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The Ecuador Trip 2009

July 21, 2009

Well, it is over…. the bags are unpacked (I hope), the travelers recovered from fatigue and gastroenteritis, the pictures displayed, the souvenirs handed out, but yet….. it is not finished for me. My heart now holds something else, longing for the ability to make a difference, for my new friends and for the feeling of total lack of control over my life. It sounds strange I know….

The_Team

Let me begin at the beginning…. in January of 2008 six nursing students committed to going to an unknown place, Ecuador, with unknown people, physicians and professors they had not met, to do things they were not yet confident that they could do, pediatric nursing. Later, another brave single mother would drop everything to join us on our adventure.  All of them buckled down, raised money, prayed, read, studied, and then in June got on a plane to another country and left their families and friends for 10 days.

San Antonio De Pinchincha and the Maranata church played host. None of us had ever been on a medical mission before, only one of us had ever even been into Ecuador and yet everyday seemed to work out perfectly. Running a pediatric clinic from one room in a church we saw over 100 children the first day, amazing for having no idea what we were doing and all but two of us experiencing major language barriers. The first day, and every day to follow, were nothing short of miraculous.

What developed over those few days was the amazing transformation in the people I saw around me. The nursing students grew in wisdom, faith in themselves and leadership. They took their clinic areas and ran them perfectly with excellent management skills, their instructors were busy working in other areas ;^). I also witnessed long lasting relationships come to life right before my eyes. People who were complete strangers came to genuinely love each other and care about what happened to those around them. This gift, the gift of relationship, is what I miss the most… it is transformational to one’s heart. In a world where I drive into my garage and close the garage door as quickly as possible, never speaking to my neighbors, or e-mail people instead of walking over to their house…. the gift of relationship is precious.

All in all, the trip was a miracle. Clinic was held not only in one site, but became mobile and spanned over 3 pueblos (some without running water or sewer systems).  Almost 500 children were seen in 4 and 1/2 days of clinic, all given 3 months worth of vitamins, toothbrushes, dental instruction, goodie bags, and of course health care and medications. I learned and saw many things: I have included a list of just a few of them below. What I saw changed me for a lifetime and I will gladly go again and again. Funny, I gained more from the trip than I gave by far; maybe that is why we go. How selfish I yet am. How thankful I am for the opportunity to go and have my eyes opened. How thankful I am for my new relationships.

  • I saw a doctor make an aerochamber for a child with pneumonia out of a plastic water bottle.
  • I saw many children with clothes too big, socks that had been mended and re-mended, but they didn’t care… they were happy and played just like my kids.
  • I saw children I could not fix, children with heart anomalies, cancer, CP, abdominal issues, dyslexia, etc…. I had to learn to let go of control and do what I could with the best advice possible.
  • I saw a doctor explain to a mother something no other physician had… that her child’s Cerebral Palsy was not her fault.
  • I saw nursing students play, worship, live with others with whom they did not share the same language, but still they understood.
  • I saw a doctor give money out of his own wallet to send a mother to buy the seizure medications that her child had missed for 3 months due to lack of money (the medications were 6$ per month). This same mother carried her child, who was 8, on her back everywhere because he could not walk.
  • I saw that socialized medicine does not necessarily mean access to care (if you live on the mountain and have no car) nor does it mean good care or trust of the medical system.
  • I saw many many smiling, happy children and mothers who loved them.
  • I saw student nurses of different ages and schooling levels work together, without an instructor lording over them, provide excellent care and patient management.
  • I saw places that I can be active and help right here at home.

If you would like to see what the trip was like, you can check out these videos http://www.brentsimmons.com/Ecuador/ and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NAOCnjMH0iE

I want to thank all of the brave people who ventured out with me and made this trip possible. Perry, Rory, James, Karen, Phebe, Ben, Lora, Laura, Laura, Bailey, Faith, Jamie, Shanna, Tiffany and Connor. Also, a thanks to those who put up with us: Melissa, Bayardo, Edgar, Patricio and his wife, our hostel manager, Ron and his family, Jaquline, Blanco, Blancita, and all of the others I am forgetting. May we see you again my friends.

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