Students serve patients in Nicaragua

Ryan Sieli, MS 3, sees a patient at the triage station near Estelí, Nicaragua, as part of the UMKC Medical Brigade’s trip to serve those in the area.
Ryan Sieli, MS 3, sees a patient at the triage station near Estelí, Nicaragua, as part of the UMKC Medical Brigade’s trip to serve those in the area.

Twenty-five School of Medicine students helped serve more than 1,300 patients in Nicaragua in May. They joined other volunteers from UMKC and Missouri as part of the Medical Brigades, an arm of Global Brigades, which is the largest student-led global health and sustainable development organization in the world. The UMKC chapter is one of nearly 300 university groups around the world that provide sustainable health initiatives to Honduran and Panamanian communities with limited access to health care.

Communities served by the Global Brigades receive a brigade nearly each three to four months. During those visits, patients are treated at public health workshops where electronic records are kept for future visits and to monitor overall community health trends.

The following UMKC Medical Brigade members participated in the trip: Ahmed Said, MS 4; Ahsan Hussain, MS 3; Anchana Dominic, MS 3; Ankit Mehta, MS 4; Ashley Roh, MS 3; Belal Tarakji, MS 6; Gaurav Anand, MS 3; Haley Wardrip, MS 3; Harris Zamir, MS 3; Huma Mujadad, MS 4; Jazmine Smith, MS 3; Julia Asmar, MS 3; Krishna Kumar, MS 3; Lidia Kruse, MS 3; Matthew Hendrix, MS 4; Mohammed Bilal Alam, MS 4; Moiz Qureshi, MS 4; Neil Kapil, MS 4; Omar Karadaghy, MS 4; Ryan Sieli, MS 3; Sachin Nair, MS 3; Sami Al-Harastani, MS 6; Suzan Lisenby, MS 3; Vishal Thumar MS 3; Zara Wadood, MS 4.

Ryan Sieli, MS 3, kept a journal about his experience. Read the excerpt below.

5/23 Day 1

Our first night in Nicaragua got off to an admittedly rocky start. Bus trouble set our arrival to the compound a tad behind, but I guess such inconveniences are unavoidable on any trip! Once we arrived at our hostel, I think many of us were surprised at the quality of the amenities. However, we did not take too much time to explore, as we were all extremely tired from the earlier flight delay and car trouble. It was straight to bed for everyone!  

5/24 Day 2  

There was nothing planned for the morning of our first whole day at the compound (thankfully), which gave us plenty of time to sleep in. Lunch was the first thing on the itinerary, and as it was the first meal at the compound, we did not know what to expect. That first lunch was very delicious, and everyone enjoyed it thoroughly. We then took a drive through the countryside, enjoying the view of the various villages around Estelí, farmland, and the rolling hills and valleys. Afterwards, we made a stop at the town square to walk around and experience the city. Shops, restaurants, vendors, and performers lined the streets, and we had a blast buying souvenirs, ice cream, and practicing our Spanish. Our bus took us back to the compound for dinner, but not before a few of us spent some time enjoying the compound’s pool.

Eli, our group coordinator, gave a formal introduction after dinner as the official entrance onto the brigade. We met our pharmacists, physicians, translators, and introduced ourselves. Afterwards, we packed all of the medicines that we would be using for the remainder of the trip. Overall, our group probably put in 150 man-hours into packing the medications! Of course, all this work made us very tired, and we had to wake up early for our first trip to the community in the morning, so it was then off to bed.

5/25 Day 3  

We woke up early for our first whole day of clinic. After arriving in the community at which we would be working for the day, we were welcomed by a mariachi band and an opening prayer by the community leaders. We then started to organize ourselves to take care of the massive line that had formed very early in the morning in front of the clinic. There were about 20 minutes of chaos, but afterwards the 30 of us morphed into a well-oiled machine that got patients signed in, triaged, seen by the physician, given their medications, and sent off. The day went by very quickly and we helped many people: 460 total!

Our translators were integral to the success of our clinic, and being able to communicate with the patients through them was an interesting challenge. The patients themselves were mainly women and children who wanted medications to take home, as the nearest pharmacy is unbelievably far. In fact, many of them (including the small children) walked two hours or more to get to the clinic, often without shoes and on rocky roads. A common problem encountered at the clinic was dental hygiene. Many of the children’s teeth were completely rotten. Thankfully, our Charla station passed out many dental supplies and instructed the children on proper oral care, as well as giving all the children a fluoride treatment.  

At night, we had our reflection on the day where we offered suggestions for how to make the next clinic day better. We then packed some additional drugs before joining a couple of the other groups staying at the compound for their going away party. We ended the night with music, dancing, and swimming with brigadiers from all over the country.  

5/26 Day 4  

Our second day of clinic went by much like the first. We saw slightly fewer patients, 430 total, yet it seemed just as hectic as the day before. On our way back from clinic, we stopped at a roadside market and bought fresh guavas and plantain chips that were delicious. After dinner, our whole group played a massive game of capture the flag that spanned the entire compound. With all of the various hiding spots and different areas in the hostel, which was originally built to be a field trip destination for Nicaraguan schoolchildren, there were plenty of places to hide and sneak around. We had a blast for the few hours the game lasted, but were completely drained afterwards, and we had our last day in clinic the next morning, so we all headed to bed.  

A local woman teaches Omar Karadaghy, MS 4, president of the UMKC Medical Brigade, a traditional dance during the thank you ceremony for the student volunteers in Estelí, Nicaragua.
A local woman teaches Omar Karadaghy, MS 4, (right) president of the UMKC Medical Brigade, a traditional dance during the thank you ceremony for the student volunteers in Estelí, Nicaragua.

5/27 Day 5  On our last day of clinic, we finished earlier than we had on the other days of clinic, probably because we were much faster to set up and more organized before. By the end of the day, we had seen more than 1,300 patients combined from all three days! Afterwards, the community did another song and dance ceremony for us, and even got some of our own volunteers to join them in the dance. They gave us a little craft that the children had made, and we took turns busting one of their piñatas filled with candy.  

5/28 Day 6  We had finally reached our much-needed free day. We started by taking a scenic drive through the countryside, followed by lunch and some pool time. We played a big game of water polo and had a ton of fun. Then, we visited a nearby clinic in Estelí. It really made us realize how much we take our own medical facilities for granted. A physician who also answered our questions about health care in Nicaragua gave us the tour. It surprised me to learn that there were only two medical schools in all of Nicaragua, and all medical students are required to spend at least two years working in a rural area. Once we returned, our coordinator treated us to an American meal. We ended up getting pizza, and we all ate way too much. Afterwards, the compound threw a fiesta for us by the pool. We spent our last night dancing, singing, playing volleyball and soccer, and hanging out with other groups on the compound. It was a great closure to a great week!