Posted By: Meredith Rizzo on May 30, 2011

Labels: Americas , Ecuador , Volunteers

A group of kids lined up outside a classroom at the Montecristi schoolhouse. Some giggled, others shuffled up to peek inside the room only to run back to their place in line, and others just observed, looking tired and apprehensive. The children had lined up not to go to school, but to be seen by a medical professional.  

Betsy Trefts and Faye Pyles, both pediatric medical practitioners, were seeing patients inside the improvised Pediatrico classroom along with two other military doctors. It wasn't the first day the HOPE volunteers had been at the Montecristi medical screening site, yet people had lined up outside the compound walls. Word had spread that the line began forming at 7pm the night before. 

The classrooms were divided into areas of medical consultation, including dental, women's health, cardiology, and pharmacy. Once entering the schoolyard, patients received a colored band on their wrist that indicated which area they wanted to receive a consultation.  


On the second floor in pediatrics, Faye Pyles talked with a boy and his mother. The boy had his knee wrapped up. Pyles examined his leg, asked questions, and ultimately advised he take it easy on that knee. 

Pyles smiled and asked “Anything else?” 

The boy said, “Yes. Sometimes when I get angry, my heart hurts.” 

This wasn't the only time Pyles advised on a condition such as stress at the MEDCAP site. She briefed parents on basic nutritional guidance, cleanliness, and treating common ailments with simple, easily available remedies. 

Betsy Trefts, a Pediatric MD from Maine, also saw patients that day. Despite the heat, she patiently took the time to consult with each patient. 

“Kids and adults get better care when they know more about their illness,” she said, “I don't feel pressure to fulfill a quota. The only pressure is knowing there are lines of people who need care and may not see a provider.” 

Trefts, who also specializes in infectious and tropical diseases, looks for any conditions that may be a result of the local communities' environment. 

One of the purposes of the screening sites is to catch any treatable conditions that could be operated on aboard the USNS Comfort. The majority of operable cases referred from the Montecristi medical site were for cataracts or cleft lips and palettes.

As the Montecristi medical site closed on Saturday, it was time for the team to move on to another site – Jaramijo. The long days and heat have been tiring, but the HOPE volunteers feel the work they do is important to the local communities. Judging from the lines of those waiting to be seen, it is needed.

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