Guest Post: Team Nicaragua Medical Mission, October 2015 - part 1

At 5:55 pm Saturday afternoon October 24th Team Nicaragua departed from Atlanta to share The Gospel and serve the medical needs of the beautiful Nicaraguan people in the Bluefields area on the eastern coast. Two LBC members, Brita Zuehlke and Angela Robinson were part of the team. The following are excerpts from Brita's daily Facebook posts during the trip. We are thankful for the work that was done to advance God's Kingdom and for Brita's willingness to share her story with us.


October 26th - Clinic Day One:
Dr. Tellez's church provided us the biggest clinic space we've ever had which was both a blessing and a challenge. The first day of clinic is always a learning experience as new team members adjust to working with our translators, experienced team members and our local helpers. We were overwhelmed by how many wonderful church members came out to make our day run more smoothly.

Our providers set up in the main worship building. Our “dentistas”, Vania and Debbie, set up in what we called “the cage” with Mylinh as their assistant. We had some airy, covered spots to spread out glasses, happy feet, evangelism and pharmacy stations.

Gene led the group in singing on and off throughout the day including a rousing chorus of 'Days of Elijah'.  Alvaro Jr. (a.k.a AJ) immediately took a liking to optometry and it was wonderful to have him and our bus driver Julio helping out there. This year we got our pharmacist, Pam, back. With her team of helpers, she got every one of our Nica friends taken care of. Mark “MacGyver” was also back this year and he built a zip line for the kids out back by the playground.

We were also blessed to have some U.S. missionaries who live in Bluefields able to help us out. And a major blessing, NO RAIN! Overall it was a wonderful first day and we've learned a lot to help us make our clinics flow better and keep ourselves and our patients happy and healthy!

October 27th - Clinic Day Two:
On our second day we left on panga boats to Rama Cay, which is a beautiful island about 20 minutes from Bluefields.  God provided us with blessings to serve 350 people. Last January, several of our team members served this same area and were assisted by a man named Rau'l who helped make it so successful that we all wanted to return.  Rau'l had asked if it was possible to get a Bible in large print if we ever returned.  Not only were we able to fulfill his request but we gave him a leather bound monogrammed Bible and we had it blessed by Father David as it was presented to him.

During our day a mother brought her 4 year old daughter with cerebral palsy to be treated by our team.  It immediately became clear that this loving mother spends all hours of her days caring for this child and carrying her wherever she goes, including the times she has to cook, clean and do laundry. The girl was unable to sit on her own and she cannot be placed on the floor or ground since she also can't crawl or control her head.  Brita and Mark put their heads together and created a “buggy” from a suitcase that had been donated to Bruce and Barb by their church in Idaho.  When our physical therapist and “MacGyver” visited the family they were able to make many suggestions as to how the family could utilize the buggy to improve the whole family's life going forward.  We hope that the girl will now have a different view of the world and will hopefully have a chance to improve on her sitting ability, the mom will have her hands free to do her household chores more easily, and this will help save the mom's back for the future as the girl grows up.

Many team members have switched to roles totally unrelated to their occupation or even out of their comfort zone.  The first example is Virginia who is a nurse by training but easily and eagerly jumped in to help in many other areas wherever she was needed.  Bethany, who is our team photographer, put her camera down and brought out paint and paper for the kids to create some art projects that were finished off with fun stickers for all.  Angela was our champion greeter and in charge of getting heights and weights of all 350 that came through the clinic, putting everyone at ease and smiling her way through the day. Father David and Pastor Danny washed the feet of many and Dave Neilson ended up helping in the “store”, distributing clothing to those in need, including handing out dresses to both girls and women!

Our last story of the day is about a small boy with Hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain) and multiple deformities of both legs.  His aunt brought him in a small wheelchair; his mother was unable to come because she is terminally ill with cancer.  Carol (Swish) noted that the boy was dressed in very heavy garments and appeared to be overheated.  She immediately went to our “store” of donated items and found him a whole new outfit with a hat that had been donated from Redeemer in Atlanta.  Father David prayed over the boy and was able to fit the boy with a pair of sunglasses that once belonged to his own son.  This little boy had the most radiant smile and blessed all of us with his joy.

