Wednesday, July 6, 2011

días cuatro, cinco y seis

I think the title says days four, five and six, but Google translate hasn't always pulled through for me.

Day five we found a church and had an easy day of resting and relaxing planned. This was lucky for me, and a few others, because we got sick:( We have decided that it was a bacteria or a parasite.

Days five and six I was feeling better and was able to work on the legs. It was a busy two days to get those things finished. The process was simple enough, but we all wanted each prosthetic to be perfect. Each mold was filled with plaster and sanded to the exact dimensions of the patient's stub. Certain areas required building up and reshaping to give more comfort. After this was finished, plastic was heated and basically shrunk over the mold. Next we chipped away the plaster from the inside and cut the plastic to size for the opening. We sanded them and made them as close to perfect as they come. The foot part was a process, because the have very thin PVC pipe in Guatemala. We cut, heated, re-cut, glued, sanded, measured, and painted the PVC. The assembly took place the next day when the patients came back. To be honest, some of the painting didn't happen until the morning of the fittings because we were running so far behind. These were the most stressful days for me. I felt like I had a lot of responsibility to the amputees to do a really good job. I was horrified that I would make a mistake. Many times Lucky, Eddie's sister, asked me, "What did you just do?" and had to fix my work. I was happy that she was there to do that.

I was very glad when day six was over. It felt like the longest day, and it didn't help that many of us were sick. The work, however, really paid off on day seven!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Day 3

Today was Saturday, the big day, the day we fit 13 people with prosthetic legs. Today the prosthetist, Eddie, decided that he wanted to marry me because I was always cleaning. I am confident saying that I was his favorite. Our clients were the best people and I remember them all, I think:) There was Brenda and Jose Luis, Eddy and Carlos F, Catalina, Melvin, Maynor, Noel, Blanca, Liliana, Luiz, Carlos N, and Maria.

One of my favorite things is when they spoke English like Luiz. I loved just sitting with him and talking about his daily life and his accident. He was in a school bus when he was ten and got ejected out. The bus then ran him over, taking his leg, and kept going. He told me of his efforts to get them to pay for his injuries, but he had no such luck. The court system there is really awful. He has the best attitude and was so grateful for our help.

I honestly could go on and on about each of the clients, but I will finish this post with Carlos Fernando. He is the little boy missing two legs. He was in a truck with his dad driving, his mom in the middle seat, and he was riding shotgun. There was a semi in front of them that was taking and exit right, making it impossible to see that traffic was stopped in front of them. His dad tried to avert traffic, but the accident hit right in front of Carlos, eventually causing him to loose both legs. The worst part of the story is that his dad left his family shortly after. I can't imagine losing that much in a short period of time. It must have been awful. His mom had to get a job, and luckily got a good job with Walmart. This good job only pays about $200 each month. It is obvious to me why she is unable to buy prosthesis for her son when the least expensive you can find in Guatemala is $750. Multiply that by 2 for both legs, $1500, and that is 7 1/2 months of her pay. Carlos will grow out of his legs fairly quickly because of his age. He is so young that his bones also keep growing. This causes a lot of pain and requires surgery. He was able to get one leg operated on in Antigua and the hospital we visited. He didn't understand English, so usually when I was with him I just held his hand. He really was the coolest little guy.

Many of the amputations were caused my car accidents. There was also one from lightening, one from a train, four from diabetes, and one from cancer. It really was so great to get to know and help these people. This day was so fulfilling and humbling. I can't believe that only days earlier I sat in my air conditioned apartment, drank my tap water and felt over burdened by school. I am so very VERY lucky to have the life that I do. My troubles don't compare to the trials I have seen in Guatemala. I hope I always remember that.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Days 2: Antigua!

Day 2 was spent in Antigua. Antigua is a beautiful little city full of tourist attractions. We were able to do a little sight seeing and we even played some basketball with locals and hiked to get the best view of the volcano. This volcano has erupted many times with water and flooded the whole city. It is crazy that they are able to maintain some of the old buildings that are there. Later that day we went to an orphanage. I was expecting an orphanage similar to the movie Annie, but this wasn't the case. The place we visited was actually a hospital and an orphanage. They don't do everything a normal hospital does and they run completely off of donations. It was ironic that we went there because about a week later I was talking to one of my prosthetic patients in Guatemala City and he had received a surgery for his leg there. It is a great place and the staff there really try to do all that they can to help and make a difference. We weren't able to take pictures in this orphanage, but I was glad about that. Every child was physically and/or mentally handicapped. It was really sad for me to walk down the rows because it almost seemed like a zoo to me. Walking down, unable to really interact with the children. At the end of the visit I felt a lot better, though, because we were able to sing, play, and blow up balloons for them. They really loved it. One thing that didn't seem as clear to me before this visit is the difference in culture when it comes to handicaps. Most, if not all, of these beautiful children were abandoned because they are seen as a curse. Many Guatemalans believe that either the parents or child sinned to bring this disability. We talked with a man there who had an organization that goes around teaching people from the bible about disabilities. This day was a really eye opener for me to see how much help I can give a person. I sometimes thought, "Why can't we just send our donations to these people?" I know why now. It helps me so much to see and get to know the people I help. I grew a huge love for them and it motivated me to do even more. Maybe it is selfish that I need that, but, for me, the love I gained for Guatemalan people is the best thing I got from this trip. On day 3 we fit 13 people with prosthesis! I can't wait to share that next!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Day 1

Today started on an airplane at midnight. We all slept MAYBE 2-3 hours sparatically and landed in Guatemala City at 6a.m. We found our driver and he took us to the prosthetic clinic. The streets were INSANE. If there were 3 lanes in the road, there would be 5 lanes of speeding cars and motorcycles weaving around everywhere. The first people we met in the clinic were LDS missionaries. This made me feel like I was back in Utah. We talked with Eddie, the doctor there who I was very impressed with. He let us invade his clinic for the next few weeks and helped us with a design he was completely new to. He made me feel confident that the fittings would go well in a few days and said he had a group of ten coming from near and far. They were all people who had a huge need for a prosthetic but could not afford one. Some grew out of previous ones, and some had never had a prosthetic. The clinic could not afford to give away the design that they use on a regular basis, so the design we brought to them is going to be a huge benefit to these people. The difference in manufacturing price is hundreds of dollars. After meeting with him we left for Antigua, about an hour away, to visit an orphanage we collected supplies for. All the details of day 2 will be posted next, but I will give you a hint. It was a huge success, just like Day 1!