El Espiritu De Las Ciudades Hermanas

By Rich Lopez
Visit his blog on The Daily Camera

Audrie Mergelman
Audrie Mergelman
Valerie Meyers
Valerie Meyers

Picture 377 February 7, 2010: It’s a snowy Superbowl Sunday. Last year I was flying to Mante during the game and didn’t learn the final score until hours after the final gun. This year Jeannie is in her studio, mounting, framing and packing the last of the 50 paintings we will take to Mante. The show is entitled “El Espiritu De Las Ciudades Hermanas” “The Spirit of the Sister Cities.” The show hopes to depict some aspects of Boulder: it’s history, the influence of it’s geographical location and the importance of nature in the lives of it’s citizens.” Some of the artists are professionals, while others are “citizen artists” who have other careers; therapist, mathematician, architect and teacher. What they all have in common is a love of their town and a desire to paint it. Almost all the paintings are “plein air” which means painted outside, in the moment, and on location. Sunday afternoon we picked up a couple of kites from George Peters and Melanie Walker of Airworks Studio. The kites are spectacular and festive. We’ll suspend them from the ceiling of the Ramon Cano Gallery. Florian just emailed that the Art Show opening will be Lunes (Monday) and he has a surprise for us! Que Bueno.

Mante Mexico, 20th Medical Mission, 10th Sister City Anniversary, Bicentennial

By Rich Lopez
Visit his blog on The Daily Camera

The energy is starting to swell as we gear up for the Mante Mexico trip. Swell is an understatement because this trip is uniquely unique. Next month will mark the 20th anniversary of the Boulder Mante Medical Mission and the 10th anniversary of the Boulder-Mante Sister Cities relationship. If that isn’t enough, this is also Mexico’s Bicentennial.

This morning the Boulder Community Hospital Board of Directors learned that the City of Boulder has proclaimed February 12 – as Boulder Mante Week. This proclamation will be presented to the dignitaries from Mante and the state of Tamaulipas at the February 13 opening ceremony for the mission. The governor, mayor (presidente) and other dignataries are expected to attend.

A few hours later, the first Commemorative Exposition art show of Boulder area artists will open. The show will be presented in the Ramon Cano Gallery, curated by Florian Lopez. Florian is the muralist who painted the large mural on the north wall of The Dairy Center. J eannie DeMarinis, a local plein air artist, came up with the idea of bringing 50 small paintings to Mante for these milestone events. These paintings will literally be hand-carried in her luggage and that of her husband, Rich Lopez

On a personal note, Florian lived with us when he painted the The Dairy Center mural in 2001. On September 11 we watched in horror as the planes flew into the Twin Towers. We’ve maintained our friendship over the years and look forward to seeing him and his family.

Boulder Community Hospital: www.bch.org

Last Days by Rich Lopez

Friday blends into Saturday.  It went like this.  Clinic-inventory-packing-swimming-eating-dancing-snoozing-busing-flying-arriving in 30 hours.  Sound tiring?  It was.

The morning started the final day of the clinic. Patients had their last chance to see the “gringo doctors.”  While the docs were seeing patients, I worked with a team of nursing students, counting, grouping, boxing and labeling supplies in the storeroom.

As the clinic started to shut down, more supplies arrived at our doorstep.  The trickle became a flow, then the flow became a rush and soon we enlisted other students to pack up the mobile clinic.  Everyone helped, students, interpreters, doctors, nurses and volunteers. Andres’ daughter and several of her middle school girlfriends drop by and soon they were part of our team. Continue reading “Last Days by Rich Lopez”

Last Days on the Campaign by Rich Lopez

Friday blends into Saturday.  It went like this.  Clinic-inventory-packing-swimming-eating-dancing-snoozing-busing-flying-arriving in 30 hours.  Sound tiring?  It was.
The morning started the final day of the clinic. Patients had their last chance to see the “gringo doctors.”  While the docs were seeing patients, I worked with a team of nursing students, counting, grouping, boxing and labeling supplies in the storeroom.