October 28th - Clinic Day Three:  
This day started out the same as every day in Nicaragua with a rooster crowing at 4:30 am, about an hour before any of our cell phone alarms were set to play our favorite wake-up melodies.  Breakfast at 6:30 and bags and people loaded on the trucks by 7:30.  The short open air back of the truck ride through town filled our nostrils with plenty of diesel fumes and other mixed fragrances, some better than diesel, others not so much.  Our clinic was held in another church and we were again blessed with plenty of help from the congregation.  Two young ladies manned the front area, others helped in our “happy feet” area which included both foot washing and new flip-flops, some served as translators and a couple of ladies controlled the flow through the clinic.

A middle aged woman with chikungunya and very unsteady gait came limping up to Ellen's table.  She ached everywhere, all her joints were swollen, her feet, her ankles, her hands, her shoulders and her neck. She was one of at least twenty patients this day that had been diagnosed with chikungunya which is a virus similar to Lyme disease but it is transmitted by mosquitos.  To date there is no medicine to prevent or treat this disease and it can take months or even years to recover fully from it.  Ellen examined her, gave her some vitamins and pain pills and sent her to our therapy section to get something supportive for her wrists and ankles.  Upon further examination we noticed that she needed some more supportive shoes than what she had.  As we searched high and low for her size Ellen asked why her patient was still sitting there and when we told her she said: “Well, that's my size, she can have mine and I'll get some flip-flops.”  So Ellen took her shoes off and gave them to her patient.

Our dental “office” was a smooth running machine by today and two nurses, Linda and Mylinh, who previously knew nothing about dentistry had quickly morphed into efficient and fast acting multitasking dental assistants who were able to sterilize instruments, set up the next tray, hold a flashlight and hand instruments to the dentists all while calming multiple crying children and explaining the medicine given to the previous patient.  Our dentists, Vania and Debbie said they have never been as productive as today.  Vania had a patient named Axel who arrived very afraid and crying so she sat down to just talk to him.  After a minute he said he just wanted to hug her and so they hugged, and he held her tight and would not let go so Vania in her wisdom continued the session by placing the topical anesthesia, and after that she injected him and proceeded to pull the tooth, all while he kept his arms around her waist.  Axel left happy stating that he didn't feel any pain and gave her yet another hug and a kiss to top it off.  Vania shared that this was the first time she has done anything like that and yes, children often teach us new ways of doing things.

Here are a few reflections from our interpreters who stay at our side all day long, beginning with Devin who is with us for the 5th time and lives in Bluefields:

“I am a translator and I took my daughters to work today and my youngest, Abieli, asked if her grandfather was going to be there; she was referring to Bruce because she loves seeing his white hair and calls him grandpa. When I took her home she told her mom about every single person she met, she spoke about the dentist who gave her a toothbrush, she said a beautiful lady gave her sunglasses and another one gave her a toy (Bubbles) from the movie Home.  Joshabeth, my older daughter shared with me that she was so encouraged by what she saw that she now wants to become a doctor."

Our second story comes from Cristiam who came with us on last minute notice but immediately fit right in and hopefully will be joining us in the future.

“A young lady entered the clinic with severe abdominal pain and came to Ali's station.  It became apparent that this was much more than what we could treat and that she needed an ultrasound to properly diagnose her condition.  She had tried to go to the local public hospital but their ultrasound machine is currently broken and she had no money to go to a private clinic.  The ultrasound was going to cost 500 cordobas which is about $20.  Our gracious leader, Ali, with her big heart quietly gave the woman the money and then they both hugged and cried. The woman was heading straight to the clinic and was going to share the results with us as soon as they were available.”  

    This last story comes from Alvaro, our trusted Nicaraguan partner who helps Ali get all the permits, arranges for our bus, and is always here for us.  

“So this police officer came to the clinic to get a second opinion for his ear problems and leg pain since he heard the doctors from the US were here.  He was seen by the providers and given a referral as well as pain medicine but he was still not satisfied and seemed unhappy.  As he came through Father David's prayer station we simply asked what in his life we could pray for.  The man slowly started sharing little by little about his pain, his family troubles, and also asking for protection for his family.  As the prayer ended his body was relaxed and tears were rolling down his face and he thanked us and said he was really glad he came!!"

Brita Zuehlke and her husband, Reed, live in Orlando and are members of Lake Baldwin Church. Brita is originally from Sweden but has lived in the US since 1983. She works as a physical therapist at Florida Hospital, Winter Park. Brita started traveling to Nicaragua in 2004 with the Medical Mission Team from Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Atlanta. She is also on the board of a Christian School in Managua for impoverished children where she has been able to develop deep lasting relationships with both teachers and students. She has a special place in her heart for the children of Nicaragua.