Ten volunteers made up of two physicians, two registered nurses, one paramedic, two EMTs, a hospital support staff and two students made their way on a medical mission to the community of Vicente Guerrero in the Baja Peninsula, Mexico. Hans Visser and his wife Lena approached TANGO about taking a team down to Baja to an orphanage run by Foundation for His Ministries in which the orphanage has a medical clinic served by volunteers. TANGO volunteers also helped out a seniors home, El Buen Samaritano, in Vicente Guerrero that needed medical help.
“People would come to the clinic outside of the orphanage, mainly people who were field workers from the surrounding area who couldn’t afford medication or some of the care that they required,” said Dr. Dave Yamabe, who was part of the TANGO contingent that went to Mexico. “The nursing home is completely funded by donations and they look after up to 24 elderly who do not have any family and basically have no one to look after them.”
A couple of the TANGO members were fluent in Spanish which helped deliver the medical care more effectively.
“The access we had for follow ups for studies with X-rays and ultrasounds are definitely harder for them to get. So they are stuck living with a bunch of things, like there were a couple of gallbladders we were dealing with where we exactly knew what it was, but they couldn’t afford the surgeries,” said Dr. Derek Rasmussen, who was one of the TANGO members who could speak Spanish fluently. “Even just not getting their medicines all the time because of economic reasons.”
Being able to stretch their medical dollars to the max, thanks to the Health Partners International program, TANGO was able to deliver and administer over $35,000 in face value in medicine to those in need in Mexico.
“We also brought a lot of dressings and supplies for them,” said Yamabe, adding that included numerous toothbrushes and toothpaste and hundreds of pairs of eyeglasses that were sent after the trip. “We did get a donation of quite a few dressings from Johnson’s Drug, an order of $2,000 or $3,000 in dressings that could be used down there.”
Yamabe had been in the region before in 2008 on a house build with the Evangelical Free Church, and in six years the poverty level of the area had not changed.
“People were living pretty modestly, specially the field workers. They basically live in one room for the whole family and it’s usually a collection of 20 or 30 one-room units with a central well and cooking area,” said Yamabe.
“The thing that was saddest was a 12-year-old girl who was pregnant that we saw. We found out that a lot of these young girls are sold by their parents because of economic reasons, they are sold to other men and they end up getting pregnant.”
Due to water shortages, a lot of the patients TANGO members saw had not had a bath in weeks.
“They just don’t have water there. The area itself had not had rain since 2010, no rain at all,” said Yamabe. “They have wells, but their water table is going down, down, down because there is no way of replenishing it.”
Coming off the heels of a highly successful humanitarian effort back in December where 44 members went to Fiji, the types of medical needs in Mexico seemed to differ. While high blood pressure, hyper tension and diabetes ran rampant in Fiji, care was more of your wear-and-tear variety in Mexico among its workers with muscle and skeletal issues.
“At the nursing home, they were extremely well cared for and they had very little problems with bed sores or ulcers or anything like that. They were quite well nourished and on very few medications,” said Yamabe, estimating TANGO members tended to approximately 150 patients in the week the team was there. “We had a very good team that worked very well together.”
The paramedic and two EMTs helped with doing the vital signs and initial medical history with one of the nurses helping with wound care.
“The paramedic helped do some teaching with the local ambulance that is a volunteer ambulance and fire department. He was able to instruct them on the Jaws of Life,” said Yamabe. “They had one Jaws of life in a three-hour radius. The have actually been called out where they had to drive or three hours to extricate someone from a vehicle.”
The TANGO Foundation is not resting on its laurels when it comes to its worldly vision as it now prepares for is fundraising garage sale on May 24 at the old Pharmasave building across from the post office. Donations of gently-used items for the garage sale can be made by phoning Linda Moedt at (403)-223-9341
TANGO is always looking to strengthen its organization either through financial donations or the enlisting of individuals who possess skills that can aid the organization. Found on Facebook and Twitter, you can follow the organization at http://www.thetangofoundation.ca which features video and images form the organization’s humanitarian causes along with donation links.
Any donations TANGO receives go towards supplies and equipment in its humanitarian efforts, not towards administrative costs.
Next on the horizon for TANGO is putting a group together to go to the Philippines in October/November for medical help and rebuilding houses in Tacloban which felt the fury of Typhoon Haiyan that claimed over 10,000 lives.
Other upcoming missions also include possibly in Malawi, Africa, helping with an orphanage intake around the same time as the Philippines effort and a humanitarian mission in Guatemala for February 2015.