. Maybe there is BLS teaching in my future stateside…

The amazing Chici herself…she’s fabulous.

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An empty classroom. This was the procedure – – class begins at or around 1000, they listen to Chici lecture over the anatomy and finer details of CPR, watch a long video (while we went and got some coffee) and then around 1230 take a twenty minute lunch break. When they return they set up three stations with sleeping bags (required for points) and break out the alcohol and cotton balls (for clean hands and required for points as well). Mannequins are setup on the blankets and the teaching begins. They then practice until about 230pm. All of the classrooms enter to an open courtyard and the facility itself is not that well-preserved. Lots of graffiti and you can hear every noise outside the windows. I think a dog barked for at least twenty minutes the first day of class.

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Somewhat of a full classroom view…that’s paint on the windows.Image

Getting ready to begin…white coats and all. Image

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I could elaborate on this experience for quite some time but I shall spare you and I apologize for the iPhone pictures. I was trying to be discreet.

So long internet for at least the next five days. How will we do it ;)!

xoxo,

Nik

Happy Fathers Day!

Happy Father’s Day to these fine chaps. We are lucky to have you and certainly don’t tell you enough!

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Love you to the moon and back and look forward to seeing you in a few weeks!

xoxo, N & P

It’s a church thing.

So far, we’ve had the opportunity to sit through two Quiche church services. To say they were different than services in America is an understatement. They are an ENTIRELY different ball game. They were both out-of-my-element, over-stimluating, these-people-are-passionate kind of experiences. The two services we attended, while similar, were each unique in their own right. Both churches were in Quiche villages outside of Quetzaltenango.

The first service we attended with a mission team from Jacksonville, Florida. We alone were 16 strong – 13 team members, the Mann’s and Vicki. The rest can’t be appreciated without pictures. The building itself looked like the first picture below and was located outside the small village in Gustavo’s backyard. It is one room, and on a good day holds 15-20 comfortably. The total number of attendees this particular Sunday was between 30-35 people. Gustavo (also the guard at the main property) is the head pastor and leader of the church. The Grossman’s attend this church every once in awhile, as they are also busy overseeing close to 20 churches total. The construction of this building is still underway. We arrived to the site right before a big thunderstorm unleashed its fury. As we rushed inside we packed into the small space. The lights weren’t up and running as of yet. However, luckily the doorway (no actual door) let in enough ambient light. In the dim-lit space, we were immersed into the passionate singing of a small group of Quiche people, loving the Lord.

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The group after the service was complete.

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The few pictures I took of the inside sum it up nicely. Its simple. The focus isn’t to construct an ornate, beautifully-decorated structure but only to serve as a gathering place, to serve the Lord and preach the Gospel. You don’t need much for that. The altar (as many would consider it stateside) consisted of a bible, a bench and a small table.
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The view from front to back…to give you a feel of the close quarters. Unfortunately, the Florida group consisted of 11 men and only 2 women…so it was cramped with big bodies. IMG_0838

The man standing led the beginning of the service. They then surprised the pastor within our group by asking him to speak for a bit and Gustavo (red shirt on the right) wrapped up the end of the service. They could not have been more grateful for our presence and welcoming to strangers. When they recite scripture they stand and most of them do it by memory alone. Many of the women in these congregations do not read/write…especially not in Spanish, but also, not in Quiche. There was TONS and TONS of singing. I tell ya, they just let it rain from the windpipes!
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Last Sunday we attended a different church. This one has been around for a bit longer than the first. It is within the actual village limits and has more members. There was easily 15 children alone at the service. They served the bread and the wine, and we listened to scripture (while standing) as we did in the first service. Again, the hymns were many and whatever key left their lips (definitely not all the same key) came from the heart.

The facade…the actual church is on the first floor. I would imagine people live above as well.

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This is the view from the front of the church, looking left. The road is dirt. The view is breathtaking. The climate in this area is coastal in feeling, because right behind the church begins a climb towards the main volcanoe (not active) in the area. Often, you will leave feeling damp because the misty fog is so extreme.

