By Laura Sumner Coon
A small line of people stand in front of the school doors. The sight seems unusual, since in past years many more people crowded the entrance on the first day of the clinic. But today, the patients were notified that the first people to be seen are the residents of Oliveros. Most line up for general medical attention.
By the afternoon, the floodgates open and more than 250 patients travel through the triage area, getting their height, weight, blood pressure, and more vitals taken. Then, they talk about what ails them. Few only visit one area. Most see multiple providers at medical, dental, vision, nutrition, pharmacy or counseling. And, most would be coming back multiple days after waiting all day to be seen for one malady.
Everyone wants sunglasses – lentes para sol. For the kids, they are cool, but for adults they are necessary protection from the harsh sun. Without them, the field workers develop cataracts at an early age. The clinic assesses dozens of patients with cataracts destined for surgery. Continuing Care Coordinator, Floridalma Quintanilla, gathers referrals from the doctors and organizes transportation to the hospital and surgery for them all year long.
But the patients that come to the clinic have a wide variety of ailments.
Joselin Aguilar Carrera is 15 and one of the first patients to enter the medical area of the clinic. She is escorted by her aging mother and leans on her as she drags her foot. Her hands are curled in distorted fists and she smiles, but does not talk.
Lily, whose uncle lives in Oliveros, was born in California and has joined the mission for two years. She squats next to Joselin, coaxing a reaction. Nurse practitioner Jeanmarie Sharp examines the teen and returns, shaking her head. “Look at that poor girl, she is walking on the top of her foot. Ugh, you can see her bone sticking out!”
Jeanmarie explains that Joselin endures several problems. She has Marfan Syndrome, which Abraham Lincoln had as well. Her arms are long and skinny, she is tall, compared to others in her family, and she has a heart murmur. But Joselin’s problems don’t stop there. When she was about five, she had a stroke, which stripped her of the use of her hands and much cognitive ability. Then, a few years later, she broke a leg, which was never set correctly before casting. That mistake causes her to practically walk on the top of her foot. “I just don’t know where to start, and there is not much I can do,” says Jeanmarie.
Flory has a little good news. An American orthopedic specialist is visiting the Antigua hospital this week. In a few days, Flory’s son will escort some patients, including Joselin, to the specialist to see what can be done.
“I sure hope they can do something,” says Jeanmarie. Joselin is one of 100 patients treated by four medical providers this day.
In a large room nearby, four dentists have drills humming. One patient, an older woman who also wishes medical treatment, has eight teeth pulled. She waits in whatever shade she can find until her gums stop bleeding enough so that she can talk with the doctor. Her granddaughter accompanies her into the medical room in late afternoon, and they have accomplished all they came for at the clinic.