Stories From the Field:

HONDURAS

La Rosa, Honduras

Sophia Harden, RN, a nurse at Phillips House at Mass General Hospital was granted a Center for Global Health Travel Award to travel to La Rosa, Honduras as part of a medical mission.

In February, I had the opportunity to travel to rural Honduras with a group of 20 doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners to provide medical care in the villages surrounding Olanchito.  Each morning we awoke early to pack our suitcases full of medications and supplies and head toward the mountains in the back of pick-up trucks.  The first day, we drove on narrow mountain roads for over two hours to the remote village of La Rosa.  Although we had an early start, there were already over 200 people waiting on the hillside to greet us and receive medical care.  There, they gathered in a concrete building that served as their school, church, and today, a clinic.

We organized ourselves into different stations to meet the various needs of the patients. One station provided everyone with de-worming pills, Tylenol, vitamins and seed packets.  Another housed the medical providers, including an ophthalmologist, to see patients in need of direct medical care. We also established a small pharmacy to give out antibiotics, analgesics, gastrointestinal medicines, cough/cold medicine and supplies for dressing wounds.

The patient’s health complaints were varied and ranged from simple wound care to cases that were much more complicated, especially in La Rosa’s rural setting. On the first day, we saw a woman who was struck in the head by lightning four years prior and had since been suffering from debilitating headaches.  Unfortunately, there was little we could do to help her in the long run but she was extremely relieved to receive a bag of Tylenol to lessen her pain and began crying out of gratitude. At this point, I was struck by how something so simple and accessible to me, such as Tylenol, was able to make a significant difference in this woman’s life.

That same day, a young woman was carried to the clinic in a hammock. She was suffering from Status Epilepticus, a life-threatening condition in which the brain is in a constant state of seizure.  Without IV access and the correct medications, there was little we could in that setting apart from cushioning her head to ensure she did not hurt herself. That afternoon, we put her in the back of the truck and did our best to support her head and body on the two-hour ride down the rough mountain roads to a local hospital.  Once she was admitted to the hospital, she received the necessary medications to improve her condition and I could see the relief on her mother’s face. While I was very reassured to see she was being properly cared for, I knew as soon as she returned to La Rosa, she would not have access to the life saving medicine she so clearly needed.

As a result of this humbling and eye-opening experience, I plan to return to Honduras to further the Village Health Care Worker Program that trains and empowers villagers to provide more long-term health care and follow-up visits.  I am very much looking forward to my upcoming visit and my sincere thanks to the Mass General Center for Global Health for making this initial trip possible.