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This was the inside of the gathering space. They have a lovely painted mural and a more defined altar with a pulpit of sorts. As you can also tell from this photo, Roger is much taller than the average Quiche man or woman.

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These were the main three men running the service. The lead pastor is an older man looking to pass the torch. The problem in many of these churches is leadership…and the lack thereof. This particular congregation, as said earlier, has a lot of children. However, there aren’t bible schools or any ministry oriented toward them. The stories are passed down verbally. What is gathered is told, not read.

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The small wine cups they passed to each parishioner. IMG_1079

This is where I planned to leave you with a video…however, my inability to manage technology mixed with our somewhat unreliable internet is not allowing it.  If only you could just listen to the quality of the voices and the clapping, the enthusiasm, and the sweet innocent voices of children. These people are passionate about the words they are singing…whatever those words may be ;)! If anything this experience continues to show us that it doesn’t take much to serve the Lord.  Just a faith, a little hope, and a whole lot of love for the people.

Missing you all stateside. Keep cool!

xoxo, N

The Gospel Truth

This week the Mann’s have been sitting on the sidelines. Taking a T.O. (Time-out) from the construction scene and relaxing. This, inevitably has led to a lot of cabin fever and after Thursday, when that silly brace of Phillip’s comes off, we are back in action. We were able to enjoy the beginning of last week with a group from Florida planting trees, grouting bathrooms, and cutting tiles….just to name a few things. I will post some before and after pictures, but this small (I mean tiny) bathroom has taken us four times as long as we originally thought…and by we, I mostly mean Phillip!

Wednesday of last week we had the pleasure of joining Roger for a home visit to the city of Pachipaj, the region of Nahuala, where they have three missionaries that spend a couple days a week teaching at the school, leading a women’s group, and spreading the Good News. Historically, this area is extremely hard to get into as an outsider. The people tend to be very closed off. They are often nutritionally deficient and prone to violence (domestic of sorts). Women often marry and bear children at an early age. Other areas, as I mentioned before, where they have missionary groups are Santa Cruz and Uspantan….I believe Vicki mentioned they oversee 13 or so church plants in all. This particular morning we were supposed to attend the first bible study that Luis and Marco were hosting for the school-aged, kiddos of this region. Most are around 14 years of age and are in the 7th grade. Most schooling here only goes to the 9th grade, if they make it that far. Unfortunately, it was a nasty day with thunderstorms and fog, so no kids made it that morning. Saying it’s a tough and thankless job they are doing is an understatement. Preaching the Gospel of Christ to teenagers who have grown up with versions of Catholicism, Maya-nism, and other religions is a challenge. And this is where this blog post lands…

We had been able to see Luis and Marco in action before. Luis has a passion for the pastoral life and is at the University studying each Saturday to be a teacher. Marco has an amazing passion for the youth and is also attending the University for a degree in education while spending a couple weekdays in the village with the trio. Julia rounds this group out leading the women’s group in the village. A little over a week ago, on the property just outside of Xela, the boys put on, along with three other missionaries from the organization and Pastor Brady from Santa Cruz, a youth conference of sorts for 80 teenagers from this Quiche village. They were running around like teenagers do, segregated in boys and girls, grouping off, listening to what people had to say at times, while some didn’t pay attention in the least (as if they didn’t comprehend the Spanish, which some might not have). They played games, had an incredible lunch cooked all by Julia, and listened to a couple testimonies and small groups preaching the good news. Phillip and I both left with mixed emotions. As an outsider, and a Christian, you want them to just get it and understand. To believe, Have you! But being around long enough, we know that it doesn’t work this way. So you knock and keep on knocking, knowing that if you open even one persons eyes to the Truth than matters!

A few pictures portraying a little of the madness…

Luiz and Marco getting down to business, starting the day off strong.  They are the hands behind the magic.  Luiz is on the right and Marco is on the left.

