A brigade of medical professionals and students from Butler University’s chapter of the Timmy Foundation is back from a weeklong trip to Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, where the participants treated approximately 500 patients in four indigenous communities.
Butler Chemistry Professor John Esteb, who made the trip along with 14 students and nine medical professionals, said this was the fifth consecutive year for a Butler group to visit this area of Guatemala. The trip consisted of two travel days and five days serving the people in a clinical setting.
“The areas served have almost no access to basic health care, and, if they can access it, they lack the means to pay for it,” Esteb said. “Most of the indigenous communities we go to do not have access to running water, they cook food on open fires inside their homes – which is harmful to their respiratory health – and they suffer from malnutrition. We provide every patient seen with vitamins to supplement their nutritional health in addition to any other needed medicines.”
He described the people as “incredibly hard-working, friendly and family-oriented.” Most speak only the indigenous languages, such as Quiché and Mam.
“It makes for an interesting exercise in translation as we are trying to figure out the medical issues the patients are having,” Esteb said.
The main objectives of the Timmy Foundation are to provide direct medical assistance and healthcare services to low-income communities in the developing world through short-term medical brigades and to foster global awareness and humanitarian values in students and volunteers by empowering them to actively engage in global development.
Last year, Esteb said, the Butler volunteers saw a little boy named Daniel suffering from hydrocephalus, a condition in which excessive fluid inside the skull threatens brain damage. The foundation was able to raise $1,000 to pay for lifesaving treatment to alleviate fluid buildup on Daniel’s brain.
The Butler students making the trip this year were: Nichole Gruneisen, Meagan Doolin, Cliff Mueller, Rachel Pendry, Melanie Piecuch, Jake Latham, Elliot Hersberger, Sarah Wesp, Kelsa Reynolds, Lauren DeSmith, Christy Tatara, Timothy Dawson, Ben Clark and Jennifer Gleason. Daniel Orlovich, a Butler alumnus, was the pharmacist. On this year’s trip, among the patients they saw and will check back with was a woman with an abnormal growth on her neck.
“The students love playing with and interacting with the kids, and vice versa,” Esteb said. “Despite the language barrier, there are smiles all around.”
Esteb said that, since the Timmy Foundation works with a partner organization in-country, it is able to facilitate follow-up care to patients with serious needs. In addition, Timmy will send other brigade groups to Guatemala in 2-3 months time to provide additional assessment and medicines to those with chronic conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.