Mission Honduras Medical Trip
January 6th – January 16th

On Wednesday, January 6th, 2005, twenty six volunteers from throughout the United States left for central Honduras and a medical mission that would last 10 days and touch the lives of many Hondurans. Each year Gehlen Catholic High School sponsors this medical mission to ‘Hurricane Mitch’ ravaged areas of Honduras. It is 6 years since Hurricane Mitch literally destroyed the small country of Honduras and much of the country’s infrastructure is still in great disrepair and health care is non-existent or minimal at best. The program has successfully sent 4 straight medical teams into Honduras the past four January’s and continues to send a high school student team during the Easter season each year. To date Gehlen has sponsored 10 trips into Honduras and has put 175 missioners on the ground in the 3rd poorest country in the western hemisphere.

This years medical team was composed of: Francis Seivert, team leader, Elkton, S.D., Phil Ryan, pharmacy assistant, LeMars, Iowa (University of Iowa), Michelle Graham, doctor, Sioux City, Iowa, Christine Sahn, ultra sound specialist, Lake Oswego, Oregon, Tom Ryan, pharmacist, LeMars, Iowa, Carlos Delgado, doctor, Suwanee, Georgia, David Goo, doctor, Atlanta, Georgia, Tom Jeneary, dentist, LeMars, Iowa, Lorie Nussbaum, general medical / Rotary Club, LeMars, Iowa, Char Crichton, doctor, Portland, Oregon, Rolf Crichton, dentist, Portland, Oregon, Anne Oloff, nurse, LeMars, Iowa, Bonnie Driscoll, translator, LeMars, Iowa (MacAlester College), Diana Vanderkooi, nurse, Merrill, Iowa, Fr. Doug Klein, priest / translator, Rock Valley, Iowa, Omar Aleman, translator, LeMars, Iowa (Iowa State University), Randy Guerdet, doctor, Sioux City, Iowa, Gene Lydon, pharmacist, Sioux City, Iowa, Ann Sowlles, translator, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Pat Boudreau, nurse, Sioux City, Iowa, Fr. Richard Ball, priest, Dow City, Iowa, Marge Humphrey, general medical, Fort St. Lucie, Florida, Dorothy Calvani, general medical, New York City, New York, Dava Weinstein, general medical, New York City, New York, Richard Seivert, director, LeMars, Iowa.

Greeting the team in El Guante, Honduras, F.M., C.A., were Sister Barb Zimmer and Sister Valerie Knoche, both Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters out of Monroe, Michigan. Sister Barb and Val run the mission church of San Rafael in El Guante, and many of the surrounding parish churches. Sister Barb has been in Honduras 22 years and Sister Val 32 years. Joining Sister Barb and Val were Sister Fatima Carcamo, Sulaco, Honduras, and Sister Juanita Polak, Sulaco, Honduras. Also joining the team from Honduras was Tacha Alvarado, a pharmacy assistant.

The dental teams worked in Cedros, Montana de la Flor, Crucitas, Agua Caliente, Palo Copado, Terrero, Suyatal, Tablon, and El Guante. The medical teams worked in Tablon, Agua Caliente, Montana de le Flor, Escano de Tepale, Palo Copado, Pedernal, Guayavillas, Nueva Esperanza, Guadalupe, Yoculoteca, and El Higuerito. The teams often split up with one group going to one village while the other team went to a different one. The teams located in El Guante each night at the compound area run by the Sisters.

Nine members of the team made a special overnight trip to the remote area of Montana de la Flor to bring medical and dental help to the Xicaques (Tolupane) Indians. The Tolupanes met the Mayas of Honduras in the Sula Valley, but in an effort to escape Spanish slavery they continued to move farther and farther into the mountains. The language of the Tolupane is directly related to the Hokon Sioux tribe of North America. The language dates back 5,000 years and without a doubt the Tolupanes are the oldest ethnic group in Hondurs, older even than the Mayans. The nine Gehlen team members describe their visit to theXicaques as unbelievable. The team saw 402 patients that came down from the mountain with special instructions from their chief. The Gehlen team had made an agreement in August with the chief to bring this team into the Montana de la Flor. The team was escorted into the MDLF region by government troops as an honor to the Tolupane and the Gehlen team. The team described the health conditions of the Tolupane as terrible. They found a great amount of malnutrition along with so many other serious medical conditions. Tom Jeneary, dentist from LeMars, described their dental health as the worst of the worst – for two days he did nothing but extract teeth. The Gehlen team hopes to return to the Flower Mountains and continue to bring needed health care to this very special group of people. Note: very few pictures exist of the Tolupane because we were outsiders and they do not like their pictures being taken.

Total patients seen or triaged, including those receiving piperazine, mebendazole, vitamins, and pain medicines:

Medical = 2259

Dental = 293

Total patients = 2552

In pharmacy, Tom Ryan, Gene Lydon, and Phil Ryan filled over 8,000 prescriptions, not counting piperazine, mebendazole or any vitamins given in the triage line. If counted, the number would be well over 10,000 Rx's.

Of this total 41% of the patients were 12 years or younger (in MDLF this was 50%; Palo Copado 53%); adults in total were 59%.

These stats are different than previous years where we saw about 37-38% of patients that were 12 or younger. We have used this stat for the last four years only to have it changed on us this year. Because of this more vitamins were needed for kids and the medicines that are typically used to treat kids. The team ran out of vitamins after the first 4 days and had to purchase more in Honduras.

The dentists, Tom Jeneary and Rolf Crichton, saw 293 patients, pulled 386 teeth, did 143 fillings, and cleaned 23 teeth.