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The madness that was the “salon” filled with close to 90 teenage bodies…

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Marco is hands down, one of the most passionate young men I have met.  He is inspirational and his passion for the youth and leading them to the Lord is amazing.  Not to mention he’s just a laid back, good guy, in general.
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Phillip Mann getting himself into some of the fun!

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Julia’s food was to die for.  She whipped up (for everyone!), fried chicken, tortillas, potato salad, and a rice mix.  It was far too much food for a simple lunch, but we were hungry hippos and there wasn’t much left.

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Boys will be boys…

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All in all, we are exploring and experiencing so many different things here.  We had the opportunity to attend a village church service with the Florida group that was filled with the Word, tons of singing and an overwhelming about of Amen’s and Alleluia’s.  That particular posts comes equipped with videos so look out :)!

Until next time.

xoxo, N

Oh, the knee

Prior to our current series of blog posts you may be wondering, why the hiatus, Nikki?  Well, you can blame it on this guy.  You see, January 5, 2013 I decided to ski down a run nearing the base of Beaver Creek at a leisure (seriously) pace, slid out on a patch of ice and tore my left knee ACL and meniscus.  Oh, joy!

We were fortunate to have access to Dr. Richard Cunningham, MD of Vail Summit Orthopedics – an exceptionally talented ACL reconstruction specialist – who was able to get me into surgery January 15th.  We were surprised by some of the newfound red tape we had to overcome with the insurance company, but we were very appreciative of the administrative staff who helped us get through the process.  I’m assuming the red tape was in preliminary response to healthcare reform, so it will be interesting to see how elective surgeries are approached in the future.  Yes, an ACL reconstruction is considered ‘elective’, because you can technically live without an ACL – assuming you don’t care about getting from point A to point B at any more than a walking pace. 

Since surgery, I have had an atypical recovery process primarily slowed by chronic prepatellar bursitis.  Sorry for the grotesque description to come.  But, what this means is I’ve had a recurring pocket of thick, motor oil-like blood on the top of my knee cap.  It’s like having a river feed a lake without a spillway.  The lake just keeps filling up.  Solutions to the problem vary, but I’ve always opted to have the fluid drained, which is a fairly straightforward procedure; stick in a syringe, and pull it out.  What’s mystified all is that the lake continues to fill up. 

We hoped and prayed that the last time I had it drained three days prior to our Guatemalan excursion would be the last.  The inflammation remained at bay during our flight and for about a week afterwards, but it started to creep back into my knee while doing tile work.  Maybe it was the up and down, getting on and off step stools, who knows?  Anyways, it was time to enlighten Vicki to the problem, whereby she immediately made me an appointment with Dr. Adriana Cifuentes, MD, who is arguable the best orthopedic surgeon in the entire country.  She did her fellowship in San Francisco and is a professor at the medical school in Quetzaltenango.  (I continue to be amazed by how the Lord blesses us.  He always provides.)

Upon meeting with Dr. Cifuentes, a 5’2” 110 lbs Energizer bunny, we were immediately inspired by her patient, caring nature and genuine intrigue of the problem at hand.  Being a knee expert in her own right, she made sure that all the pieces of the puzzle fit together from injury to surgery to bursitis to draining (x4) to today.  She gave us our options:  1. Do nothing.  2.  Drain it (with a caveat).  3.  Surgery to remove the bursa.  The caveat of option two was that she wanted me to immobilize my knee for eight days and then do physical therapy specifically for my bursa six to eight times after the eight-day period.  Seeing as I think it’s always best to avoid surgery when possible, I elected for option two.  I’ve tried option one in the past to no avail. 

There was nothing remarkable about the aspiration procedure, but what was incredibly unique was the cost of procedure and manner in which we paid: cash-pay only.  What did this mean?  It meant my visit and procedure only cost about $75 and physical therapy will only cost about $8 per session.  No bureaucratic red tape.  No compromising of patient care.  Just…patient care. 

