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St. Vincent & the Grenadines 2016 Medical and Dental Mission Web Blog

October 8, 2016

WHA’s 2016 Medical & Dental Mission to St. Vincent and the Grenadines is underway! We will be keeping you up-to-date with information and stories on our Facebook page throughout our journey. As we post this, team members are making their way from New Jersey, Texas and Virginia with real-time support from the Mission Control team tracking their progress from the mainland U.S. Safety is on everyone’s minds as we also track the weather in the southeastern U.S. and the Caribbean. The timing of WHA being in this area with medical support and expertise may prove to be providential and we are glad to be of help to those who need us most, especially now. We will continue to post updates here with photos. Please know how grateful we are for your continued support!



Flying and Landing

Day 1 – Saturday, October 8, 2016

Despite the activity of hurricane Matthew churning angrily along the Florida and eastern Unites States sea coast, team members from around the U.S. were ultimately able to take off and fly around the storm. However, different teams were affected by the weather in different ways. The WHA Mission Team members flying in from New Jersey arrived to our final destination first with minimal delays. The Texas team members made their initial connections, but missed their scheduled flight out of Trinidad, taking an evening flight instead and getting in much later than expected. The Virginia team members missed their connecting flight out of Miami and ended up staying overnight there with accommodations being covered by helpful airlines staff.

Through all this, all team members stayed upbeat and were constantly connected with each other and with the mission support staff via the Viber app. By monitoring the flights and gate change information, the Mission Support Team assisted the traveling members with situation awareness, quickly helping the various teams to make alternative traveling plans when there was a delay. Special thanks to our hosts who have gone with the flow of our changing arrival times and have welcomed us to this beautiful place!

The Mission: Getting to St. Vincent

Day 2 – Sunday, October 9, 2016

After a combined 16 hours of travel time, the Texas and New Jersey team members met up in St. Vincent, and this morning, have had a chance to become familiar with our surroundings. We are experiencing warm island weather and are enjoying seeing what we can as we anticipate beginning our work here. All are excited to help with the tasks before us, including unpacking our supplies, taking inventory, meeting with our key contacts and starting our set-up in the locations where we will see and treat the residents who need us. We have brought everything we need with us: from trash bags, pens, and bug spray, to medical and dental diagnostic equipment, supplies and medications we need to address the health challenges people here are facing. We look forward to our Virginia team members arriving this evening!


Day 2 - Dr. Frank Procaccino's Update:

The Mission: Getting to St. Vincent

"Our first leg of the journey felt like the 'mission' was getting to St. Vincent! Our DC chapter team members converged at the airport at 4:00am. Hurricane Matthew, airline and immigration delays have set us back a bit, and, as I write this, we are in Trinidad waiting to complete the final leg of our itinerary. Our team members departing from Texas and New Jersey fared better and are there now becoming acquainted with the island and its peoples. These obstacles failed to dampen the spirits or resolve of the team. Our travel to St. Vincent's has became a wonderful opportunity for previous team members to 'catch up' as well as an opportunity to welcome and meet the newer members of the mission. Andrew took advantage of our travel delay and met up with a childhood friend during our overnight stay in Miami. We enthusiastically look forward to starting our true mission!"

First Day of Clinic

Day 3 Monday, October 10, 2016

Dental Blog: Nicole Melissa Rivera Vargas, DDS - 

"Monday was our first day of clinic. After a bumpy ride to the clinic, we familiarized ourselves with the equipment and supplies. It took us about an hour to set up all the instruments. Mr. Fidel introduced us to some of the patients. The dental team was divided into two rooms. One room was for cleanings and the other for fillings and extractions. Unfortunately were were not able to do fillings because of the lack of a working compressor.

I started with the first extraction of the day. The lady had been feeling pain in the lower right side for more than a month. After clinical evaluation she presented a deep caries in her wisdom tooth. Extraction was needed. After 20 minutes of trying to take out the tooth, it was not moving at all. Dr. Pham, Dr. Tomi and I were taking turns trying to extract the tooth but we were not able to do it. The tooth was fused to the bone. We needed the compressor in order to use the hand piece to section the tooth. We gave pain medicine and antibiotics to the patient and told her to come back tomorrow. Other than that were were able to work with the rest of the patients successfully.

We saw a total of 22 patients today and performed 8 extractions, 16 cleanings and 1 deep cleaning. All the patients were very nice and told us they will bring their friends and family tomorrow. We finished patient care around 4:30pm.


On our way back we saw lots of goats and cows on the road. Some people were selling fresh lobster. We enjoyed the picturesque ride back with beautiful ocean and mountainside views. When we got back to the hotel a delicious fresh meal of fish, rice and salad was waiting for us.  All the group met at the end and talked about our experiences during the day and what we can do to improve next time. Everyone was happy and excited about our first day and are eager to continue tomorrow."

