Health delegation makes an all-important visit | Guest Column | Feb. 27


Saturday, Jan. 10

Moyogalpa, Ferry Dock

5:04 p.m.

“Maggie? Oh, she’s the one who writes those articles!” Lynn says to Siri from the roof of the wooden ferry, preparing to disembark.

Listening in from below, I can already tell that the Health Delegation has done their homework.


We load their mountain of suitcases, chock full of medical supplies, into the truck bed and then hop in ourselves.

As we speed along into the dusk, chatting frenetically, someone yells, “Hey! Look at the moon!” We all utter a simultaneous “Oooo!” as we look to the horizon. An orange harvest moon, swollen to fullness, sits cradled just above the tree line, at the base of the Concepción Volcano.

Some scramble for their digital cameras, hoping to preserve the beauty, but they soon after abandon all attempts, and simply stand there, gazing.

I have never seen the moon take on such a dramatic presentation. Our collective awe seemed to make it all the more mesmerizing.

Monday, Jan. 12

San Marcos Health Post

3:40 p.m.

After miraculously cramming 10 passengers into a seven-passenger van, Cynthia, Jim, Cassie and I were happy to stretch our legs in San Marcos and let the others continue bumping along to La Flor.

As we walk up the pathway towards the Health Post, we receive curious stares from all the patients waiting on the front porch, even the little babies nursing.

It pains us to walk by the dozen or so patients awaiting treatment, but the doctor and nurse welcome us and quickly escort us to the back room, honored by our visit.

We address a range of issues – water, diabetes, teen pregnancy – and among a tangent about the lack of medical supplies, we are amazed by their one token item, a Nebulizer.

These women exude a sense of pride in their work, answering each question kindly and thoroughly, with great compassion.

The simplicity of their head-to-toe white uniforms is calming. At the end of the discussion, they hug each one of us. The hugs are genuine, the kind of hug shared among family, with a deliberate kiss on the right cheek.

“May God bless you,” they say. And we walk past the patients, still a dozen or so waiting, excusing ourselves for the interruption and thanking them for their patience.

Friday, Jan. 16

San José del Sur Health Post, 11:12 a.m.

Her name is Rosa. She is the only medic on duty today, and luckily it is a slow day. Only one man waits on the front patio, with his infant daughter.

Rosa speaks to us about the various programs that her health post organizes – Adolescents’ Club, Malnourished Club, Chronic Illness Club.

She invites us to the Adolescent Club at 2 p.m., saying that they will be talking about drug abuse or personal values, I can’t remember which.

She shows us the “Family Chart,” a detailed family health record, that they fill out by going door-to-door in the afternoons.

It is part of the Cuban “Family and Community Health Model” that the Sandinista government has implemented to “bring the doctor to the patient,” especially in rural areas.

She shows us the “examination room,” which is actually just a corner of the main room closed off by a sheet hung on some wooden rods.

“No hay agua,” Rosa explains that the sink we are looking at does not work, that there is no running water inside the health post. She points to a plastic tub on the ground that she must refill with water from the spigot outside the health post.

As we finish our mini-tour of the Health Post, we offer her a BOSIA Project Proposal form, encouraging her to submit a proposal to fix the water system.

She seems a bit rejuvenated by our visit, comforted knowing that there are people out there that care about her work and are concerned about the difficulties she faces.

I am comforted too.

Maggie Pettit of Bainbridge Island is writing a monthly column during her 11-month stay on Ometepe – Bainbridge’s sister island in Nicaragua.

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