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Telemedicine program: the youthful vision of an American student
MEXICO | APOSTOLATE | NEWS
One of the most rewarding and yet one of the simplest procedures was to help an elderly woman who had been completely deaf to suddenly hear again.

Telemedicina
Ally spent her three weeks in Mexico contributing her energy and skills to the Telemedicine team and the people they served.

Ally is 20 year old pre-med student at Duke University (North Carolina) who wanted to spend her summer vacations doing something different and productive.  She wanted to volunteer in a social program, and was hoping to end up in a far-away, exotic location.  She never imagined that life would bring her to Mexico, simply the neighboring country to the south.  This is her story and her testimony.

“Coming to Mexico for the first time from the United States, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this experience.  There are a lot of stereotypes characterizing Mexico as this overwhelmingly poverty-stricken country. I soon discovered that was simply not true.”

Ally arrived in Mexico on Saturday, June 12 in Cotija, Michoacán; she lived here for the first stage of her three week volunteer experience with the Telemedicine program.  Abraham Campos, the director of the health program within the Altius Foundation, met her and served as her host for the first week.

After her first week, Ally was ready to visit Tuitan in the township of Tequila, Jalisco.  Elizabeth, Mariana, and Ivan were her companions during her stay on the mountain.  They stayed in a house within the community, and in another house, they were offered food and refreshments throughout the week. Every day they would set up their telemedicine equipment less than half a mile from where they were staying.

“Although I was at first surprised by the way that people would open up their homes to us, by the end of my trip I finally started to feel what they told me all along – that I will always have a second home in Mexico.”

The work days were long, beginning at 9 in the morning and not finishing until after 10 p.m.  In the rare occasion that they finished early, Ally would play soccer with the local kids or walk along the paths of the hills enjoying the landscape.

“She was very brave considering that she came from a comfortable place that did not have the inconveniences that we have here,” Elizabeth Robles said.  Her companions all said that Ally never gave up.  She was present at all of the workshops and consultations, and she helped with much of the work, including giving injections, attaching the EKG sensors to the patients, and taking vital signs.

“Throughout my participation in the Telemedicine program, I was constantly in awe of the state-of-the-art technology that we were able to apply to the areas that needed it most as well as the knowledge and professionalism of the doctors that I worked along side of.  It was incredible to me how things that we often take for granted such as having access to ultrasounds, electrocardiograms, or even medication to treat such potentially devastating problems as hypertension or diabetes could make such a difference in the lives of these individuals.

“In fact, one of the most rewarding and yet one of the simplest procedures that we did during my volunteer experience was using hydrogen peroxide, some water and a syringe to help an elderly woman who had been completely deaf to suddenly hear again.  Looking at the smile on this woman’s face as she was able to recognize voices and noises again – when everyone else had turned her away and offered her no help – it  suddenly clicked to me why this program is so special.”

Inside the Telemedicine truck, Ally had some memorable experiences.  She and the young doctor Mariana were able to confirm the pregnancy of a woman who had been trying to get pregnant for over four years.  Ally was able to witness the joy of this woman as she told her she was expecting.  Ally also helped the other doctor, Ivan, as he gave injections to a woman who had extremely high blood pressure and was in danger of a heart attack.  On a lighter note, Ally had some fun talking to some of the children in the communities who wanted to hear her speak English, as they had never heard someone from the United States speak her native tongue.  Ally was able to call home every Friday and tell her friends and family what an amazing experience she was having.

“The Mexican people that I met in these communities were so appreciative and gracious that I realized I could learn a great deal from the way that they embody their culture and community.“

On Sunday, June 25, the team moved from Jalisco to the State of Guerrero.  They served two communities with medical clinics in the Acapulco area.  The heat in this region was so intense, it made the consultations and the medical services more complicated.  There was no air conditioning in the truck this week, only electric fans.  At one point, after doing an ultrasound on a woman with the truck doors closed for privacy, it was hotter inside the truck than outside.  The medical team was so committed to their work they did their best to ignore the heat.  But some of the teammates had to make sure the doctors took a break from their work so they would not end up suffering from heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

“Although in many areas that type of poverty is the reality for many people, I soon discovered that the Mexican people are as richly diverse as the places that I visited.”

This is how Ally spent her three weeks in Mexico contributing her energy and skills to the Telemedicine team and the people they served.  She ended her reflection on it by saying:

“I feel privileged to have been part of a program that is so invaluable to the Mexican people that I grew to know and love in just a few short weeks.”

If you want to be a volunteer in Altius programs, contact us: info@altius.org


PUBLICATION DATE: 2006-07-28


 
 

Related links

Altius Foundation
Catholic World Mission
Helping Hands Medical Missions
St Rafael Guizar y Valencia Missionary Center


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