Medical Blog: Frank Procaccino, MD -

"At Milton Cato Memorial Hospital, the medical team members met with colleagues and began seeing patients. Dr. Hemmert evaluated patients in the emergency room as well as responded by ambulance to a call for a gentleman who was reported to be 'fitting'. We have come to learn that this is a local term for seizures. Dr. Hemmert, along with an ER nurse and ambulance/emergency personnel assessed the patient on the scene and rendered appropriate care.


Dr. Quynh Lam and Dr. Frank Procaccino initially made hospital rounds with the physicians and medical students, later evaluating patients in the Nephrology and Gastroenterology clinics.


The team members enjoyed dinner, sharing our individual experiences of the day and planning for tomorrow."



Compressor & Successes

Day 4 – Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Nicole Melissa Rivera Vargas, DDS -

"Today it was raining a lot during the morning. We ate another delicious breakfast and headed out to the clinic. Now that we are more familiar with the clinic, we were able to see more patients and perform more procedures. Luckily Dr. Luong was able to fix the compressor and was able to work with the patient we could not finish yesterday. He was able to finish the procedure successfully. Today we saw 55 patients, extracted 21 teeth and performed 17 cleanings. All patients have been so open and friendly.

When we got back to the hotel, Thao was waiting for us with some delicious homemade fruit popsicles. For dinner we had fish, chicken, taro, salad and rice. We are so tired now! Ready to take a shower and rest in order to be ready for tomorrow. Hard work was done today, but awesomely rewarding."

Respect & Improvisation

Day 5 – Wednesday, October 12, 2016

As our team settles in - the dental team in a local clinic and the medical team in a St. Vincent government hospital - it seems the word has gotten out to the community that we are here to help! The numbers waiting to be served have increased each day. In fact, a local resident came forward to donate the use of his 2 air compressors, making it possible for our dental team to repair many teeth!

Tonight, the Mission Control Team (MCT) connected with the team in St. Vincent by Skype to share information and stories about their experiences in their work so far. Our team members "on the ground" continue to encounter patients who seek medical and dental help, and are knowledgeable about their conditions, but cannot afford more extensive care than what is available to them in the government-supported system. This necessary reliance on an overtaxed system for treatment often results in long waits each day, with people regularly being turned away and told to "come back tomorrow" after waiting for 4 or more hours. Our team members have great respect for the doctors of St. Vincent, sharing with the MCT sentiments expressed so well by Quynh:

"Sometimes I feel we often take for granted the readily available healthcare technology we have in the US. It's been an

eye-opener to see how healthcare providers in a Third World country make use of the limited resources available to them. Whether it's reading the plain film itself under direct light or the doctors themselves drawing blood and collecting urine. It's only been a few days, but thus far I have developed tremendous respect for these providers. The main hospital here seems to have shortages in everything from staffing, to essential medical supplies, to clinic space."   - Quynh Lam, MD

This shortage was sadly demonstrated through the plights of 2 dialysis patients who met with WHA medical physicians today. The first patient is in critical need of regular peritoneal dialysis, but a complete dialysis catheter that is necessary for this type of home dialysis treatment is not available. The WHA team saw a willing St. Vincent doctor spent a good part of the day searching through hospital supplies to try to assist this patient, improvising with parts and equipment intended to treat other illnesses. Unfortunately, in the end, what they needed to help this person was not there – and this life saving treatment is something this patient needs multiple times a week.

The second patient, who is a diabetic patient and is blind as a result, also needs dialysis. Although she qualifies for home peritoneal dialysis, her blindness prevents her from being able to do so, because she would be required to perform the dialysis procedure herself. Our team learned that her son had stepped up to pay for her in-hospital hemodialysis treatment. However, 2 weeks ago, he lost his job and the hospital staff have not been able to reach him since. Without regular dialysis, and without having it soon, this patient will go into a uremic state, followed inevitably by coma and death.

Even with such tough circumstances, our team members said that the patients they are seeing have stayed upbeat and kind, and have expressed gratitude for any help that they are offered. We are inspired by the resilience of the people of St. Vincent in the face of severe hardship. These are the stories – and the people – who truly touch our hearts!


1000 Words

Day 6 -- Thursday, October 13, 2016

Today's pictures speak 1000 words! With the support of our generous donors, friends and families, World Health Ambassador team members continue to make an impact on the communitiy of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in immediate and long-term ways.

Some of our medical team members were able to take time today to visit four different outreach clinics on St. Vincent. They met with hard-working medical staff at each location, and were able to present each with a donation of a Doptone unit, which is used in fetal heart monitoring. The response was very warm and we are grateful that these machines will help provide better care even after we go home.

Our dental team "put the pedal to the metal" as they welcomed an even larger group of patients today than any day of this Mission so far. They served approximately 100 people with a variety of oral health challenges, and that number included children making their very first dental visits! The dental team's dedication to the people here and determination to serve as many people as possible resulted in them working late into the night tonight. The same was true of other days: people waited as long as it took to be seen, were taking part in their own healthcare to the extent possible, and were grateful for the help offered by our team. WHA is the team on the ground, but our volunteers and supporters are right there with us. Thank you for the help you are giving the people of St. Vincent through your support of WHA!

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