Saturday, November 21, 2009

A visit to the National Hospital!

Good Evening,
This afternoon I went to the government hospital to check on two infants we have in Intensive Care. This Hospital is located about forty five minutes from the Mission. It is one of the oldest government hospitals in the country but with new government administrations they do seem to at least paint the structure. Over the years the Pediatric Unit has improved thanks to international donations; this includes equipment and better staffing. Again we are fortunate as the Chief Doctor also did his senior year rural practice with us and also was one of the first Physicians for the Clinic Maxeña in the eighties. We do ask him to monitor our patients and also for second opinions in difficult cases.

One of the infants is the daughter of a couple with AIDS from our area. Daisy has converted positive for aids and was critically ill when the parents brought her to the hospital last week. She was to be admitted to another hospital to initiate treatment for AIDS but the parents, at last minute, did not take her and she became gravely ill with intestinal infection. She has improved and we hope we can now have her transferred by ambulance to the Hospital where she will receive AIDS treatment. We will consult with Roberto, the Pediatric chief of the Unit on Monday.

Julianna, the other infant, remains critically ill and I was told that she may not make the night. Our Doctor in the Clinica Maxeña sent her Friday as an emergency with severe dehydration and fever. One of our workers took her to the hospital. She is on a Respirator and continues with fever, diarrhea and respiratory distress. Cell phones are a blessing here now as they do keep us connected with our patients. I will help the parents get her out of the hospital if she should die. I have asked our carpenter to make a small casket, as it is the weekend, and this will facilitate my avoiding the cost of going to a funeral home, which is very expensive. Here if the child is not taken out within twenty four hours after dying they will be buried in the local cemetery so one must prepare for the worst. Culturally this would be a major crisis for the family. The Beatitude "Blessed are the POOR for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven" is a PROMISE that will not be denied them! My Irish Faith helps me on difficult days as today!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Child with Leukemia

Manuela is 10 years old and newly diagnosed with acute leukemia. She was with difficult breathing and very pale when she arrived with her parents to our clinic. She lives in the village of Pasin with her parents and seven siblings. We know the family as we had sent their youngest child to the hospital last year for a severely infected leg. I remember the mom as a very young looking 32 year old Mayan woman and was astonished when she told me she had eight children; she married at 15 years. She stayed with her baby at that time for ten days at the bedside in the government hospital. We knew they were responsible parents who would make a sacrifice for the welfare of their children. The Cancer Hospital for children is in the city, three hours from the mission. The treatment is without charge but a parent must accompany the child during their stay in the hospital. Manuela was admitted to Intensive Care on arrival with severe anemia. She was placed in oxygen and in the next two days received two blood transfusions which greatly improved her status and she was removed from Intensive Care. Her father chose to stay with her since there is an infant in the family of nine months and the mother is breast feeding.

We are very fortunate to have an excellent contact with one of the physicians in charge. Today she called to give an update on Manuelas condition. The initial treatment with chemotherapy requires two months hospitalization with the entire treatment is received over two years. A Psychologist explains the treatment and committment required and the risks to the family. Manuelas parents are willing to accompany their child on her long, difficult road to a cure. The doctor has asked if Manuela can return to our clinic after the initial two months since their home has a dirt floor and the possibility of infection and adequate nutrition are risks that are a concern in her convalescence. I agreed we could take the responsibility for her intermittent care between chemotherapy treatments with one of her older sisters accompanying her in the clinic. We would also facilitate her transport to and from the city for future treatments. Please keep Manuela in your prayers. I will update you on her journey to wellness!

Photos included are are a picture of Manuela in our clinic before she departed for the Childrens CANCER Hospital in Guatemala City and the other picure is of their kitchen at home. You can understand the concern the doctor has for risk of infection and adequate nutrition. This is another family we will gift one of our ONIL stoves. Thank You for responding to our request also for purchasing a stove for a poor family for $100.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


The United Nations and the World Health Organization proclaimed November 14 WORLD DIABETES DAY! This disease is now a world epidemic. The theme for 2009-2013 is "Understand Diabetes" "Take Control"!! For Diabetics it is a message about EMPOWERMENT through EDUCATION. Over 1000 Diabetics have passed through our lab services and consult in the Clinica Maxeña during 2009.

