Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Enviromental Hazards and solutions in Guatemala

Good Morning,

Today is a quiet day in the office of the Clinica Maxeña so I am in the office working on some articles and writings for funds to supplement our budget. It is important for us to find funding that also includes the people and finances from here so not all comes from the exterior.

There are many issues of the environment that affect the health of the people we serve. One very common one is the custom of cooking over an open fire on a dirt floor, as this is how their mothers cooked and their grandmothers before them. It is a family space to sit and chat around the fire but it also a dangerous space for children. Each month in the clinic we treat severe burns in children from falls or being to near to the open flames. Eye inflammation and lung disease is also a common complication from excessive smoke in the home due to no chimnies.

Now there are alternative stoves being produced and offered and econoomic prices. The Clinica Maxeña and population we serve are interested in progress and change that will impact the health and well being of the mayan population. These stoves are referred to as ONIL stove and the cost is approximately $100. per stove. We have created a project to purchase stoves and to sell them at different prices as a means to have a rotating fund for the project and also to invest some of the money paid for stoves to our medicine costs for patients who cannot pay. We were fortunate to recieve our first donation through the Diocese of Helena to purchase 200 stoves. This project will begin to function next week with the arrival of the first 50 stoves. The advantage of these stoves is they do have a chimney, they are simple to construct, and they burn a very minimal amount of wood. This is extremely important as deforestation is a reality and a recent forest fire on VOLCAN PECUL increased the problem as the area burned was immense and only the recent beginnings of the rainy season extinguished this fire. We hope to present this project also to envionmental organizations, schools and rotary clubs. If you know of a connection for us you can send me an email at

THANK YOU! Love Sheila

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

La Clinica Maxeña

Dear Friends and Family,
This is a picture of the clinic that the Diocese of Helena constructed in 1966. I was blessed with the opportunity to be one of three initial Lay Missionaries sent to support the priests who founded the mission a few years earlier. That I was there before the construction, or even the trees and that I and another nurse, Emma Jean started the clinic with little experience as Nurses and that it has become what it is today is a miracle. It is definitely the work of many talented dedicated people that have given a portion of their lives, through the years, to be present, share and help the Mayan people who inhabit this corner of the world to have better healthier lives despite the obstacles and injustices that surround them. Many memories of difficult times in the beginnings when many children and adults died from simple diseases because of lack of medicine, medical care and fear of hospitals can not be forgotten. Health Care has become big business and not really a human right as it should be in all parts of the globe. Pastoral Health is now part of a Ministry of the catholic church in all Latin America. The Church is a real advocate and educator for monitoring Health Care. In Latin America the Bishops have a voice that carries the message and even the governments sometimes listen to their criticism and often heeds their requests for more humane care for the POOR. Medicine for the poor in government hospitals however is not adequate or just and people have reason not to want to go there for care. In the many years I have been here that is one reality that has changed very little.
Thanks for listening. More later on. I have just learned to add a photo to my blogs. Good Night Sheila

Furry Friends in Guatemala

Hello again from my home south of border.

I remember all my days being fond of little furry creatures. Perhaps it was for me the most difficult decision coming here, was to whom would I entrust my two doggies. Fortunately I chose two families that took them in and I know they continue to do well in Washington state. Since shortly after my arrival in the mission I obrained my first new dog, Chajinel, a pretty grey and white HUSKY. I remember how quickly his paws grew and he soon had a doggie house and small yard. Chapin, a cute mutt, followed into my life here. Hazys mama cat is forever having kitties, and one is mine, PRINCE. I have not had a cat of my own before but he has become special too. He roams about now and likes to drop inside, especially when it rains Prince like to play with Chapin and jump up on top of Chajinels fence to rest. Besides those creatures in the mornings I often sit and sip coffee and look at the beautiful birds that fly in and out of the trees that surround us. I got a pair of binoculars for my 65th birthday and a birdie book from my sister to make it more interesting. St Francis is for sure an important saint for me. Due to inheriting my moms Irish faith I have a deep faith and I have my St Francis statue, and small figurines of animals I have collected over the years from friends and family. Also a picture of this saint is over my desk in our clinic office. The animals here are thin and often sickly. I feel a bit guilty spending my coins on their food and care but I know it is ok to do so. They are important part of my life as always.

Here today we are concerned as the swine flu is gripping Mexico and causing death and fear. Each day we will be evaluating the situation for we and those we serve and for visitors scheduled to come. Hopefully it will not become more an issue for the people whose defenses are down and the reality that medications are not available for the poor for ordinary diseases.

We are very fortunate to have one worker who accompanies patients to hospitals and for diagnostic tests. He is in the city today with one of our workers and his ten year old son, Samuel, who has a disease since birth that he was not aware of. His case is complicated and we hope he will get the care he deserves as a child. His diagnosis is Hirsprungs disease and major surgery may be required. One needs great patience as several visits are made to hospital before one sees progress in care or even being admitted. Tomorrow we hope admittance will happen.

Today I found old fotos of the clinic and workers and friends that brought back many memories.

It has been a blessing to have been able to return again here after an absence of almost 23 years.

My arrival was in 1966 and I was here until 1983. I return again in 2006. Memories are too many and too precious but they are in my heart forever.

Time for food and end of day. Peace from here. Sheila

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A quiet Sunday at home at the Mission

Hello Friends and Family,
This is something new for me to share in this fashion some of the happenings about me and my work with the Mayan people in the mountains of Guatemala.

The clinic is closed on sunday and there were a few patients to tend to. Yesterday I took home our 14 year old patient, Catarina, after an extended stay in out in patient space. Catarina developed an auto immune disease of the muscles which paralyed her from the neck down. Fortunately some doctors from Montana were here in January and started the investigative cause for her illness. We ended up spending more that 1000. dollars to diagnose her correctly with a private Neurologist in a near by city, XELA. Catarina had been in our school, Asuncion, last year when she fell ill. It all started with skin lesions. It was a great joy to witness her slow progress but yesterday she walked slowly down the stairs and was helped into the car. She can now walk without a walker, feed herself and requires still some assist in dressing. Her older sister Manuela was her caretaker while in the clinic. She has to take a steroid, probably for life. We will take her to see the Neurologist in May for update.

An elderly man who was bit by a dog last week and in treatment with the local government facility came by to request I give him his antibiotic injections since their service was closed. I gladly did and suggested he come tomorrow to followup with our doctor as it appears he will need further followup other than the penicillin that he is receiving. We do not have access to the Rabies vaccine but the government clinic should have provided it. He was without shoes Saturday but he shared that a kind man had obtained him some new shoes and he was pleased.
I had no translator so tomorrow will bring more information to help him recover.

I just returned from mass in a mountainous village I had not been to since my return in 2006. Panguiney is high above Santo Tomas on a very rough road. The rains have started which made it a bit bumpy. I was glad to have to opportunity to accompany Hazy and take some pictures of 20 little ones who made their first communion in a small decorated home that served as the chapel. We were treated to a delicious beef and rice dish along with about 15 others. This community has about 45 men from the community in the US working as undocumented immigrants. The money they sent home has changed the lives of the families they come from. These workers are also sending home money to build a catholic chapel in the community. We were fortunate that the rain has not started though the sky is grey so it will come. The arrival of the rainy season this past week has extinguished the fire on the VOLCANO PECUL. This is a great relief for the people as it is a threat in many ways to the lives of the people.

Time to rest. Good nite!