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One of the things that I struggled with during my first trip with HHI in 2009 was the lack of a lasting impact in the communities we were working with. At that time, there were only one or two medical service trips planned each year. There was no real structure to the clinics except that there were 3 sections: triage, MD evaluation, and a pharmacy. We saw as many patients as we could at each community. It was heartbreaking to turn people away. We would bring common medications on each trip: Tylenol, ibuprofen, multivitamins, prenatal vitamins, Pepcid for GERD, common antibiotics for UTIs or skin infections, etc.
Part of me felt proud of having done SOMETHING, but I was saddened at the end of the trip when these communities would be left behind waiting for the next medical group to help them (hopefully soon). What good was a month’s supply of vitamins? What could be done about the sugar spilling into this patient’s urine obviously indicating diabetes or kidney disease? What could be done about a severe burn on a man’s leg obtained a week ago, now infected?
By 2010, there was work being done toward implementing more trips yearly, organizing a Chronic Care Program, and then finally it was accomplished. Going back this year to see the fruition of the Chronic Care Program (and more!) has been absolutely amazing and truly warms my heart at the AMAZING things being done. There are charts documenting follow-up visits for each patient in the Chronic Care Program, which treats serious chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, epilepsy, and asthma. Reading these charts, I was able to see there is now great structure to the operatives, making them more efficient and successful.
There is now a Referral program helping the most critical and ill patients found at each of the operativos and connecting them with the specialist care they need. Cooperadores (community healthcare workers in each community) are HHI’s eyes, ears and mouth 24/7 in each community and each patient’s link to the doctors when they are in medical need. This is a great, great thing! Monthly educational workshops prepare these Cooperadores with more and more medical and patient support knowledge so that HHI can continue meeting the goal of quality care. The program “Sano y Feliz” for healthy eating and living is a great educational tool for educating individuals in the community that want to take more control over their health. The medication supply has expanded from “Band-aid meds” to medications that actually treat conditions the Chronic Care Program was created for.
As I met patients 2 weeks after the operativo, I no longer only offered a look of sympathy – I was finally able to say, “let’s see what HHI can do for you,” knowing full well something could be done. I am proud to say I’ve been able to witness how far HHI has come and I am so proud of everyone involved in helping HHI grow as much as it has.
HHI’s March Newsletter is now available! 2014 so far has brought new and exciting events, like the Mojito-Extreme Festival and the upcoming Piano Night. We welcomed several volunteers on our January Medical Service trip as well as a new staff member, Elizabeth Geier, the Director of Public Health Programs. Click the link below to read more highlights of HHI’s accomplishments.
View the newsletter here.