As the clinic started to shut down, more supplies arrived at our doorstep.  The trickle became a flow, then the flow became a rush and soon we enlisted other students to pack up the mobile clinic.  Everyone helped, students, interpreters, doctors, nurses and volunteers. Andres’ daughter and several of her middle school girlfriends drop by and soon they were part of our team. Continue reading “Last Days on the Campaign by Rich Lopez”

Tortas, Tacos, Cakes, and Supply Room Inventory by Rich Lopez

dscn1704Where ever there is a crowd of people there are resourceful people.  The BCH Medical Mission attracts thousands of people and it is not surprises that food vendors circulate through the crowds, selling cokes, and other items to eat while they pass the hours long waits for their opportunity to see a “gringo doctor.”    I’ve noticed a “two-legged toy store” selling balloons and cute “mice on a string.”  No stimulus plan needed here. Continue reading “Tortas, Tacos, Cakes, and Supply Room Inventory by Rich Lopez”

Hump Day by Rich Lopez

dscn1696Wednesday, “Hump Day” means we’re half way through the 19th BCH Medical Mission.  After the morning meeting, Anne asked me to work in the pharmacy to fill in for Marjorie Hutchings.  Marjorie is a member of the BCH Auxiliary and wanted to see her friend, Charlie Jones, in surgery.  My job was to assist our pharmacist, Laurel Blissett.  My qualifications for this job were an ability to count to ten in multiples of five (counting pills).  “I can do that!”  Tucked away in the corner of the four-stall exam room is a six feet by six foot pharmacy with a small table bookcase and three chairs.  Our interpreter is Vanessa, a fifteen-year-old student who lived in Florida for seven years. She attended a dual immersion bilingual school there is perfectly bilingual and very mature for her age.  I learned that Laurel had just finished giving the Wednesday morning lecture to the nursing students. Continue reading “Hump Day by Rich Lopez”

A Day In the Camaign by Rich Lopez

Each morning the clinic team leader Anne conducts a staff meeting. This follows an earlier education session for the student nurses.  The team realizes that their impact will be greater if they can provide more information on common medical issues and do so each morning.

Anne conducts the morning staff meeting
Anne conducts the morning staff meeting

Each morning the clinic team leader Anne conducts a staff meeting. This follows an earlier education session for the student nurses.  The team realizes that their impact will be greater if they can provide more information on common medical issues and do so each morning.

At the 8:30 staff meeting, Anne outlines the anticipated activities and provides additional information.  There are a few openings for surgery at the hospital over the next 3 days.  This is important because some clinic visits result in needed surgery.  Anne mentions that patients who might request birth control pills can get them for free at the DIF (public health department).

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Dr. David Rodriguez, with his son Andres interpreting

The next part of the staff meeting is another educational piece on the history of medical care in Mexico.  Dr. David Rodriguez, with his son Andres interpreting, explain that Mexico has a population that speaks 52 indigenous languages.  Most of the people relied on traditional medicine until the Spanish arrived.  Medical care has evolved into four basic types; charity, private, institutional and popular.  However, 50 percent of the population do not have access to medical care.  48 million Mexicans have no health insurance.  Even those that do have coverage must pay for the actual supplies used by the doctors.  Imagine having to go buy an implant for your knee.  “Mr. Lopez, it looks like you need a 33 regular, would you like to see a titanium model or are you going to go with a more inexpensive steel knee?”  Most of the population (85 percent) live on minimum incomes and pay no taxes.  The middle class makes up 12 percent of the population and pay some taxes.  The upper three percent are “ricos’ or rich and pay no taxes.

These facts underscore the importance of this medical mission.  Our patients would have virtually no opportunity to receive the quality medical care provided by the BCH Medical Mission.

Tuesday finds me back doing intake for the GYN clinic.  Dr. Laurie Coryell is my doc and I’m assisted by Johanny and Peral, both second year student nurses.  Dr. Carson is seeing children today in the pediatrics section.  I think he was glad to rotate when he saw me passing out business cards as his patients left.  Just kidding.

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Rich helps with intake for the GYN clinic assisted by Johanny and Peral

dscn16731dscn1675Dr. Coryell suggests a way to improve patient flow by stringing a sheet up in the corner of the room to create a changing room for the patients.  A few minutes later a rope and sheet arrive and presto, a changing room.  The women that we see have a variety of concerns,  bleeding, menstruation irregularity, inability to conceive, weight loss and breast lumps.  They sit quietly on a row of chairs in the courtyard, shifting chairs as the next patient goes into the converted office to see Dr. Coryell.

I sit outside with them, Peral asks them their name, age, address, medications, special diet and then asks them to “what are your problems.”  Together we fill out the forms and hand them back to the patients.  Some patients bring lab reports and ultra sound images.