The Clinica Maxeña participates in WORLD HEALTH days, including DAY for AIDS, DAY of the ENVIRONMENT, and now for DIABETES. We hang a banner for the month across the width of our road at the entrance of the MISSION. This year, we invited many to commemorate this Day for Diabetes, which included known Diabetics, persons who feel they have the symtoms or risks, and relatives of diabetics who feel they may have this disease. We were pleased with the response to our forum and day of exposition for Diabetes. We advertised about our event and the symptoms and risks of diabetes through the clinic, local communal radios and printed flyers to other health organizations. Eight new patients were diagnosed DIABETIC during our commemoration of World Diabetes Day; over 60 persons attended. One youth of 17 years, a new diabetic, came to the forum. He was being managed by a pharmacy in town on oral medication. Yesterday we initiated his insulin regimen in our clinic as he is a type one diabetic and this is vital for his future health. We will look for a sponsor for him as the cost for insulin dependent Diabetics is approximately $30. dollars a month; this is impossible for families who are field workers who only earn $7.00 a day!

We had a young Mayan Psychologist who spoke on the emotional effects of this disease. I reviewed some of the physical symptoms, risks and complications of diabetes. Our exposition presented medicinal plants and the nutritional aspects. Members of our Diabetic Club, LA MAXEÑA, prepared the diabetic snack for the participants. We considered the day a SUCCESS!!

Included is a photo of Diego, 17 years old and new insulin dependent diabetic. He is in his third year of Junior High in town. If you can help Diego with $30. dollars a month this would enable him to not worry about his disease and lead a normal life.

In the second Photo, one of Members of our Diabetic CLUB, LA MAXEÑA, shares her experience with living with DIABETES!

Donations can be sent to:
Guatemala Mission
PO BOX 1729
Helena, MT.



Good Morning to all!
I am up early; it is Sunday morning. This weekend was difficult. Friday, at the end of the day, Francisco, a nine year old child arrived in the arms of his father. He was severely malnourished, weighing only 41 pounds. Ever, our doctor, examined him and started intravenous fluids for his dehydration. Francisco was acutely ill. He had surgery three weeks ago for a perforated appendix, resulting in peritonitis. He was hospitalized in the government hospital for two weeks. It appears he was discharged with intestinal complications and the family was told to find a private doctor. Unfortunately they waited nearly ten days before arriving to the Clinic. THIS WAS PROBABLY FOR ECONOMIC REASONS OR FOR RELIGION. He was suffering from an intestinal obstruction, apparently since the time of his discharge; the only solution was another surgery. The family would not go to the government hospital again. The family consented to allow him to have the surgery and a surgeon of confidence for the clinic agreed to see him Saturday morning. He was in weakened condition and his life hung on by a thread. I accompanied them to this clinic. Saturday afternoon two doctors performed four hours of surgery. The doctor called me to share his condition was complicated by the degree of obstruction and adhesions and severe malnutrition but he felt he would be ok. Three hours later he called to inform me that his organs were failing. He died at 9PM. I was sad as I thought he would be ok. Please pray for this family and all little children here whose health care is not assured. Thank You for helping us respond to these needs. Enclosed I share a photo I took of Francisco with his parents before the surgery, in this private clinic.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

That Morning Cup of Coffee!

Good Morning Friends and Family,
In Guatemala from October to December we are in Coffee harvest time. We are surrounded by a few large plantations of coffee, owned by the wealthy, and also communal land where the Quiche Indian have small parcels of land. Early in the morning field workers, men, women and children, crowd into back of pickups with their baskets, gunny sacks, and bits of food and drink for the day and head out for the coffee fields. In front of our entrance of the Mission is one area of pickup for the coffee pickers. This year most owners are paying the pickers between $4.00 to $5.00 for one hundred pounds of the red coffee bean. Most field workers would struggle to obtain the 100 pounds for the day. Little children come along to help fill the gunny sacks with the red bean. The reality is that it is the wealthy land owner that is paying, in some instances, less than $4.00 for the hundred pounds of coffee bean and the small parcel owner who pay the field workers a little more. Fortunately the schools are in recess so the children are able to accompany their parents to the field. Yes! CHILD LABOR!! but it is reality for the POOR:

I was recently at home for vacation. Yes, I did frequent the coffee shops and did enjoy an occassional cappuchino for $3.00. Now back in my own reality, I am very aware that what a coffee picker earns in one day hardly pays for a treatment of antibiotic for a sick child. The poor know they can come to our clinic for care, knowing they may not be able to pay for the medicine, but we will not turn them away. I know times are also more difficult at home. But still I am well aware of my own comforts and security, and of my family and friends. I dare to continue to ask, to beg, for help for the POOR we serve.

