Author: Delaney Lundeen
Published: Monday, July 23, 2012
Isaiah 43:1 “…I have called you by name, you are mine...”
My name is Delaney, and I am one of the recent SLU dietetic internship graduates, (now a dietitian!) that had the privilege to travel to Honduras to serve last month. This was my first medical mission trip, my first professional experience as a registered dietitian, and my first time in Honduras. As a Nutrition/Hispanic Studies double major in college, this was an incredible opportunity to combine my love and passion for Nutrition, Spanish, and people! When our internship director, Karen, mentioned the possibility of the mission trip, I felt called to serve. This trip was right up my alley. So naturally, when she passed around a paper for interested participants, I signed up immediately.
A few months later this potential mission trip became reality as I set off for Central America. The mission team I traveled with was comprised of a variety of health care professionals…three doctors, Stan, Priya, and Helen, three nurses, Caysi, Katie, Kelleye, a nurse practitioner, Fiona, five dietitians, Karen, Rachel, Abby, Jess, and myself, two therapists, Emily, and Melanie, and a few other individuals, Carlos, Yolanda, Mike, David, John, Isaac, and Sister Raquel, with a huge heart and a calling to serve. With the majority of the team being new to the Amiga Foundation, Doctor Helen (one of the founders of the organization) encouraged us all to touch our patients and to love them. She said our mission was to make each one feel like they are THE most important person in the world. “Medicine,” she explained, “is more than just science—it’s about love.” As we headed off to bed the first night, eagerly anticipating our journey up into the villages, she called out, “Don’t forget to pack your compassion!”
Feeling inspired, energized, excited, and expecting the unexpected, we journeyed up into the mountains, in the back of the truck bed, soaking in the hot Honduran sun. We arrived at our retreat center, which served as our home, and our makeshift medical center. The next few days were a whirlwind of activity. Each night the entire medical mission trip crew convened for a daily reflection. Escaping the heat of the day, we gathered on the cool tile floor of the retreat center we stayed at and unfolded the day’s events, sharing those individuals and moments that particularly moved us. The first night, after medical mission brigade day one, in the mountains of Pinalejo, Honduras, the scripture in Isaiah we discussed really stuck with me. Each of us is called by name and we are created by God for His glory. We are all God’s family, created in His image. The challenge posed that night was to greet everyone we meet by name. Such a simple task, but oftentimes difficult with the hundreds of people we saw each day. Taking this to heart, I made it a point to greet each person I saw by name, and these are a few of the individuals who really stuck with me...
Cristian—Cristian was a 5-year-old boy from Pinalejo. He explained to me his goal is to become a heart doctor. He had an adorable smile stretching ear to ear, marred only by his dire need of dental care. The majority of the front teeth were completely rotten from excessive sugar intake and lack of dental hygiene. He plotted at the 25 percentile for his age. He was a self-proclaimed picky eater, and explained that eating sometimes made him feel nauseous. His parents were worried that he wasn’t growing adequately, and were anxious about how to improve his overall health status—and hopefully gain some muscle mass. He was the most mature five-year-old I’ve ever spoken with, so eloquent with his words, and very motivated. Like many young children, he liked sweets and drank lots of juice. Veggies were non-existent in his diet. Cristian was the last patient I saw one day, but it was by far the best motivational interviewing session I’ve ever taken engaged in, and it was all in Spanish! I worked with Cristian to set measurable, achievable goals, and after thirty minutes and lots of laughter, we parted ways with a big hug. The odds are slim that I’ll ever seen this little five-year-old again, but his name will forever be written on my heart. He taught me to never be afraid to dream.
Carlos—Carlos was the most energetic three-year-old boy we saw all week at Guadalupano. He stole the heart of every volunteer with his beautiful brown eyes and huge smile. He tore through the make shift doctor’s offices, stopping briefly to hug us on the way. He would run back and forth from the coloring station for the kids, to the nutritionists, to his mom. He would sit for two seconds, then he would keep running. He never seemed to run out of energy. When I went to measure his head circumference, he quickly snatched the measuring tape from my hands and proceeded to measure his OWN head circumference. He was a very motivated young child—so full of energy and love. He taught me to me to live a life of love and the power of a simple hug.
Veronica—The story of Veronica will remain with me forever. Although not directly related to nutrition, it moved me deeply. Serving as a translator for the neurologist, Dr. Stan, I watched Veronica wheel herself into the room. Here before me sat a 22-year old woman, with long dark hair and bronzed skin, confined to a wheel chair. She explained that five years prior, she received an epidural for an emergency C-section that left her paralyzed. After the birth of her daughter, Abigail, she could never walk again. Dr. Stan performed a physical exam, which demonstrated her upper arm strength. She had seen numerous doctors in her day, but none of them had ever touched her, she explained. This was the first physical examination she received. Each doctor had simply looked at her said, there is no chance you will walk again, as her leg muscles were wasting away. The thoughts that crossed my mind were, this woman would never get to run around with her daughter, skip, dance, or play. Yet, through it all, she still smiled. Dr. Stan explained that with the assistance of hip and leg braces, along with her upper body strength, there was a definite possibility that she could re-learn how to walk. The awe and gratitude I saw on her face will forever remain with me. She taught me to make the most of the circumstances you’re given. One thing we have the power to control is our attitude.
This service trip to Honduras reminded me how much God delights in us and He calls us each by name. We each have our own unique skills, abilities, and desires written on our hearts. I was called to Honduras for a reason and can only hope I touched the Honduran people as deeply as Cristian, Carlos, and Veronica touched me. He calls by name for a reason… we must remember to listen.