In Feb. 2012 I went to Belize with a wonderful group called MedicForce. It was such an amazing experience that it's time to do it again!
If you know me then you know that I love an adventure, and in 2012 I took a fantastic journey to Belize. I honestly had no idea what to expect when I first signed up for that trip, and I never would have imagined how much it would change my life.
MedicForce is a wonderful organization that brings medical relief and knowledge to underserved areas in the US and throughout the world. What that meant for me was an early morning plane ride and then a 5-hour car ride down the entire length of Belize. It was late by the time we arrived at the bunkhouse in the first village. It was pitch
black except for a few lights that had been turned on strictly for our arrival. If there is electricity in these villages it is an extreme privilege. We threw down our gear in the bunkhouse and then were led by a villager to their hut for supper. Most of the food we ate is made from plants from the nearby jungle. These people are amazingly resourceful at gathering and farming. I ate everything on my plate as I was quite ravenous from the lengthy trip. Dinner was topped
off with this delicious chocolate drink. That night I slept like a rock in my bunk bed surrounded by a fluff of mosquito netting. The smell of my bed linens is something I will never forget, slightly damp from the humidity but freshly
washed by one of the village women.
The next day we finally got to meet the whole MedicForce-Belize team, a great group of men and woman that were a mix of EMT’s, Paramedics, and a PA. I was a bit out of my league as only having a first-aid background, but I proved to be useful anyway. We conducted surveys throughout the village about what the people thought about their community. They brought up things like education, transportation, medical access, and latrines. These people they had a long drive to get to a hospital, if they could find someone to drive them. In these communities there is a doctor and a nurse that drive through in a sort of mobile clinic, but there is not a medical professional for day to day accidents or sickness. For this, the village votes in a Healthcare Worker. This person is someone that the village finds trustworthy, not necessarily someone that has any medical experience. Our goal was to train this person to use basic medical supplies. We wanted to make sure they could stabilize a wounded or seriously ill person for a long drive to the hospital. We also put on fun, easy to follow
skits for the entire village to watch. They were silly but emphasized the importance of hand-washing, wound management, and the Heimlich maneuver.
After a few days in the first village, we split into two man teams and moved to more remote villages. I was teamed up with the PA. Our village was up in the foot hills and was called Na Luum Ca. It was a gorgeous place. The health care worker was very receptive to our teaching him
and was attentive through all the long days of first aid study. He was very excited about being the healthcare worker. We ate breakfast with him in the morning at his clinic and we practiced scenarios until lunch. He did speak English very well, but we always had to be mindful of the language barrier. After lunch we were back to the “classroom” teaching him about blood pressure or blood glucose, or whatever was on the lesson plan for the day. This continued on through to dinner were we ate and then finally quit for the day.
We helped him put on an open clinic in which we invited all the villagers to come. This gave him a chance to practice blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate
and eye exams. He really turned in to a confident medic in his 4 days of training. My favorite experience was when we pulled a surprise scenario on him. I walked out of the hut when no one was watching and then put fake blood on my
head and laid down on the walkway. After about 10 minutes he comes out and sees me lying there. He leapt back to the clinic and grabbed his medical bag and was over to me like lightening. He did everything we had practiced on auto pilot. I was so proud of him, and I felt at that moment that we really accomplished what
we had set out to do.
After my experience in Belize I realized that I wanted to go into medicine as a career. It is so fascinating to think how much medicine has helped us to live longer lives. I want to be a part of something so wonderful. Since my trip I
went and got my EMT-Basic certification. I also have taken two semesters of Anatomy and Physiology along with a few other undergrad classes to help me get into grad school. My trip to Belize last year motivated me in so many ways; I cannot wait to see what excitement this year’s