6 am is quite the wake up for a group of travel weary MEDLIFE volunteers, as most were still acclimating to the extreme elevation of Cusco, Peru. Copious mugs of coca tea were just what the doctor ordered. Due to the large size of the Cusco Brigade, our body of volunteers was split in two, allowing us to visit multiple communities in one day. Group 1 headed into the mountains outside of Cusco into a small community essentially made of mud-brick houses, fields, crops, and a school – or at least that is what it appeared to be. We set up the clinic at the nicest building in the community – the school. As we carried boxes of medical supplies and gear into the school walls, we were quickly surrounded by ooo-ing and aww-ing school children who seemed to just appear from cracks in the walls!
Vitals and Dentistry were the two stations I was charged with for the day. Vitals, which includes taking the patients temperature, height, weight, and blood pressure, was quite the pressure-loaded event for a Spanish-deficient volunteer like myself. After learning the phrase for “stand here,” I was able to successfully measure each patient with relatively little difficulty – thank goodness our supervisor Alberto took pity on me enough to phonetically teach me the phrase! Vitals, despite being relatively repetitive, was one of the most exciting stations to be at because we were lucky enough to interact with everyone who entered the clinic, whereas others only saw patients with specific problems.
The dentist, I understand now, is one of the most incredibly important services that MEDLIFE can offer these communities; with a lack of money and the urgency of simply completing a family’s daily tasks, teeth cleaning and the supplies needed for this get forgotten. Almost every child who entered the facility had rotten teeth that were black to the core, or teeth that had grown in to the wrong spot. The dentist explained to us during her examinations that these kids cant afford to pay for braces or dental work in general; the majority of the children all needed these teeth pulled or filled . One remarkable nine year old girl sat in the dentist’s chair and was told she needed an infected tooth pulled. She agreed to it and didn’t whimper at all as the dentist numbed her mouth and then extracted the tooth. She was the only child who agreed to take the care the dentist offered her.
Overall, the first day of clinics was extremely eye opening, and it is already quite evident what great work that MEDLIFE does for these communities.
*Pictures to come!*