News and Stories
Ecuador Medical Mission 2008
We are home from our two week mission to Quito, Ecuador. We were a team of fifteen, five men on construction and ten others on medical. We lived together in one large community room, slept in sleeping bags partitioned by curtains and shared three bathrooms. We were a family for two weeks, talking each other to sleep and also waking each other through the night with a harmony of snoring sounds.
We started each day with breakfast in the soup kitchen preceded by Mass said for the mission team by Fr. Don Kenny, a retired Joliet Diocesan priest. He is now a full-time missionary at this mission site. Following the Mass, we were fortunate to have Deacon Bruce Carlson lead us as we reflected on the days behind and ahead of us throughout the 2 week mission experience. Sensing the presence of Jesus with us, we then began our workday.
The construction team, after applying their much needed sun screen, worked hard digging trenches, hauling sand and working side by side with their Ecuadorian partners. They helped build a second story on an elementary school that was bursting at the seams with students.
The medical team worked at 2 medical clinics. We were blessed this year with a massage therapist and a laboratorian in addition to our pharmacist, nurses, a dentist and 2 physicians. We saw an average of 100 patients a day, as we worked with our Ecuadorian colleagues who staff the clinics on a daily basis. Though this was to be strictly a medical mission, 2 patients in need were operated on in a 13 bed hospital. This was an unexpected development but ended up being a good experience for all involved, especially the patients.
I’d like to tell you about our one day experience in Mirador. Mirador is an isolated community further up the mountain from Quito. The word Mirador means ‘a world’s view.’ The medical team was asked to set up clinic in the community for one day. We went up the mountain to see what the setup would be so we would know what to bring with us. The only building they had to offer was a community center under construction. It had a dirt floor, construction debris scattered about and two wires stretched across with a couple naked light bulbs. There was no furniture, no curtains, no water and no bathrooms. Yet, the leaders of the community were so eager for us to come. As we were brainstorming together trying to figure how to make this work, a woman of the community offered her home. This lovely woman, Eva opened her home to all of us and 100 patients. With the help of the ever resourceful construction team, adequate electricity was set up and needed furniture and supplies were transported up the mountain. The dentist saw patients in Eva’s kitchen. The living room was set up as a triage, laboratory and pharmacy. Her two bedrooms were used as exam rooms. The home had a bathroom with a toilet but no flushing capabilities.
Mirador is at 11,000 feet elevation. We were up in the clouds looking over the city of Quito, a beautiful view – hence the name, Mirador, ‘a world’s view.’ But also due to the elevation it was quite chilly. We worked in sweatshirts and the pharmacist dispensed medicines wearing gloves. Midmorning we politely asked if we could have some hot water and we all warmed ourselves with a cup of coffee.
When we stopped for lunch, we were surprised with an invitation to a delicious hot lunch of chicken, rice and vegetables (we had packed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches). During lunch conversation with our hosts we discovered that Mirador did not have their own water system. Once a week, a truck delivered water and filled two 25 gallon containers per family. Mirador has 140 families, each with an average of six children. That amounts to only 50 gallons of water a week for a family of 8. Can you imagine how much we regretted asking for that cup of coffee earlier in the morning!?
It was a wonderful day at Mirador and a wonderful mission! As I write this letter plans are already in the works for next year’s mission. The clinics have asked us to return, Mirador has invited us back.
How can we say no, we have friends there.
Mary Jane Trinkus