I do want to write more on the reality of COFFEE in a future blog. More than forty years ago our missionaries did initiate a Coffee Cooperative, in a villlage less than five miles from our mission, that continues to progress and grow today. They are FAIR TRADERS as Cooperative members. Recently the Cooperative was successful in obtaining a large grinder so they could not only process and dry the coffee bean but also grind and bag it. The placing of the coffee in bags is part of the women´s participation in the Cooperative. This year they will put labels on their coffee.


Please do send a donation to help us serve the coffee pickers and families in our CLINIC when they are ill. Remember them when you enjoy your morning coffee!!

Send your donation to:
Guatemala Mission
Nurses Fund
Diocese of Helena
PO BOX 1729
Helena, MT

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Concerns and Joys as year comes to end

Friends and Family,
Greetings from here amidst the drizzling rains. We escaped Hurricaine IDA except for the constant wet soggy ground around us. A concert and meditation on the Eucharist had to be moved to the patio of the school from our mission grounds because of the wheather. It was a joyous celebration with over three hundred in attendance. Fr Martin is campus ministry chaplain for the Diocesan University in San Salvador; during the week he, with his band and sololists, travel nationally and internationally carrying his Ministry of the Blessed Sacrament and joyful music to all.

Also it was the culmination of a successful year for Pastoral Health of the diocese of which the Clinica Maxeña is a vibrant participant. The Clinic Band brought joy and music to the event and to the mass celebrated by Bishop Pablo Vizcaino. Health themes for the Clinic this past year included Safe Water Project, Nutrition, Environmental issues, which includes the wood burning stove, reforestation, and also AIDS, and Diabetes. Coming together with other health workers from other parishes enables one to learn from each other, share concerns, prayer, and hope for a more just world for the sick and poor.

In the clinic as the year ends we are also looking at our financial situation for the year to come, evaluating workers and contracts and planning end of year festivities. The Gospel reminds of the reality that the POOR will always be with us. As CHURCH we cannot and do not refuse treatment to patients. Realities are that more and more patients are charitable cases so we must continue to ask others to accompany us in our Ministry here in order to provide quality care. THANK YOU!!

The Feast of St Thomas, Patron saint of the town and our parish is celebrated December 21. The parish staff hosts a christmas party for workers and pastoral health and social committees plan the Christmas Party for the elderly which is celebrated on the Mission grounds.

Another celebration of 50 years in mission is being celebrated by the Diocese of Spokane Washington in the highlands, about three hours by highway travel. Now one is able to go up a rugged dirt road up the mountains from our mission and arrive in half the time. Alex, our volunteer, went to the first day of the celebration. I hope also to join the festivities on Thursday if I can find someone to accoumpany me. Our mission is three years from a Golden Jubilee celebration.

I include a picture of our band in the diocese Retreat center near the adjacent water fall and also one of myself with Sr Immaculata; she is from Ireland and the Spokane Mission. We have been friends for many years, since the beginnings of both our Missions.
Good Night to all!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Home again at Clinic and Mission

Friends and family,
Greetings anew from our Mission in Guatemala. It is good to be back home here. Surprisingly we are getting heavy rain storms yet in afternoons. This weekend is the remembrance of All saints in our Spiritual tradition and also loved ones who have passed on. All Souls day is a national holiday here. Everyone goes to the cemetery with flowers, candles and also there is music and food booths. The people accompany their dead into the night when the cemetery is aglow with candle lights.

We have one patient in our clinic infirmary. Juana is the woman who was brutally attacked by her husband in September. She had a metal plate surgically inserted in one leg to enable the healing of a serious fracture in the local government hospital. Unfortunately one area of the incision has infected. She is completely immobile so her children are caring for her in the clinic. Her husband remains in prison. He is mentally ill but unfortunately there are no institutions adequate for treating and monitoring such patients. Prisoners suffer greatly at the hands of the leaders of gangs in the prison unless they pay a high stipend to these criminals. We will continue to accompany this domestic violence patient until she is healed. Your donations and prayers are appreciated.

Our cooks son in law, Diego, has finally been deported from the US as an undocumented immigrant, after eight months in prison. He was in an automobile accident where two other Guatemalans were killed; he was not the driver but was injured. Diego was removed from the hospital and brought to a detention center. He was given little legal support during his incarceration and he spoke of thousands of other detainees, undocumented immigrants, in the same warehouse prison. I saw him today and he told me he rarely saw the light of day during this time. The Catholic Church supports immigration reform for the undoccumented who flee Latin American countries for economic reasons.

As the end of the year approaches we know we have had many blessings with the people we serve but it also has been a difficult year for many families economically, with illness, malnutrition and violence. Your prayers and support are greatly appreciated.