After four hours of travelling by motorcycle, on foot and by donkey, the Canadian medical team led by Dr. Philip Vayalumkal and Dr. Jitin Sondhi arrived in the village, carrying Physician Travel Packs from HPIC.
Most patients walked at least one hour to reach the clinic, but the team still managed to see close to 1,100 patients in the 10 days the clinic was operating. Patients of all ages were seen, from newborns to the elderly.
Two nurses live in the community and buy medicines when they can to sell to those who can afford it, but few can. They also deliver babies for those mothers able to make the long trek to reach the clinic while in labour.
There is a health agent hired by the government to manage a vaccination program, but there is no funding currently available to conduct such programs for the people of this poorest nation in the western hemisphere.
The most common medical problems in the region are those generally associated with aging – cataracts, arthritis and hypertension, as well as the consequences of poor sanitation and malnutrition – dehydration, infection and anemia.
But the two groups most at risk are young children and expectant mothers. Among young children, parasitic infection and dehydration pose the greatest threat.
One three-year-old girl presented the first day with fever, vomiting and diarrhea. It was quickly determined that she had intestinal worms but dehydration was clearly the most acute threat to her life.
She was given Gastrolyte from the Physician Travel Pack to counter the dehydration but was too weak to keep up with oral rehydration. She was then put on IV saline and able to keep down the dose of Combantrin provided by HPIC.
On day two, she was still showing little sign of clinical improvement and was given Ceftin from the PTP and chloroquine to cover for bacterial and malarial co-infection. On day three, the patient was alert, able to tolerate oral rehydration and sent home.
“To HPIC and the companies that donated the life-saving medicines, we say a big thank you,” says Dr. Vayalumkal. “Without them, the medicines would be otherwise unavailable to these people deprived of resources.”