Going on a medical mission trip was a goal on my bucket list. I love traveling and helping people, so I thought it would be nice to combine the two and volunteer on a medical mission trip in some beautiful location. I never dreamed it would be such a rewarding and humbling experience. I got the opportunity to work with Dr. Chris Menke and Surgeons of Service, a nonprofit company which we traveled to the Dominican Republic (DR) with. The dedication and time that the leaders of our mission team have invested is truly amazing. When I went to DR in Feb 2015, it was only the two trip to that area. Seeing doctors that I had the privilege to train under, reach out and make connections with another country and culture, to set up a clinic, shoe drive, obtain medical supplies and funding to give back to those less fortunate, is rewarding. Since then there have been numerous missions with increasing success.
My personal experience was this. I left a day after the initial group and therefore was traveling alone to Las Terrenas. I was nervous to be alone, but the people of the DR were friendly, kind and patient with me and my broken Spanish. Driving through the beautiful countryside it was easy to forget the conditions that the citizens have to endure everyday. Simple things we take for granted every day, are luxuries to them. We volunteered during the day at a local clinic. Unlike clinics in the US, there was no a/c and water was of limited supply. The medical supplies at our disposable were what we brought. Every band-aide, needle, dressing, brace and splint were a precious commodity. There was a line down the street every day, just to be seen by a Podiatrist. Some of the people could not afford shoes, so they had dirty blistered callused feet. Others had more severe congenital deformities, that casting techniques from birth could treat but without the benefit of those resources, children and adults presented with clubfoot and other deformities. We treated in clinic, everything from callus to arthritis and even wounds. One patient that stood out in my mind, had an open wound on his leg which was clearly infected. He had no supplies to cleanse and dress the wound. More importantly, he had no access to antibiotics, topical or oral. So a simple leg wound that could have been given 1-2 weeks of antibiotics with daily dressing changes, put this patient at risk for losing his entire leg. The gratitude the people expressed literally brought me to tears. One little girl, probably 9 years old, had a limb length discrepancy, meaning one leg was longer than the other. It was significant enough to cause a noticeable limp with knee and hip pain when she walked. We stacked some thick foam into a surgical shoe, creating a lift to balance out the limbs. She walked for the first time in her life without a limp. She cried and hugged me. It was such a simple thing, but to her it meant walking without pain and embarrassment. .
The best part of going on the medical mission trip, was to give to others with no strings attached. To volunteer your time and knowledge to others, because you can. Knowing you can help someone else, even if only one life is worth it. The gratitude of the people, who have so little but would share what they do have to say thank you, is humbling. The other volunteers you work along side, become instant colleagues and friends because you unite for a common goal. It really was one of the best experiences of my life and I can not wait to go back. I would highly recommend getting involved with a mission trip. Even if you can not go yourself, you can donate shoes through the “Shoes of Service” campaign, medical supplies, and spread the purpose of the mission trip, to help the children and people of the DR.