Leaving San Jose
Today was our last day in San Jose. In the morning, we had several hours of clinic, and even though it was the last day of the brigade, patients arrived early to register just like every other day. Our group moved with amazing efficiency with our different tasks, whether it was squaring away the pharmacy, cleaning up the dorm area, or seeing patients. Seeing us work together one last time made me start to feel sad about saying goodbye to these people; it is truly amazing how our brigade became close to a family during our time here. The last patient I saw was a lady who had been returning to clinic for several days to have her blood pressure and blood sugar checked. As I precepted with Dr. Tonya, I glanced around and saw other medical students and pharmacists each working with a patient or handling a task, and it seemed so natural, as if we had always worked together and been in San Jose at Hombro a Hombro.
After we loaded up the pickup trucks and ate a delicious lunch (each person had a whole fish), the goodbyes began. From the kitchen staff to the little kids to the members of the Health Committee, it was hard saying goodbye to the community. What was most surprising was that many of us had probably not had a full conversation in English or Spanish with these individuals, yet we made a connection with them. As we started down the mountain, people from the community waved from their homes with big smiles; it was an amazing feeling.
We arrived in Roatan around 6 pm and immediately hit the beach! This seemed like a great idea, and it was fun, but it wasn’t till Heather and I got out of the water that we realized we had been destroyed by mosquitos. Lesson learned: don’t go to the beach at dusk. We all shared a delicious meal at the hotel restaurant; we ranged from exhausted to excited to overwhelmed, yet we all had a great time together. The area of Roatan we are in is called the West End, and it has little shops and restaurants up and down the street. We listened to Stephanie perform at karaoke; she was by far the best talent there. At the end of the night, my classmates and I ended up at the end of a pier watching a lightning storm. Some of us ended up going for a midnight swim, which was pretty funny.
One night at dinner in San Jose, Angela asked us what our favorite part of the day was. Since then, I have asked myself that every day of the brigade. The ride down the mountain, with all its bumps and turns and dust, was my absolute favorite part of the day. As we descended, we passed a couple towns where we had done well child visits earlier in the brigade. I saw children out in front of their homes waving who had been there when we had come up the mountain a week and a half before. There were children walking home from school. We passed the most beautiful viewpoints of San Jose, El Progreso and San Pedro Sula.
I tried to take some final pictures, but I eventually gave up and tried to take mental snapshots of all the beauty around us. It was ten times better just trying to enjoy my surroundings one last time. The thoughts that passed through my mind were very different from when I had traveled up the mountain. As I saw the children, I wondered how long they had walked to and from school, whether they were able to attend one of our well child visits, whether they were healthy or if they had clean water and sanitation. During the trip down, I realized that my experience in San Jose has forever changed my own experience with medicine, and I am truly grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this medical brigade.