About mid morning a large mobile examination van arrives.  This van had been sent by the State government but had a mechanical breakdown before it arrived.  Anne asks me to help move the GYN supplies to the van during the lunch break.  There are two examination rooms and tables so two of the doctors can work together.  I ask one of the nursing students to write the doctors names on a piece of paper to place on each of the two entry doors.  Why not custom tailor the van a bit.  Unfortunately, the small exam rooms are air conditioned and feel like a meat locker.  Dr. Coryell opted to remain in the much larger and warmer converted office, complete with changing room.  The involvement of the State government is both helpful and sometimes a hindrance.  The State expects us to use the van.  Perhaps today, we will find a way to fit all the supplies into the van and turn down the AC.

The medical mission provides an opportunity for the team to see patients with conditions that they may only read about back home.  Cleft palates in young children are regularly seen.  Some children have been using a plug to seal off their mouth from their nasal cavity.  With surgery they will live a better life.  As I was filling out an intake form I noticed a 3 foot tall man walk by.  Not a dwarf or midget, a normally proportioned man who looked to be in his 50’s.   Anne thought he might be Mayan.  Later over dinner, some of the doctors explained that there a some genetic anomalies that result in tiny people.

Several children come in with “crossed eyes” and others with different eye problems.  Fortunately we have an Eye Surgeon on the team and this afternoon he drops in at the clinic after a morning of surgeries at the hospital.  One 12year old boy has what called “jittery eyes.”  His eyes would move left and right rapidly.  It’s hard to imagine how he could focus, let alone walk.  The Eye Surgeon, Dr. Ticho, is from California and his Anaesthesiologist, Dr. Ticho, is from Chicago.  That’s right, Simon and Ben are brothers and for the very first time since become doctors, they worked together here in Mante.  The medical mission provides opportunities for family reunions.  Charlie Jones has been assisted in surgery by his daughter in past campaigns.  Anne Donovan and her daughter Abigale Stangl, an landscape designer, are here from Boulder

Then there is the husband and wife team of Dr. Carolyn Sanders and Dr. Eric Boyen.

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Police van ride back to the hotel

At the end of the day I accompany Dr. Sanders to the hospital for a tour.  When we arrive we walk through the surgery wing, past a woman being prepared for skin grafts.  She was horribly burned a year ago and the repairs to her body are slow and hopefully not too painful.

The work day ends in a Police Van.  The nurses, docs and I pile into the back of a van to be delivered to our hotels, we hope.  The chatter reflects on the day’s work and we talk about a dinner party being given by Juan Villareal, the bother of the former mayor, Javier.  He throws a party for the medical team in his back yard each year. Why?  Just one of the friendships that have developed over the many years of the campaign.  A time to renew friendships and enjoy some delicious food and drink.  Tomorrow is another work day.

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Medical Mission Personel Fly to Mexico by Rich Lopez

Flying during the Super Bowl in a commercial jet with only 14 passengers is peaceful.  One can only imagine what is taking place in bars, homes throughout the world.  I’m arriving late to El Mante, Boulder’s Sister City in the State of Taumaulipas Mexico. [Pilot: we’ll be taking off in a few minutes, score is 3 to 0 Pittsburgh].  Nearly 100 medical personnel from Boulder Community Hospital are here for the 19th Medical Mission.  The Advance Team arrived on Wednesday to begin the hard work of setting up clinics to treat patients, some who have been waiting a year to see a doctor.   All but 7 of us are medical personnel. [The score is now 10- 0 Pittsburgh]. We are administrative persons or in my case, a member of the Boulder Community Hospital Board of Directors.  What will I do there?  Help.  Help in any way I can.

A few years ago I spent several days trying to arrange for a young girl and her mother to fly to Colorado where a Loveland surgeon volunteered to perform a delicate surgery on her face to remove a large growth.  Visas, paperwork, calls to the US Embassy and then calls to representative Mark Udall’s office consumed my time.  Ultimately, the girl’s family decided against traveling to the US, but we learned that a relative living and working in the US had sent money to the family to pay a local surgeon to perform the operation.  Seem unusual to forego a free operation and free trip for two to Colorado?  The girl and her family are indigenous Indians who live in the mountains, miles from Mante.  She came to the clinic with an uncle who spoke Spanish.  Her language was spoken only in the villages. [Flight attendant: the score is now 10-7 Pittsburgh]

I don’t know what to expect when I land.  There was one email from friends in Mante, who were going to try and have a car and driver meet me at the Tampico Airport and drive me the 90 kilometers to Mante.  But, it is Super Bowl Sunday and many of our friends South of the Board do enjoy football too.  I’m prepared to take a taxi to the bus station and catch a bus to Mante.  I wonder what the score is now?   It’s 6:30 PM Boulder time.  Looks like we’re getting ready to land.