In late June and early July 2022, local guides from Puerto Lempira on the northeast coast of Honduras took a brigade of MEDICO doctors, dentists, nurses, staff, and interpreters across the enormous Caratasca Lagoon in our open boat packed with our gear and anticipation. We then navigated a maze of quiet, winding river mangroves until we reached the remote indigenous Miskito village of Laka Tabila. Centered around the local church on an extensive savannah, we set ourselves up to address the health needs of this community.
The “clinic” we established in the church ran for three full days. As these villagers very rarely have the chance to see a doctor or a dentist, hundreds of inhabitants of Laka Tabila and other villages within a 4-hour walk came for medical or dental attention. While medical complaints often centered on parasitic and digestive system issues, others required diagnosis of infections, chronic pain, fevers, dehydration and significant diseases and deformities. In just three days, this team of 17 Amerians and Hondurans treated 933 patients.
Urgent care treatment was provided as needed, and our makeshift pharmacy dispensed needed medications and vitamins. Arrangements were made for local follow-up care for some urgent cases to be sent to Puerto Lempira.
Those with dental issues were largely not interested in a filling or other restorative work – extractions of several hundred painful and diseased teeth were most welcome. Reading and sunglasses were also popular and brought quick smiles to those finally able again to see clearly to sew, read and tie fishing knots, or just being able to shield their eyes from the blazing sun and glare of the river and sea.
The pastor’s wife cooked our meals and we all enjoyed what one might call the “refreshing” showers from well water. The team slept in tents in the church, at the clinic and outside amid a sky of brilliant stars
The team also offered preventative healthcare, including presentations for young women on menstrual, birth control and prenatal care and fluoride dental treatment for children. Hand-made dresses and dolls for many young girls.
A parallel MEDICO effort has been the restoration of schools and clinics, many damaged or even destroyed over the last few years by hurricanes. The MEDICO construction team was already on site when we arrived, having refurbished the clinic, and now in the process of replacing the roofs and furnishings of the two schools in the village, as well as constructing sites for school meals.
As we wrapped up the trip and headed back across the lagoon, a large squall drenched everyone, but we had one last chance to make a difference. A small boat was clearly in distress, overloaded and trying to sail in the huge waves. As we pulled alongside, four women and children scrambled on board our boat and the men guiding the smaller boat were then able to stabilize it with the fuel we provided to finish their journey. On reaching the shore, cheers broke out celebrating the entire week. There is much still to do in Laka Tabila, and we will be back.
Shared by Bob Lacy, MEDICO team volunteer