Health Care Public Health

Embracing the Mystery on Day One

The work day site at Honduras

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There's a saying we use over and over on any mission trip — embrace the mystery. When you're traveling to a different country with a large group of people, things don't often go as planned. But when you embrace the mystery, it's easier to accept the little bumps along the road.

Today, a team of 36 associates, physicians and nurses traveled to El Salvador to serve those in extreme need. We started our day at O'Hare at 4:30 a.m., each of us lugging a 50-pound suitcase of supplies — containing everything from medications to wound dressings to toothbrushes.

We made it from Chicago to Atlanta without any issues and then left Atlanta after a short layover for El Salvador. It was raining three hours later when we were landing, which resulted in a bumpy descent into the country. The pilot opted to go around the storm and we landed safely 20 minutes later.

Ivo, the local Rotary Club representative met us inside the airport and led us through the immigration process. This was done in advance so things would go smoothly. However, at the last point, we were asked by officials to go through each of the supply suitcases, item by item, lot number and pill by pill. These suitcases were packed to the gills of medications, and some items were taken out of their original packaging to save space. The officials compared what we had to the packing lists, and the appropriate taxes were paid to allow these items to come into the country. The process took about six hours. Embrace the mystery!

Thankfully, Annemarie Niemer and our pharmacy team, Sheila Scarim and Denise Jaworski, stayed behind for that process while the rest of the team went to the hotel and got organized. We made goodie bags of items for every patient — a toothbrush and toothpaste, floss, lip balm, body wash and sunscreen. Additional medications may be prescribed by our providers, but everyone will leave the clinic with something.

Tomorrow we will set up our first clinic and are expecting to see between 200 and 300 patients. They have been given numbers for the line spots and will be waiting for us when we arrive at 8 am. We had a team meeting and ended with a blessing for tomorrow.

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