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The Wells Team brought medicine and kindness and hope to the people of San Benito in Peten. Our team of eleven providers, one registered nurse, three pharmacists, nine interpreters, and six other support crew saw 1,081 patients in four days. About a third of the patients seen will receive additional care: doctors made 356 referrals. At a local school, desks were stacked, space was cleared, and classrooms became clinics with exam rooms fabricated from sheets and chords. The mobility clinic was set up outside in the basketball court. Wheelchairs were pulled from boxes and assembled. Ninety-six adult wheelchairs were given out, along with four pediatric chairs. Our team of thirty was joined by twenty-five locals, both Faith in Practice employees and local volunteers, the Red Hats, who made the days flow, who were the conduit between our team and the local people we treated.

Dr. Wells shared Mother Teresa’s “Anyway” poem on the first day of clinic. Her words a beautiful guide, a reminder to be heart-based, to treat people with kindness:

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

In the spirit of Mother Teresa, the Wells Team put patients first. Medicine comes in many forms. Sometimes the best medicine is beyond the pharmacy. Sometimes it’s words, a touch, looking another in the eyes and seeing their humanity. One mom whose twelve-year-old son received a wheelchair said, “It was the first time I felt like someone really took care of me and my son. It’s a blessing. God bless you all.”

The long, hot days didn’t matter. “We have so many patients,” Dr. Jim said. “We have to see them all.” There’s no quit until everyone was seen each day. And no rush. Doctors spent time listening, leaning in, truly seeing and hearing their patients.

There’s a love pulse. You can feel it. Like when Cesar in pharmacy held a nine-month-old baby brought in by his grandparents whose mom had died the month before and whose dad had abandoned the family. The baby clung to Cesar. Even though others in the pharmacy were arms wide with wiggly fingers to the little one, he only wanted Cesar. He didn’t want to let go. So, Cesar held him for twenty minutes. He listened to the grandmother’s sad story and teared up. “I was that kid,” he said later. “The baby didn’t want to let go. Neither did I.”

And twelve-year-old Vladimir who received a wheelchair. He was born with hip dysplasia, a condition that would be surgically corrected at a young age in the states. He’s never walked. His family has carried him is whole life. With surgery and physical therapy, he’ll be able to walk. “Are you going to get my hopes up and disappoint me like everyone else?” Vladimir asked Dr. Dick. “I’ll do my part,” Dr. Dick told him. “I’m referring you to surgery. I can get you to Antigua. The orthopedist will be the one to help you walk.” Later Dick said, a little misty-eyed, “This is why I do this, why I keep coming back.” He blinked and blinked. “This is where Faith in Practice shines,” he said. “Right here.”

And the seventy-seven-year-old Maria with a smile like the sun who came for and received a wheelchair. She was funny, charismatic, full of grit, not ready to be done giving to her community. “Her heart’s so big!” Claudia, who runs mobility said about her. Maria had been in an accident recently with a motorcycle and struggled to walk. She’s a midwife who has delivered over 4,000 babies. “I need to get around better,” she said. “I have four babies waiting to be delivered,” she said. “I have to get to them.” She was deeply grateful for the wheelchair and the people who assembled it. “I was sent here to help other women,” she said. She’d had six children and four of them died. “I don’t want other women to go through what I went through. I have to help. Thank you for helping me help them.”

As we were packing up the last day, a little girl, in two long braids and a plaid dress, maybe seven years old, stepped up to a group of folks dressed in scrubs, folded her arms and asked “What would you do for someone with nausea? Would you give them medicine?” She asked in that way of I’m asking for a friend. Completely calm. Just curious. “It depends,” someone said, and the girl nodded. She flashed a peace sign and let one of the doctors snap her picture before turning on her heels and walking off. When she returned, she asked, “What would you do if someone was vomiting?” So Dr. Amy followed the girl to the bathroom and found the girl’s mom, who was sick. As Dr. Amy pulled out each of her instruments, the little girl knew all the functions. “That’s for listening to your heart,” the girl said when she saw the stethoscope. “That’s for taking your blood pressure,” she told Dr. Amy about the blood pressure cuff. “And that’s for looking in your ears and mouth,” she said about the otoscope. Dr. Amy examined the mom and gave her something for aches, something for an unhappy stomach. The girl who had been calm the whole time, wrapped her arms around Amy’s waist and squeezed with all her girl might. “It was a great hug,” Amy said.

Team Wells was blessed to have ten new members this trip. Tommy, a first timer, said what was most memorable for him was being able to really listen to people’s stories. “We take so much for granted. Being here reminds us how privileged we are. It’s memorable to see how we can truly make a difference. The humanity of it.”

“If you want to have a shift in perspective,” Scot said, “come and do this work. Get out of your comfort zone and serve others. This trip grounds me every time in what truly matters. It reminds me why I got into health care in the first place. To do good.”

With grateful hearts and deep bows, Team Wells thanks Faith in Practice and the people of Guatemala for a beautiful week, for an opportunity to give back, to be of service. As Dr. Bob says, “You have to leave your ego in a suitcase to do this work. This is about others. This about bringing our best selves and serving. It’s about faith. And practice.”

-Anne Gudger