Carla Reyes was already five months pregnant when she visited our medical team in Ciudad Sandino, Nicaragua. It was the first time she had seen a doctor since being pregnant. Her blood pressure was extremely high, and she had not taken any prenatal vitamins or followed the typical steps recommended to expectant mothers.
One week before the 2015 Thanksgiving holiday, a team of 9 medical professionals and volunteers joined with us to provide much needed medical care in two Nicaraguan garbage dump communities in Ciudad Sandino and Nueva Vida.
Working for three days in two locations, the team treated over 600 patients, many of them single mothers like Carla Reyes. Carla was advised on prenatal care and received the treatment she needed to ensure her baby would be born healthy.
The volunteers were saddened by the lack of basic resources in the impoverished communities.
One 9-year-old boy, Josué, had missed school for weeks simply because he had the flu. His family was unable to afford treatment, so his illness progressed. Another 6-year-old boy, Ervin, had been suffering from urinary tract infections since birth. For the first six years of his life, he had been in excruciating pain all because basic care and antibiotics were not affordable and impossible to attain.
Throughout the week, the volunteers gave all they had to help those in need, despite the 100-degree heat. Both Josué and Ervin, and many children like them, received the treatment and medication they needed from our medical team. Josué told the team that he was anxious and excited to get back to school.
One of the most memorable patients whom the team had the privilege of serving was 99-year-old Julia, two months shy of her 100th birthday. She dazzled volunteers and the patients around her with stories from her past as a coffee farmer in a rural village. Despite her age and her living conditions, Julia suffered from no major health issues. Her only complaint was that her age was starting to slow down her movements. It was getting harder and harder to walk around the community and visit with her friends and loved ones. So the team provided her with a can to help her walk independently with more ease.
For all of the patients who received medical attention, the opportunity to see a professional and receive medication was of incalculable value. Nicaragua is the second poorest country in Latin America after Haiti, and the need for medical care for its most vulnerable citizens is great. Only 6.3% of the population in Nicaragua has health insurance; infant and maternal mortality are high, as are malaria and parasitic diseases.