Friday, November 25, 2011

Local Clinic: Toronto - November 19, 2011

Submitted by Greg DeClara, an HMO Volunteer

Saturday November, 19 was a beautiful fall day. Many people in the Toronto area took advantage of the abnormally warm weather before the harsh reality of a Canadian winter beings to set in. But, inside the Church on the Queensway, volunteers were sacrificing their day off to give back to the community.

Health Mission Outreach (HMO) held a free medical and dental clinic last Saturday for community members at the west-end church. A team of young, energetic volunteers and dedicated medical professionals treated hundreds of people who don’t normally have the luxury of seeing a doctor. Members of the Church on the Queensway and volunteers with the outreach program were beyond accommodating and created a welcoming environment for everyone who walked through the doors. They began in the early hours of the morning setting up dental chairs, electrical wires and even an x-ray machine. I also came across a group of dental hygienist students who were there looking to help in any way possible. The entire day was really a perfect example of people helping people.

As my first local mission, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Living in Canada’s largest and richest city, I don’t imagine healthcare to be a major issue. We normally balk at the countless horror stories we hear from our neighbours to the south and take pride in the services that are available to us. But, in reality, something as simple as dental cleaning can be out of reach for some Canadians. According to HMO Chair, Valerie Campbell, thirty per cent of us don’t see a dentist and nine per cent of us don’t have our natural teeth.

Walking through the church and into the gym, I expected the majority of patients to be new immigrants. However, as I began talking to them, I realized that many had been born in Canada or had moved to the country more than ten years ago. People can develop serious health issues like heart disease without proper oral hygiene. It became clear how critical the growth and development of these programs is for the well being of many people.

Overall, the day was an eye-opening experience for me. I got a first-hand look at the amount of work and effort put into the program. I’m proud that I was able to be a part of such a great event and look forward to future projects as HMO continues to serve the people most in need.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Paraguay Mission 2011

Paraguay Mission 2011

The following is a journal kept by Dr. Lun Hangfu, as he recorded his incredible experiences from his mission to the Patanale region of Paraguay in June-July 2011.

This is the HMO’s third mission to Paraguay.

His amazing story chronicles the ups and downs of his visit and the challenges the team faced along the way. What a remarkable trip!

June 28, 2011
Today my yearly ritual started at 5 pm, as I began final packing and checking for all the equipments and supplies – a ritual that lasted ’til 3 am the next morning.


June 29, 2011
I went to work in the morning and two hygiene students, Mr. Marco Wu and Miss Julie Kwan, from University of British Columbia came to my office to meet me. They are two of the 11 volunteers from Canada that were scheduled to leave tonight for Health Mission Outreach’s third Amazon health care mission to the region with the Charmacoco Indians in the Patanale region of Paraguay. It is my sixth trip back – time flies!

We met Dr. Cheryl Lee from Calgary at my home and repacked some of the luggage to utilize all the luggage allotment by the airline. My dear friend, Mr. Peter Dimitrijevic, came in a minivan to assist us with the transportation of all the luggage to the Toronto airport for our 11 pm flight to Sao Paolo, Brazil, our first stop over.

This is a stressful time for me because all 11 volunteers must be on schedule or someone will miss the boat!

[Dr. Stephanie Falz is arriving from Kimberly, BC at 9:30 pm and hopes to connect with us at 11 pm.  She called me at 9:50 pm and with sense of urgency that she is in terminal three and still looking for her luggage! She also needed a ride to terminal one. She did not think she could make the flight on time…

I simply asked her to do whatever it is possible.

I waited and no news from her. The plane is ready for boarding. I started to call her and hoping she has checked in. The irony is that she is also looking for me. We really never met except on the Skype. Thank God, she recognized me first because I will never be able to find her – her hair colour has changed from brunet to blond! ]

Now all 10 volunteers are on the plane and it is a small miracle!

Our 11th volunteer is travelling via US to Brazil and we will meet Dr. Breanne Joslin in Sao Paolo.

