Friday, March 27, 2009

Picnic in Santa Elena, Chiapas

March 26, 2009
When was the last time you laid on the ground looking up at the sky? Today, for me. Sergio took me to a current school project to ck on his mason and compadre worker about 15 minutes outside of San Cristobal. They marked the ground and are in the process of digging a ditch for the foundation. Sergio brought the workers tortillas, queso, jalapenos, and soda for a small picnic. Afterwards, we relaxed in the warm mountain sun. This is where my back rested in the dirt covered in pine needles looking at the sun through the trees.

I have spent almost 3 weeks with Sergio and am getting the complete picture of his mission. His passion is so strong he seems undeterred by any hindrance, from police stops and having to pay mordidas (bribe), or lack of funds for his school projects, he always finds a way. He tells me the most important thing in life is health and education, I couldn’t agree more. There are currently 3 school projects in the works, 2 of them need water systems and of course he has the ongoing medical care that consumes most of his time.

The man is indefatigable…however today I caught him in the rare position of resting during our picnic.

Beautiful large turkeys roam countryside.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Running with the Angel

March 24, 2009
Sergio will be given merit medal Tuesday, March 31st for his humanitarian work in San Cristobal.

I have spent the last two and a half weeks with Sergio Castro of San Cristobal. This tireless humanitarian outruns me! Currently our main cases are 5 severe burn victims and 1 minor burn wound victim. Two of the three of three severe burn patients are well on the mend, however, the scarring is significant. If these burns would have happened in the US these patients would be sent not just to hospitals, but official burn centers. Three have more than 9% body surface area with deep second degree burns and two have been badly electrocuted. One of the electrocuted patients has been left with two and a half toes on his right foot and the other has lost partial function of his right (dominant) hand and the top of his right foot. Although tempted, I will spare the photos as they are shocking.

14 y/o female severely burned by breakage of pot of boiling bean soup. 2nd degree burns to her right face, hand, right breast and both arms have left thick scars. Her upper and lower right eyelid are so scarred disallowing proper opening of eye. Cornea also burned. Sergio searching for physician that can properly correct this disability. This is our saddest case as this girl is severely disfigured.

Sergio still runs his wound clinic in the evening and is asking me to join him more and more at this time. At first it was just the daily field trips but now, my days are completely full. Plus, I’m trying to work on a brochure for him and a new and improved website with the help of my nephew and cousin. I’ve had little time for sight seeing, tennis and working out.

Photo right: Armadillo purses, used to hold seeds during planting. These shells reduce humidity, keeping the seeds fresh for planting.

In addition to the above, Sergio still gives tours through his museum after our evening clinic. It is remarkable what one can learn on these tours, but of course, Sergio has so much experience with the indigenous and the items of the museum are so special since they are gifts from them for his work over the last 45 years. I think tourists are surprised by the richness of his museum behind his non-marked street wall.

Photo right: Indigenous women seem to do more work than men. They tend the fields, herd the sheep, shear the sheep, spin the wool, weave the wool, cook, carry 50lb loads of wood, laundry is done by hand, carry water from wells..the list goes on. When going out to the villages I've stepped back in time 200yrs. I am so grateful to be born in the USA!

Bruce’s shoulder is definitely improving however his neck is still bothersome and some days are better than others. Although he's not to happy to be in this particular cool and cloudy climate (he'd rather be in Puerto), he's sticking out as he knows how important it is for me to be here........what a guy!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

San Cristobal, Segundo Vez

March 15, 2009

We are back in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico. We were here last November. The city is still as picturesque as before and the indigenous Chiapanecas are still hard at work.

Pat has hooked up with Sergio Castro once more and each day she and Sergio are traveling to the various villages to treat the burn and various wounds of the indians. At the end of the day Pat is "wore out". A term I usually employ after following her around for a day. But if Pat has 3 times the energy that I do then Sergio has twice Pat's energy. Some days Sergio tells Pat that he'll take it from here to let her go rest.

