UNY completes a successful medical mission trip in Vieques, Puerto Rico: Article 1 of 3
October 10, 2018 / By Joyce Wilder, RN and Karen Axenfeld, RN
Editor’s Note: A 12-person team from the Upper New York (UNY) Conference went on a mission trip to Puerto Rico, on the island of Vieques in Sept. Team members included seven people from Fly Creek and Schuyler Lake UMCs in the Oneonta District as well as three additional medical staff from the Northern Flow District. Drs Sylvia and Marv Reimer of Watertown, NY led the team. On Viequez, the mission team was housed and staffed a medical clinic at the United Methodist Church in Esperanza. Some members of the team also had the opportunity to work on home reconstruction alongside a team from the Midwest. Below is an article by two UNY nurses who were on this mission trip.
Vieques is a small island across the sea from San Juan, Puerto Rico. It takes an hour and a half by ferry from San Juan to get to Vieques. Vieques was nearly destroyed from the wrath of hurricane Maria in September 2017. The people there are recovering; they are slowly rebuilding their homes and their beautiful beaches are once again being used by tourists.
However, diabetes and hypertension are prevalent among the people. Some of them have had the ability to get proper medications, but they do not understand the seriousness of their disease or the importance of compliance with their medications, diet and activity. There are only two physicians that come to the island twice weekly each. They only see 20 patients per day. Those seeking care will arrive at 5 a.m. to ensure they will be seen that day. The physician doesn’t arrive until 9 a.m. There is also a VA clinic and a tiny hospital/clinic in Isabel Segundo for those needing immediate care.
A team of four physicians, four nurses and four ancillary people left for Vieques on September 22, 2018 for a medical mission. We were also assisted by two members of a team from Neosho UMC, Neosho, Missouri.
Our team leader had been on many missions, but for some of us it was our first time. We attended church on Sunday and got a taste of the community spirit and togetherness. Then we got to work preparing the clinic for patients the next day.
The clinic had a pharmacy which needed organizing and disposing of expired medications. It took two nurses the entire week to count and label medications, dispose expired medications, and organize the pharmacy so that the next team had an inventory of all the medications. The rest of the medical team, with the assistance of translators and ancillary team members did home visits in the morning for the residents that couldn’t leave their homes, then worked in the clinic in the afternoon.
We were grateful for the translators and astonished at their ability to translate so quickly. We were able to attend to 87 patients during the week. We obtained their chief complaint and symptoms, medical history, and medication list. Then we obtained their weight, blood sugar, and vital signs. This was all recorded on an intake history, which will be filed so that the next team has the information. Most of the patients coming to the clinic just needed some reassurance, education, and medication. We handed out vitamins and analgesics to most of them.
The home visits were what moved our hearts the most. Some of them knew we were coming, so they took the time to tidy their home and put on nice clothing. It was reassuring to see that many of them were being well taken care of by family members and a home health aide who volunteers her time to care for 104 patients.
There were a few individuals that needed so much more than what we could provide in a week. They were the ones we all prayed for at our evening devotions, as well as privately. It is our hope that the next team will bring Spanish educational materials and have the time to provide some educational sessions for diabetes, heart disease and hypertension, and revisit those that don’t have the ability to come to the clinic.