(THE PICKET) – “We saw over 150 people that day but one patient in particular stood out. A 16-year-old girl and her mother approached me. Her daughter had been diagnosed with a non-curable neurological disorder six months ago. I could see in their eyes they were hopeless. I was, essentially, their last glimmer of hope,” Dr. Barbara Spencer recalls.
Shepherd University’s Dr. Spencer spent 10 days in Guatemala on a medical mission trip last summer. She is teaching her second semester of gerontology in the Shepherd University nursing department. The people and patients that crossed her path will forever reside in her heart.
The 16-year-old girl and mother who approached Dr. Spencer that day left the clinic with hope for the first time in six months.
“In my visit, just speaking with her I knew deep down she had to be having suicidal thoughts. I went through the list, asked her if she had suicidal thoughts or had attempted suicide. She was suicidal,” Dr. Spencer recalled.
At this point Dr. Spencer realized if this patient was in the U.S. something could be done to help her. The reality of the situation though was that this patient was in Guatemala and would probably never reach the U.S. to get the help she needed.
“Because of the neurological movement disorder she couldn’t sleep at night. I gave her medication for the depression and to help her sleep. We are only allowed to give a one month’s supply and then who knows what happens,” Dr. Spencer said. “I do know they left with some hope that day.”
The Real Impact Mission (RIM) that Dr. Spencer participated in consisted of 30 medical professionals and student volunteers from all over the country who travelled to Guatemala City, Guatemala. The medical trip is faith based as a short mission for people and organizations that want to provide medical services, disaster relief, provided educational opportunities, and spread the gospel.
For Dr. Spencer, going on a medical mission trip had yet to be crossed off her bucket list. Another nurse practicioner Maggie Allen, mentioned in class one day that she, and the rest of the 2015 RIM organization, were looking for one more person to go on the trip. Dr. Spencer signed up immediately.
Unless there are travelling doctors who visit the people in Guatemala’s small villages, no health care is present. The closest ‘doctor’s office’ is a two-hour trip.
“A weird realization kind of came over me. These people are just like us. They just don’t have the resources we do. I saw everything that I would see in an American hospital,” Dr. Spencer said. “We saw people with diabetes, the flu, digestion problems, depression, everything. We even had a surgeon with us who did a small eye surgery.”
Although Dr. Spencer has been a nurse practitioner for over 11 years, she found this trip beneficial for a multitude of reasons. Although the mission trip takes an emotional toll, the rewarding experience doesn’t compare to anything else. She has made plans to attend the next Real Impact Mission (RIM) this coming summer in June, in Guatemala City, Guatemala.