June 30, 2011
We arrived in Sao Paolo at 10 am after 10 hours of flying. As we are ready to pass through the custom inspection, I asked Dr. Choo-Campbell to carry $6000 US for me and I also have $10,000 US. Our bank failed to wire the money to Brazil and we have to bring cash to pay for all the expenses. My second concern is all the luggage that we are carrying.

We proceeded through custom with no problem.

Our next flight is to Campo Grande for 2 ½ hours. The Brazilian airport is a very interesting place to connect because the boarding gate on the ticket and the actual boarding gate is never the same. It is important to recheck the monitor every hour to make sure that you are at the correct location.

Needless to say that our gate has changed without notice and we are concerned that Dr. Joslin maybe in the wrong departure gate. We have her photo and it should be easy to spot a tall blond female in the crowd. Mr. Campbell found her at the wrong gate.

Unfortunately, Dr. Joslin lost her luggage in the US and she has no clothes to wear. Her shopping started early.

Now we are all here and our journey begins.

We arrived at Campo Grande around 3 pm and our bus is already there waiting for us.
There are 7 Brazilian volunteers joining us, three medical students, one administrator, one nursing student, one architect student and one accounting student.
We exchanged some money, did some shopping and had a Brazilian barbecue dinner before boarding the bus for 7 hours to Corumba, a border town between Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia on the Paraguay River.

July 1, 2011
We checked in the Hotel in Corumba around 3 am because the boat is not at the harbour according to our local contact, Pastor Carlos.

The breakfast is served from 7 am to 9 am. Some volunteers walked to the dock and found out our boat Neptuno is parked there. I was surprised because we could stay on the boat instead of the hotel.

Our boat ride should be 20 to 24 hours down the Paraguay River before we reached the Charmacoco Indian tribes. In the meantime, we unpacked our equipments and supplies to get ready. We counted and packaged thousands of pills for dispensing.

July 2, 2011
To our surprise, the boat docked at Port Diana, Paraguay, Charmacoco country, at 10 am.

We are scrambling to get ready but dental equipment took time to set up and get tested. It was decided that the dental clinic will start after lunch. The medical doctor, Dr. Falz, with the help of the medical students, started to treat patients immediately.

Once the clinic started on the boat, it was frenzied with endless patients and endless problems.
[The hygiene student, Marco, stood up after one patient and yelled that it is crazy and he is quitting. The pressures never ends.]

Everyone did their best and worked very hard.

One special note:
The weather usually is 26 to 30 degrees Celsius but throughout this week, it is around 10 to 15 degree with rain and clouds. It is very unusual in six years of mission trip.

July 3, 2011
I woke up next morning with severe backache because the bunk bed mattress has no support.

I was very happy to see Miss Natalia Baez, a local Charmacoco resident, came out to help us to translate. She is in her third year of nursing study at Asuncion, capital city of Paraguay. She came home on a two day bus journey to help us. HMO has sponsored her for her study and it is refreshing to know that we have chosen a good student and a good person.

We worked hard again and it was a very productive day because we managed to thin out the waiting line up. It was decided that we will move to the next village, Karcha Balut, tomorrow.
I told Miss Baez to stay home and not to come with us down river because she has to be back to Asuncion by Friday and I wanted her to spend some time with her family.

The water shoes brought by Dr. Pat Duronio, were an instant delight, since the locals needed them desperately. We give the shoes selectively because there were not enough to go around.

July 4, 2011
The water on the Paraguay River is very high this time of year. Many houses are under the waterline. Many fish and birds are missing because they are living deeper into the Pantale region.

Karcha Balut is a village with a population of about 150; mostly children. It is better organized than Port Diana in housing, school, and herding. The mayor is a nurse.

We did well and by lunch it was decided that we are moving on after lunch to the third village, Port Esperensa (Port of Hope).

Dr. Falz tried to give away some shoes and she was swamped by the locals! She gave up quickly and returned to the boat while the villagers fought over the shoes.

Our hygienist, Miss Laura Purslaw was visibly upset because she promised a family that there will be shoes for them but it was all gone in a few minutes. She made up by giving away her clothes and more.
We left many medications to each village’s nurse and hope they will help.

