Friday, July 6, 2012

The June 2012, Trip Summary

This trip felt as productive as one could, given the circumstances and difficulties our patients face daily. Although the supplies I brought restock for Don Sergio for the next two to three months at the most, it will not go to waste as it would if left here in the US. The blood glucose monitor and strips will help Don Sergio show and educate his patients on the need for blood sugar control, hence better wound healing. For me, the continued experience of providing healthcare in limited conditions, seeing the changing needs of what I can bring from the US and acceptance and trust from the indigenous people enhances my usefulness for return visits.

I've posted this before, but this picture says a thousand words.

As for the medical cases, the increase of diabetic ulcers seen on this trip is astounding. Four years ago I started working with Don Sergio and most of the patients were burns and few were ulcers. There are still many burns just at this moment there are few, however the type of diabetic ulcers we see are severe and most would require some type of surgical procedure (if they were in the US). The majority of these patients have poorly controlled diabetes and don't seem to have a good understanding of this disease - hence the moniker "the silent disease". I can't help but notice the infiltration of the Western processed food diet and high consumption of sodas playing a significant part in the Mexican diabetes epidemic (same for the US).

Traveling Back to Tucson

Carol, Jim and I left at 4:30 am for the taxi ride to Tuxtla (Albino Corzo) Airport. Our plane ride to DF (Mexico City) then to Hermosillo was uneventful. The unpleasant part of this whole trip was the bus ride back to Tucson from Hermosillo. We were lucky to grab the last three seats departing Hermosillo at 1:30 pm however, these three seats were right in front of the bus's toilets… that were overflowing! Luck struck again after five hours — we stopped in Nogales to pick up others and had the restrooms cleaned. The border crossing was easy but we had to hang out on the US side for an additional hour for some unknown reason. Bruce picked us up at the Tucson Tufesa bus station on time and we delivered Carol and Jim to their doorstep.

The following day I returned to St. Elizabeth's Healthcare Center for my afternoon dermatology clinic for uninsured patients. This community clinic and our patients have very limited resources and the clinic relies on volunteers, grants, and private donations. Still, walking in I felt a sense of relief, "I'm back in the US so these seriously afflicted patients at least have a chance".  It saddens me to know there is so much suffering in the world. The patients I see in Chiapas are only a small sliver of how others suffer without adequate healthcare around the world. I urge everyone reading this to reach out and do what you can to help those without the luxury of good health… we, born in the US, are just plain lucky!

Many Thanks!

Organizations that help me help the patients in Chiapas are:
World Care
Arizona Burn Center
Northwest Wound Care Center 

Of course, to support Don Sergio carry on his one-man wound and burn care please click here or on the PayPal button on the upper right of this page. If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation please send your check to IF Integrities with a letter stating this donation is earmarked for Sergio Castro Martinez.

The 30-minute documentary about Don Sergio, El Andalon, is on sale to the public. A portion of the proceeds are donated to Don Sergio.

A special thank you to Bela at Bela's Bed and Breakfast for sharing your friendship, local knowledge, food and making my stay in San Cristóbal very comfortable.  !Gracias a Manuela, Teresa y Anna también!

All blog posts are my personal opinions and experiences while working with Don Sergio. Thank you all for your support. Patricia Ferrer, PA-C

To follow are photos I love to share and I can't help it but they are related to food: YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT!  Diabetes is changing the face of health in the world and its cause it at the root of what you put in your mouth. Please think about the long-term effects of high-sugared, high-carb and processed foods on your and your family's health.  ¡Disfruta!

The hands of a superb cocinera, Manuela, stuffing flor de calabas with quesillo.

More than once, twice, thrice… a photo of fresh squeezed OJ on the street for 10 pesos (seventy cents USD)

Rambutan, a leechy nut-type fruit. It tastes like a pulpy not-so-sweet green grape and the seed tastes like a nut.  They look so interesting - an export fruit for Mexico, brought from the far east some years ago.

View from patient's home: field of greens… field of food!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Saturday Rounds

June 30, 2012

The last full day of this trip has arrived and it is business as usual. Sergio wanted to get an early start as we have many house calls and the photojournalists are with us today. These ladies are so professional and hard working and will get in any awkward position to capture this story and Don Sergio kindly obliges them.  So, off we go to see our the eight patients for the day shift. 

The main economy in Zinacantan is the flowers and there are numerous green houses throughout this community. The home we visited had a plot with various flowers and plants. The Zinacantan women would not allow me to photograph them but I did snap a glimpse of their Zin Garden.

Yesterday, we went out to Zinacantan to see an elderly woman who is not feeling well and quit eating and we were to meet another man with a skin condition. The latter did not meet us at the locale he mentioned so we headed to the home of the former. Turns out bisabuelita (great grandmother) has an intestinal ailment and needs a proper work-up; there is nothing we can do for her. This is a perfect example of having to understand the cultural differences. These Zinacantanecas/Tzotziles trust Don Sergio more than they do the hospital but if he tells them to go, they will (well, might).
I love seeing and trying unrecognizable local food. This fruit is called "mamay" and looks like a large kiwi but has reddish pink pulp that taste like sweet potato and papaya. I'd like to make a smoothie with this. This elderly lady was selling her fresh food at the Zinacantan church square. In the background there are large yellow mushrooms and fruit from the cacti. Seeing the variety here makes reminds me of how limited the produce sections at the US grocery stores are.

Before we left the museo this morning, our crippled patient with the large cancerous tumor growing out his right thigh arrived for a bandage change. The smile and happiness in this man's face is infectious. His condition is terminal and he is unaware but seems to have a peace about him. Don Sergio speaks to him in Tzotzil afterwards and knowing we have a full day, he is in no hurry.  Afterwards we see our usual diabetic foot ulcers, pressure ulcers and our one burn patient and we're done by 1:30 pm.

Arriving at the Tzotiles' home a shy boy greets us and helps Don Sergio carry a box of clothing he brought for the family.

Our Tzotzil patient with the knee injury was also on our list and visiting this home is welcoming and a pleasure. The Tzotzil women welcome me kindly and the shy, curious children run up to Don Sergio to help carry his supplies up the narrow trail. After we're done with our wound care, we are asked to sit and eat. They put two small chairs, a table with a tablecloth outside and place homemade blue corn tortillas and a couple of omelets on top. Two days before they served us "los puntos" — the distal end of the chayote plant in soup form with homemade tortillas. Although this is not the cleanest environment I cannot refuse this incredible kind offering and I follow Don Sergio's lead. I do not want to offend as these poor people offer me one of their most valuable gifts: food. The effort to continuously feed their large family can be time consuming, costly and at times inconsistent. They let us eat as they stood in the one-room house and watched us.

Tzotzil girl watches on, her Asian features are remarkable.
Mayan hand-made blue corn tortillas with an omelet on top.  For the family to serve us their eggs is quite an offering.
Previous meal served was los puntos soup with corn tortillas. To drink is apple juice - I'm not a fan of this as it has a higher content of sugar but it may be cheaper and easier for them than to extract juice from a local and accessible plant.

The women knew it was my last day and one of them touched my hands and arms with the lightest contact as she expressed her gratitude for my coming. No words need be said, the touch conveyed everything.
The evening clinic has not been as busy as times before but the rainy season has started and many people do not like to get out in the rain. Bela had recommended to her new guests that they go to Don Sergio's museo for a tour and a few people we had met throughout the week also showed up. As he gave his tour I took care of the patients. Our local friends that come to hang out at the museo showed up and we sat and talked for quite a while. I said my goodbyes to them and to Don Sergio. Hasta pronto!

 Posted by P. Ferrer.