The pictures that Pat takes of Sergio's patients are hard to look at. Some horrible injuries. Sergio is a true angel...and that is exactly what the indians call him.

Sergio and Pat also traveled to a remote indian village this last week to discuss the buiding of a school for children. Not only does he treat their wounds but builds schools also. He is 68 years old.

One hundred eighty-five children of the village of Santa Ana need a 3-room school. Sergio was asked to meet with villagers and school teachers to plan the location and building. In background village leaders are in white wool garb.

Pat and I have been trying to figure out how to help Sergio a little more and in doing so last night I asked him if he had thought about who he might pass his work along to after he was gone. He said without any hesitation that he had about 40 more years of good work left in him. He is an amazing guy.

We will be here for another month before heading to Oaxaca City to meet up with Pat's nephew Ricky and his better-half Catherine.

Hungry Mexican cat...we see many hungry domestic animals in Mexico.

My left arm is getting slowly better with daily exercise. I found a medico terapista to help me here in SC. Jesus applies the electro-therapy pads to my arm and turns up the juice. You are supposed to indicate when you first feel the current then say "Mas"(more) until you feel that it's enough juice. So I keep saying "Mas" about 4 times while he looks at me quizically, knowing that most intelligent people would have "Massed" once or twice. So he leaves me and everything is pretty cool for about 10 minutes but then all of a sudden my left arm muscle, or whats left of it, starts to spasm. I'm thinking that hey this might just fix the whole know what doesn't kill you makes you I stick with another 2 or 3 minutes. Idiot! Pretty soon I relent and call to Jesus..."Jesus, abajo, abajo"(down, down). My arm was jumping around like it had a life of it's own. Anyway it was pretty sore the rest of the day but today I could actually raise it higher than before.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Mexico’s Private Medicine Part II: Ortho Care in Oaxaca

March 5, 2009
Friendly dog greets us on our daily walk to PT.

Bruce continues to improve slowly with physical therapy, electrotherapy, ultrasound, hot compresses and at-home exercise. We are grateful private medicine is available. I say this only because with my experience at the social medicine clinic I do not believe Bruce would have received the attention and care to best improve his condition. At Casa de Salud, Mexico’s social medicine clinic, I saw several patients with knee and low back pain. The doctors told them to come in once a week for an intramuscular (in the hip) “anti-inflammatory injection” for 3 months. If the pain or discomfort continued beyond three months another round of “anti-inflammatory” injections is recommended. No patient education, no physical therapy, no at-home instructions. For those unable to afford private medicine this was their only option.


We saw the ortho again on Saturday (it’s not unusual for physicians in Mexico to work 6 days a week) and started physical therapy that day which Bruce continued throughout the week. We were given instructions for exercises to do on our own three times a day. Since starting we’ve seen some improvement with Bruce being able to sustain his left arm out to the side a little longer, improvement with range of motion in the neck and significant improvement with pain relief.


Patience, exercise, physical therapy, positive attitude and cardiovascular fitness will speed up the improvement, tambien. Bruce’s appointment for physical therapy is usually in the evening and the therapist spends 40-50 minutes with him. The cost is 150 pesos per appointment (the peso is now 15:1USD). For me, this conservative, active, holistic approach is healthier for the patient and makes the patient more responsible for their well-being. The prognosis is that Bruce will be able to raise his left arm in 15-20 days, but it may take up to 6 months to regain his full muscle strength. As for the neck problem, the same frequency of exercise on a daily basis.

The lesson here is maintain your body. After age 50, your muscles atrophy and you're prone to injury, even if you "feel good”. Just as one maintains their car, one must maintain their body… parts don’t come cheap.

Meanwhile, staying in Oaxaca has been incredibly delightful. These photos tell the story.
These pecan pralines rival the ones in New Orleans.

When you ask for fresh squeezed orange juice, you get fresh squeezed orange juice!