Today, we set out in two teams with two different objectives.
One volunteer team headed to the convention center to meet with other organizations to find new partnerships and more opportunities to provide medical care to Loiza or other communities around the island.
Our team started the day at a senior community center to see a few patients and then we went out into the community to visit patients in their homes.
You have to see the video to believe how cool these seniors were. Absolutely no comparison to what we see at home. As we walked in we heard singing and clapping enthusiastically with your hands up in the air. When they saw us, they reached out their arms and pulled us instantly into their dance routines! It was incredible to see such joy and enthusiasm in their eyes and how welcoming they were to new people in their environment.
A few of them had minor medical problems that we treated, and afterwards, we danced again before leaving to continue our day’s work.
We visited people in several homes. None of their medical issues were urgent but each of them needed to be seen. The first home was very small, the top floor was completely blown away. Several members of the family lived in what remained of the bottom floor. The refrigerator was open and had two or three half-filled bottles of water, a container of sugar, a few aged condiments and what looked like some old pieces of meat. There was an elderly woman that slept in a mosquito-net covered bed. She was frail and cachectic but was doing well despite the conditions. We filled the refrigerator with water, gave them some food items and moved onto the next home. Basically, that was the course of our day. We left each person feeling cared for and acknowledged with a little bit of water and food to hold them for a few days. It is sweltering hot here and the humidity is unbearable. I can't imagine the long term health effects on the people of Loiza from complete boredom in their small, sweltering, lightless homes.
I have no doubt that the medical issues will increase as time goes on from people drinking dirty water and eating food that has not been refrigerated for days and weeks on end.
In my last blog I mentioned a patient that asked me to go to her home to see the condition it was in after the hurricane. She told me she had 22 cats and was very concerned about their welfare. Today, after our home visits we went to her house. The outside was old and dilapidated and clearly was in disrepair before the hurricane. There were many cats sitting in the window and walking around the driveway. The smell of cat and dirt and mold could be recognized as soon as we got out of the car. I promised her I would bring her several things from her room. She wanted her robe, her papers with all her bills and her perfume.
The inside of the house was damaged by the hurricane. The ceiling in the hallway was caved in and in her bedroom was a large wooden plank hanging from the roof and laying across her bed. I think if she had been there during the Hurricane she would not have made it out. We gathered as many things as we could, took some pictures to show her of her cats as well as took a few family pictures off the walls and wrapped them up for her. We returned to the shelter and delivered on our promise.
It was a satisfying day and at the same time it is very frustrating to know that so many people are in need of medical care but there still is not a solid way to deliver it to the community. Every day we are working with different partners to try and establish the best plan to help this community as well as look at other communities and other needs and opportunities on the island.
Back at the Jewish Community Center, where the volunteers are staying, tonight was Sukkot. My husband, and fellow volunteer doctor, Neil, as well as Dr. Larry were asked to join in the service and then we were invited to say a blessing in the Sukkot. This Jewish connection was unexpected on this mission but served as a wonderful undertone.
The best part of the day was being able to eat real food from Burger King – not a place I ever go to, but it felt like French cuisine compared to all the nuts and granola bars we've been eating all week.
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