By Conor Pumphrey, sophomore EC Scholar and Early Assurance in Medicine
The summer following my junior year of high school, I had the opportunity to go on a mission trip to Nicaragua with St. James United Methodist Church. Though the team members vary each year, the group has been going to Nicaragua on this trip for over 12 years now. What intrigued me the most about this opportunity was that the trip was focused on providing medical care to the people of remote villages in the mountains. I was already interested in the medical field at this point and after the trip, my idea about wanting to become a physician was completely confirmed. I enjoyed this mission trip because I had the opportunity to do procedures that I would not have been able to do in the states such as testing for hemoglobin levels, glucose levels, taking blood pressure manually and with a machine, and testing for oxygen saturation levels. In addition, I was able to shadow the physicians that lead the trip. I decided to go again this summer because it was such an amazing experience for me.
The mission of the group is to provide basic health care to an impoverished country, especially the communities surrounding the city of Jinotega. The mission trip is one week long and the group has been lodged in the same orphanage every year since the first trip. The first day of this year’s trip was spent preparing for the first clinic that we held at the orphanage. This clinic served the kids at the orphanage, the staff and the surrounding community. Over the next two days, we had a clinic in the mountain villages and this is where I experienced some of the most memorable moments of my trip. One impactful moment was when we saw a man that was in his 80’s come into the clinic wearing extremely dirty clothes with holes all over them. It looked like they had not been changed in weeks and he was wearing a plastic bag to stay dry during the rainy season. The interpreters said that he had walked 2 hours just to come get medical attention. It was amazing to see multiple members of the team give him personal items that they were wearing such as a hat, a raincoat, and clothes that we had at the clinic. Another patient came in with extreme pain in her arm. When we inquired more she said it only hurt when she was carrying buckets of water. The shocking part of the story was that she walks about 6 hours round trip a day to gather water from a stream, carrying several liters of water just to provide for her family.
This trip not only provided me with great hands-on medical experience, but it was an eye-opening experience to see how the people of Nicaragua live. The people of this country would be blessed to live like the poorest of the people in America, and I think this is something many people would be shocked to witness. All of these reasons are why I love visiting this country and plan on continuing to go for many years to come.