My experience in the Dominican Republic - 3

(To read Part 1 & 2 of this journey, click here.)

Day 4 - CAMU
On this day, we visited Camú, an area inland, with small houses dotted along a single mountainous road. It was about a 30-minute ride from the hotel. Like in Playa Oeste, initially there were very few people waiting, but within 20 minutes or so, there was a crowd of people eagerly waiting to receive free medical care from us.

We all quickly went about setting up our designated stations. Having devised a new set-up for the acupuncture station, I was armed and ready to treat another 100 patients today! My station was the first to be set up, as would always be the case the rest of the week -- in about 10 minutes -- because all I needed were a few chairs, a table, my needles, sharps container, alcohol swabs and cotton. General medicine - and our newcomers, the Dental team - would take about 30 minutes because of the slew of drugs (for the pharmacy) and tools and equipment required (for dentistry). The paraphanelia required to do dental work was mind boggling. Thank goodness these two departments had extra local assistants helping.

In terms of doing acupuncture, I can now see why acupuncturists were called Barefoot Doctors in China and why this medicine grew out of China, a country with a population of well over 1 billion. Once armed with the proper training, all an acupuncturist fundamentally needs are needles. (Plus of course the sharps container, cotton, and alcohol swabs for safety and sanitary reason.) Just with needles, we can effectively treat a multitude of people and conditions. Imagine had I brought my other tools found in Traditional Chinese Medicine, such as moxa, cups, e-stim, and herbs, the greater degree of relief I could've provided the Dominicans!

The acupuncture station before the chaos

Dental tools

Local assistants Stephanie, Amelfi, and two Korean national assistants, Penelope and Eunju

Other scenes from Camú:

Tragedy had befallen this woman, and our staff was praying for her.

(This little girl was so cute. All through this consultation, she sat on her mother's? grandmother's? lap, quietly, sucking her pacifier, intently watching every move that Dr. Tomoko made.)

(This little boy was also adorable. While his mother got treated with acupuncture, the boy sat quietly the whole time next to his sister, and was constantly mindful of having his hand on his mother's body. He would get distracted by all the commotion, and then realize that his hand wasn't touching his mother, and would quickly go back to touching her belly or arm, or somewhere, as long as he was touching his mother.)

I don’t know which was more tiring – the huge numbers of people I was treating, or the heat and humidity without any air-conditioning. I had constant trickles of sweat dripping down my face, neck and back every day. I was basically bathing myself in my own sweat every day. By the second day of doing these intense medical missions, I got a heat rash on my abdomen. It was so darn hot and humid!! (But I came back with beautiful, supple skin from all that moisture! LOL!) Mirla and the other aides had to frequently change the wet, cold towel around my neck to try and keep me cool.
I couldn't live without these towels!

This was another location about 20 minutes from the hotel. We conducted our work inside a local church. Acupuncture was stationed up by what I suppose was the altar as it was elevated from the rest. Boy was it hot in there. We had fans going, but it was just blowing the hot air over and over. At one point, the electricity went dead because so much electricity was being used by the dental department, haircutting department, fans and printer. Thank goodness for our reliable generator, which allowed Dr. Lee the dentist to keep working!

Scenes from San Marcos:

That's the acupuncture station, in the back. Dentistry to the left, and general medicine to the right.

I think the recirculating hot, humid air plus being elevated from others (making the air even hotter) got to me that day because I started to get dizzy part way through my morning stint. I had to stop about 2 hours into it. I had to step outside and rest in our little truck for a while until I could feel normal again. After a good lunch, I was thankfully back to working.

Patients resting as they got their acupuncture treatment.

This family (the girl on the left was a friend) was so adorable. The mother was very shy and soft spoken but very sweet and loving to her daughters. The children were very well behaved all throughout the day. Later in the evening, while Christian work was going on, the little girl in the light blue dress was meandering around the crowd and came upon Assistant Eunju and I. When we asked her for a kiss, she readily and without hesitation came up to us and planted both of us a cute, sweet kiss on our cheeks!! I just melted there! All the hard work was so worth this little kiss :-)

Pharmacy busily dispensing medication

Dr Karen trying to cool off

These boys were great, always eager to talk to us in their limited English. They came up to me to say hello in English, and introduced themselves. I introduced myself, but realized one English etiquette was missing in our dialogue: I taught them to say "Nice to meet you" which is "un placer conocerte" in Spanish. When they learned what "nice to meet you" meant, they scurried back to the other English staff they had introduced themselves to earlier and finished their introductions properly. Later in the evening, couple of the boys came back to ask me again how to say "un placer conocerte" in English. When we were leaving for the night, the boy in the black pants came by our truck and thanked me in Spanish for the English lesson and our work. Again, all the hard work was so worth it with these kinds of exchanges.

Doc, how does my new teeth look?

Children doing song and dance along to the Christian missionary work

This day was also John the photographer's birthday. We were able to celebrate with cake and serenading. Fun times.

The last of these chronicles coming real soon...