I see both sides to the argument.  One side says that insurance is meant to dilute the cost of products or services across many, in turn lowering cost and providing access for all.  What a great idea.  The problem is when greed gets in the way of actually providing a stated product or service.  Would Dr. Cifuentes still be the best or have a continuous influx of patients if she had red tape, outrageous fees and/or hidden costs? 

So, I’m going to be a bum for the next week or so, hoping to resolve the issue with my knee.  The good thing is there are many things to do in the clinic, including taking myself for another head-spin interviewing patients.  Nikki will likely expand at some point on her goal to improve her Spanish, but right now she’s in Spanish class, which she’ll be taking every Tuesday henceforth until we return to the States.  I was joking with one of the Guatemalan workers the other day that she’s not normally this quiet.  Actually, it’s been kind of nice…  (Love you babe!)

Our love from Guatemala, 

Phillip

Let the Games Begin.

So now you know…my husband will be taking over this blog more often as we split our experiences and perspectives down the middle.  Hopefully his whit and charm will also keep you coming back for more ;)!

One week down, 11 more to go.  What a week it has been.  This week has been full of emotions, anxieties, and more in-depth, how can we solve the world’s problems, conversations than we have ever had.  Needless to say, we, in fact, feel like we have been sucker-punched.  Our eyes are open!

The city itself is many different worlds in one.  We live in a cultural hub, less than 5 minutes from Parque Central, where diverse populations abound.  Needless to say, we see more foreigners in this area as well.  The streets are narrow, and the cafe/nightlife/restaurant scene is lively.  It is what the local Americans call the “downtown”.  We then walk 40 minutes, each morning, to the clinic office, where, in stark contrast, smog and commercialization abound.  There is a distinct difference when you hit a main street or avenue.  The Walmart, Mcdonald’s, Burger King, and crazy bus system are the take aways of this trek.  We then procede to drive another 30-45 minutes (depending on who we are driving with and which car we are taking – reference previous post) to the land where the clinic is located.  This area is mountainous, lush, green, corn-fields abound, and chillier than the city.  All this, within thirty minutes of each other, who knew!

The clinic and our job here deserves a little more explanation, so bare with me as I dive right in.  First of all, we have been blessed to share this experience with Roger and Vicki Grossman.  Vicki and Roger are Baptist missionaries that have been in the Quetzaltenango and surrounding areas for over 20 years.  Vicki has her doctorate as a Nurse Practitioner and Roger, by trade, was a chemist.  He then received his Doctorate in Ministry and Masters in Divinity.  This is just putting a few of their MANY talents and accomplishments into words.  They have raised all three of their children here (for the most part) and have clinics and missions in the rural areas of Uspantan, Santa Cruz, Nahuala, and the surrounding area of Quetzaltenango.  Needless to say, with the support of the International Indigenous Community Development (IICD) organization, they are VERY very busy.  In our area alone, they run an office, are starting a new home for girls on the streets, and the large clinic/housing/office area where we will primarily be working.  Also, within all of these areas they have multiple missionary groups that are ministering the Gospel to the Guatemalan people.  Not to mention they lead multiple teams from the states that come down to support their missions.  I honestly, can not imagine how they keep it all running with so many balls in the air.  I think, often times, they wonder the same thing.  For now I will focus most of this blog on the last location mentioned – Clinica Buen Pastor.