Christine Sahn (Ultrasound) saw 56 patients. She performed 56 ultrasound as follows: 8 abdomen, 33 pelvis, 7 OB, 5 hearing, 1 scrotum and 2 breast.

The doctors said having the ultrasound available was very helpful because in many cases they did not have to do a more invasive exam on women, especially with pelvic pain (e.g. PID's etc), and could better track the OB patients and the baby's development.

With the ultrasound we also found a few cases that were very significant where patients had a mass or even two that would require more advanced treatment in Tegucigalpa. Those people were referred.

The following is a summary of the medical conditions our doctors saw: we saw many with grippe, TOS, fevers of unknown origin, malaria, dengue fever (a couple), high blood pressure, OB patients, many diabetics, UTI (urinary tract infections), STD's, Pneumonia, TB and suspected TB (in Montana de le Flor), many with malnutrition (especially in MDLF), many skin lesions, scabies, lice, a number of untreated bone injuries, various abscesses (many different locations on the body), strep throat, pregnancies, chlamydia (with STD's) 1 case of Chagas (already diagnosed by lab tests in Tegucigalpa), stroke patients, headaches of unknown origin, otis media, many eyes problems which we tried to refer and many more. We also provided many wound cares, and treated many people with IM injections.

All the villages had many more patients that needed dental care that we could not deal with.

For those that did not see the doctors, we provided triage, piperazine, mebendazole, vitamins (adult and kids), and tylenol as appropriate. In the Montana de le Flor (The Flower Mountains) we also gave soap to all the patients, and in other villages as necessary.

In the Montana de le Flor we provided a minimum of 50 vitamins for adults and kids. This was reduced to 35-50 in other villages, until we purchased more vitamins and found a whole case of kids vitamins that had not been opened in the pharmacy area.

Gehlen Catholic High School obtains free medicines from 4 different humanitarian organizations to be used during international medical mission trips like this. They are Catholic Medical Mission Board, New York, New York, Project Hope, Millwood, Virginia, MAP International, Brunswick, Georgia, and AmeriCares, Stamford, Connecticut. Also contributing this year was Hy-Vee Stores Pharmacy Inc., LeMars, Iowa. Richard Seivert, director of Mission Honduras said, “We wouldn’t be able to help the poor of Honduras without the above agencies. I was pleased to receive the wonderful cooperation right from our local Hy-Vee Pharmacy and store manager Mark Frentress, who gave us a great deal of medicine at no cost and then allowed us to purchase the rest at reduced prices.”

While in Honduras some members of the team participated in a number of different special celebrations. Lorie Nussbaum, representing the LeMars Rotary Club, and Richard Seivert, representing Gehlen Mission Honduras and Mission Honduras LeMars, participated in the celebration inaugurating the water project in La Nueva Concepcion, paid for largely by funds from the LeMars, Iowa, Rotary Club. Mission Honduras LeMars contributed a small portion of the total funds needed to complete the project. The celebration took place Saturday afternoon at 2:00 and involved all the village inhabitants. After many speeches, Lorie Nussbaum and Richard Seivert were led to a small tree with a big water jar hanging from a branch. They were presented with a big stick with which to break the jar. Seivert and Nussbaum hit and broke the jar on the first swing, symbolizing the villagers would no longer need to carry water. All the children of the village were then invited over to the water faucet in the village square to wash their hands. After this part of the celebration the entire delegation walked about a half mile to the site of the new well and pumping system. Representatives from the Tegucigalpa Rotary Club were in attendance at the celebration and all agreed to communicate about future projects.

Another celebration involved a special Mass said in Cedros. It was the Mass of the Black Jesus. Concelebrating the Mass with P. Jose Adalberto Palma Gomez was Father Richard Ball and Father Doug Klein, both of the Sioux City Diocese. The special Mass is held once every year in Cedros, the site of the first government of Honduras under General Francisco Morazon. The Mass was held in the village church constructed by the Spanish in 1571. Also attending the Mass were Francis and Richard Seivert. All concluded it was a remarkable moment during the week.

During the 10 day visit to El Guante, Honduras, and the surrounding area villages the Gehlen team members renewed many old friendships. One such was that of Cristobal Diaz, the young Honduran boy that came to LeMars last spring suffering from an extreme case of Osteomyelitis. Cristobal spent a good deal of time at the compound area during the early evening hours with different team members. He was examined by our doctors and found to be in quite good shape. However, his condition has not improved greatly and the Gehlen program continues to monitor him. He sent greetings to all his friends in LeMars and remembers the kindness of the people. He especially sent greetings to all those at Floyd Valley Hospital for everything they did for him.

While in the airport, waiting for their flight back to the United States, the Gehlen team met Ronaldo Roll, director of Helping Hands for Honduras, an organization that brings Honduran children with life threatening illnesses to the United States for surgery. Last year alone, Ronaldo Roll’s organization brought 90 children to the U.S. Along with Ronaldo Roll was Karen Ventura, a 13 year old girl suffering from Tetralogy of Fallot. She and her mother were on their way to StonyBrook in New York where Karen will undergo open heart surgery. Much thanks to Ronaldo, his organization, American Airlines which helps sponsor these children, for the great example you set. Many prayers go out to Karen Ventura and her mother. Two of the Gehlen doctors, Char Crichton and Randy Guerdet examined Karen just before she left for New York. This special moment in the airport in Tegucigalpa had a lasting impact on the entire Gehlen team, one we will never forget. You may contact Helping Hands for Honduras at www.handsforhonduras.org