- Morning Service 10:30
New Hope for Children: Lynne Johnson Joins The Annual Medical Mission
Over the past 7 years New Hope For Children have held a yearly Medical Mission where a Medical Team from supporting countries spend a week going out to some of the poorer areas, giving out free health care along with donations of clothes shoes, toys etc.
This year one of our members, Lynne Johnson, was able to join the team. This is Lynne's report of her time there:
The first few days after we arrived in Bogota were spent putting some of these donations together. These were all gifts from supporters and anything that NHFC doesn't need for their own children they gladly give away to others. We also packed large boxes full of the different types of medicines, dressings, vitamin tablets etc that we would need for each day of the Mission. Our team consisted of 3 Brits, (my daughter Suzanne, my friend Christine and myself), 5 from Ireland, 22 from the USA and a number of Colombians to help with things like dentistry, transport and translation.
Day 1 saw us get together for the first time to 'practice' on the children at the home and some of their parents. It was really a case of the team getting to know each other and how we could use our different skills to work together. It was good to get this under our belts and to have a bit of time to relax, eat and sleep properly before the real work began.
The next 3 days are easier to clump together because to be honest by the time we got to bed on the Monday night most of us didn't know which place was which. On the Saturday we drove for 4 hours in chaotic, smelly traffic until we reached our first stop. Although the British news reporters haven't cottoned on to it, the fact is that over the last few months Colombia has seen many parts of the country affected by severe flooding. Thousands of people have lost their homes and their livelihoods and lives have been lost. It was to people affected by these floods that we mainly went. On our first day we set up base in a school building. Though this was dry there was evidence of the flooding all around us and many of the stories the people had to tell was of the trauma that the water had caused. We set up with a team of 9 doctors, 2 dentists, a physiotherapist, a respiratory team and a wound specialist. Alongside these were the nurses who checked blood pressures, weights, health history etc and did the general running round that made sure that everyone was seen to. In total that day we saw 978 patients.
A 3-hour drive took us to our overnight stop for a 5-hour sleep on the concrete floor of a golf course restaurant. Cozy!! Up again at 5am for a long drive to our next stop. Each day we set up the same, only the number of people, mainly older students and NHFC staff, who helped with translation varied. There wasn't so much evidence of flooding this time but there were an awful lot of people wanting our attention. That day we saw 1,055 patients and then had another long drive home before getting 4 hours sleep.
Amazingly we all managed to get up and out by 4:30am for our drive to the Colombian Military Air Force Base. Due to changes in the Colombian laws, Jeanene had found it very hard to get permission for us to go out to certain places to give Medical Care. As NHFC is officially a Children's Home and not a Medical Unit, the new laws made thing more complicated than in previous years. In desperation she had rang a friend in the government office and said, 'what do I do, I have a medical team coming out and nowhere to take them'. Her friend laughed and replied, 'guess what I have just had an Air Force colonel on the phone saying he has a huge plane ready to fly out and offer medical care to flood victims but no medical team to put on it. Why don't we put the two together?' Lots of phone calls later, this answer to prayer led us to arrive at the Military Base ready for a day with the Air Force!
After very formal introductions we were led to the plane, a Hercules C130. It may sound very grand but all I could think of as I climbed aboard was that it reminded me of a slave ship. It had a central lengthways partition with 2 rows of benches either side. We sat on the benches facing each other with our knees touching. We had seatbelts around us, and netting behind us to hold on to when it got bumpy. The noise was terrific so we also had to wear earplugs. It was great fun but not very romantic!
After 30 minutes we landed and went to the hospital in a bus that had been lent to us for the day. There were people in uniform everywhere and to be honest I don't know who half of them were, but they were there to help us and to make the day into one of celebration for the people who had been through so much. Despite the incredible heat we had an amazing day. My lack of Spanish and the lack of English from the two policemen helping me kept the patients amused for hours. I learnt one very important word of Spanish: Agua...water. It was so hot that we needed constant cold drinks to keep going but every time we asked, someone in uniform would run down the corridor to get some. In total we saw an amazing 1,373 patients and were very tired by the time we boarded the Hercules to head back to our beds. In those 3 days we had a total of 9 hours sleep and saw over 3,000 patients but the experience of it all was incredible. Needless to say we got a day off the next day.
I won't go into detail about the rest of the trip but in the 2 days after this we saw another 2,179 patients taking our grand total, excluding the school children to 5594.
A lot of these people would have had access to medical care in one form or another, but many of them simply didn't have the money to buy the medication they needed and treatments like physio or dentistry were something they would never get. Some we saw were too ill for us to do anything other than give them pain killers and prayer. A few who needed operations are to be flown to the USA to get the treatment there, all at the cost of the USA doctors. Many of them simply needed someone to care and have someone to listen to them. When you have lost everything you own and have no way of replacing it, it helps to know that you matter to someone.
All in all it was an exhausting but amazing thing to be a part of. On the day after we finished our travels one little girl came to Bogota for an operation. She's 9 years old and was born with 2 thumbs on each hand. In England this would have been dealt with at birth but for this little girl it has caused her a lifetime of misery. Children at school teased her so she stopped going and walked around with her hands hidden so nobody could see them. In a short operation one of our doctors removed the extra thumbs and now the little girl can get on with her life. She will be attending the school at NHFC as an external student until she catches up on all the teaching she has missed. Isn't it sad that something that can be dealt with so simply can have such a huge affect when the treatment isn't available?
Below is a copy of the letter sent by the Commander of the Air Force Reserves. They were so impressed with our work, especially when they heard that we were doing it for free that they became our life-long friends. They are all set for contacting Jeanene to get a team ready at a moments notice to fly out to disasters anywhere in the world so watch this space!!
Bye for now, God Bless
Dear Jeanene, Richard, Dr. Mike and all the other members of CVII:
Today I have nothing but words of appreciation for the noble work you carried out yesterday, helping our fellow citizens who have suffered the hardships of the floods this winter. The work and example that you have given us with your unconditional surrender and a love to serve our people, spurs us on to forge ahead with our work with the use of our COLOMBIAN AIRCRAFT. In the past this was an instrument of war, but now it is an instrument of peace. We hope that because of this work, in the not too distant future we will have a better country. Thank you for helping us to build our dream.
Warm and fraternal greetings