As I stated earlier, the location of this clinic was chosen for a reason.  Vicki and Roger, in their ministries, primarily serve the Quiche people.  The Quiche people are a Mayan group and are the largest indigenous group in Guatemala.  They are one of the many under-served populations of this country.  Often they are knowledge deficient in areas of health and nutrition, diabetes runs high, and tradition is extremely important.  Their main diet is corn – whether it be tortillas for every meal, corn soup, corn coffee (yep it exists), corn…corn…and more corn.  That being said, they are often nutritionally deficient, even smaller than the average Guatemalan (Phillip is tall compared to most men here and I’m a female monster of sorts).  Many of these people speak Quiche as their primarily language and, often times, will come with a Spanish translator to the clinic, as many don’t speak Spanish at all.  Let me state again that this is a gross generalization of the people we are primarily working with.  The clinic serves the 13 surrounded villages of this area. It sits on 15-acres and is made of adobe.  It’s BEAUTIFUL!  The architecture speaks for itself as you will see.  The clinic is almost finished and they will soon advertise for it on the radio.  Without having to advertise, and having been open Monday-Thursday only since March 1st, they have seen over 400 patients.  That, in comparison, may not seem like many but they have one attendant (currently in nursing school) and one medical student (it is a five or six year bachelor’s program in Guatemala) that are at the clinic every day.  There is an actual doctor there on occasion and once the clinic is busier Vicki will also be there daily.  If I was more well-versed in Spanish (another blog post entirely…) I could probably see patients.  What many Guatemalans consider a “doctor” is vague and encompasses many professions.  The health system is one of the many broken things here.  The resources for the general population are scarce and public hospitals are very busy and poorly run.  Likely in the next couple weeks, once advertised, the flow in the clinic will greatly pick-up, stretching this staff to the limit.  For now, Phillip and I are helping with anything and everything.  This week alone, we helped facilitate movement of patients on a busy day (reference Phillip’s post), finished tiling the public bathroom (shout-out to Big Phil and his tiling expertise to the Mann boys), and are currently working hard on nutrition/hygiene/general health and well-being pamphlets and intake forms for when patients are first seen and on subsuquent visits.  Phew….the days are long and tiring, so luckily we sleep well in this city that NEVER sleeps.

Enough overload for now? How about some pictures of the property…..

Vicki our fearless leader and one of the most kind-hearted, intelligent, Christ-like woman I have ever come across.

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Her better half – – deserving of all the same praises.

IMG_2094This is the drive into the property…depending on the direction you enter.  The route we took one day was washed out that same afternoon with rain.  With ONE heavy day of rain, the highway was overtaken by mud and large rocks magically appeared in the roads.  That’s what happens I suppose then you cut down all the trees…IMG_1948

The view from the front of the property…the rains have greatly decreased the general smog and increased the beauty, all the while making our 40-minute walk home a little less enjoyable.  We are the ONLY ones well-equipped for this weather, it seems, as I sense rain coats and water repellant pants/shoes are a commodity around here.  Umbrellas seem scarce as well.

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Another entrance in, and a better view of the surrounding villages, and a lone walker (primary means of transportation in this area).  Needless to say hiking boots and good shoes are also a commodity around these parts.

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The front view of the property – 15 acres total.  The end idea/goal is to have a surrounding wall around the entire property.  Until then, they have a guard sleeping at the facility every night.  Theft = huge!

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Entrance into the courtyard from the front door.  The clinic is straight ahead to the right (will show pictures of that when it is finished).

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The pharmacy (one wall missing).  As an RN in the States, their system to say the least, is INCREDIBLY different.  This encompasses all administrative systems as a whole, not the clinic.  Privacy is non-existent, as well as, prescriptions, records…you name it.  Most of the medications you see are donated and EXTREMELY affordable.

IMG_1982The unfinished apartment for couples or families that come for long-term stays.

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View from the upstairs.  The apartment and office/extra bedroom are also on this level.

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Vicki’s trusty little off-road machine.

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View from the backside of the property.  Sick of this view yet?

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Lastly, a view from the side.  This view will eventually be non-existent as a two-story building will be here as well as a guard apartment.  

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The plans for this property are great and with support of the IICD, Vicki and Roger have many a dream for what this all becomes.  Hopefully with the success of the clinic and success of the children’s home this area will thrive!  We feel lucky to experience the tremendous growth that will happen even in the next month.

Thanks for hanging in there…this post was lengthy!  It is in part because the only person I talk to all day is my husband and Vicki seeing as I can’t really communicate with anyone else!  Can you imagine…I’m quiet ;)!

xoxo, N