July 5, 2011
My backache continues even though I have used all the life jackets under my mattress.

Port Esperensa is village of 500 people. There is no running water here so the Paraguay River is the life line. I took two bottles of water samples back to Canada for analysis and hoping to find the correct filter system for this region.

The patients from this village are no different from Port Diana and Karcha Balut – they needed major restorations.

Dr. Joslin and Dr. Duronio extracted 12 teeth from an eight year old boy. His mother told us next day that he went to school and ate breakfast.

July 6, 2011
We were informed that the boat is leaving for Corumba after 1 pm.
It was agreed that we will see as many patients as possible in the morning and last call was 11:45 am.
For some reason, I was happy because there was light at the end of the tunnel – I am going home.

The work is never finished here but the pace is hard and difficult. After a few days of this kind of work, we feel exhausted.

Once again, it is difficult to leave. I cried every time as the children waved goodbye.

It has become increasingly difficult to come back due to escalating costs and long distance of travel.

My congratulations to all the volunteers and it is my privilege to serve with them!

Dr. Duronio was happy to come back the second time because it gave him a chance to be more prepared.
Dr. Falz treated mostly cold and flu symptoms and she hoped to work with the local nurses to improve initial diagnosis and improve the quality of care.

July 7, 2011
We arrived in Corumba in the afternoon. There was no Brazilian barbecue like the previous year for the volunteers. I think the boat owner has short-changed our rental agreement.

The seven day rental is actually only 6 days. This is the second time that has happened. I expressed my disappointment to Pastor Carlos and he did not give a satisfactory answer. We are at disadvantage because we are many miles away from home.
The bus arrived in Campo Grande around 10 pm and we said goodbye to our Brazilian volunteers.

We will miss them – they are our friends. We checked into a local hotel for the night.

July 8, 2011

We arrived at the airport to catch our 9 am flight to Sao Paolo.
We arrived at Sao Paolo around 12 am and decided to take three taxis to visit the local mall because we have 8 hours in transit.

We boarded the flight to Toronto and felt relieved that it was all over.

Half way into the flight, one of the passenger developed syncope(fainted) and luckily there was a full deck of doctors on board to assist Air Canada. Dr. Falz got a bottle of champagne from the Air Canada crew for a job well done.

We all arrived in Toronto safely and many of our volunteers have to continue their journey home to Lionhead, Ontario; BC; Calgary, Alberta and more.

I was happy to come home and have a hot shower and comfortable bed.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Local Clinic - Mississauga Dec. 4th, 2010

Emily Harris

The spirit of the holidays can be found in many different places. We see it when the first few snowflakes of the season arrive and while driving through brightly decorated neighbourhoods around town. This year, however, the true spirit of the season was found at the Westside Presbyterian Church in Mississauga. This is where the Health Mission Outreach held its Free Medical and Dental Clinic. On December 4th from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., volunteers, medical personnel, and patients gathered together to enjoy a day of helping a community in need.

Walking around the clinic, the first friendly faces I saw belonged to the Triage Team. They were a group of registered nurses who had arrived bright and early to get over 100 patients ready for their various health checkups today. At zero cost to the patient, this particular clinic offered the services of dentists and dental assistants, family doctors, acupuncturists, chiropodists, opticians, chiropractors and a pharmacist that answered drug-related medical questions. With a talented team like that, the day was bound to be a great success!

Amidst the laughing kids and the young volunteers sporting Santa hats, I was greeted by Philip, the Pastor at Westside Presbyterian. He told me he was absolutely “blown away by the dedication and heart” that he saw at the clinic. Through a beaming smile, he affirmed that the community getting together like this for such a great cause was “a beautiful thing!”
One of the highlights for such a cold December day was the refreshment area. This is where patients and volunteers alike could share a hot cup of tea and some treats to go with it. It was quite a popular spot!
I also got the chance to speak with a dental team during a rare moment of respite while waiting for their next ‘customer’. A dental student from Everest College told me that she got involved because of her teacher. Today was her first time with the HMO and she told me it would definitely not be her last, she hoped there would be even more volunteers from her class the next time around.
While in line for their checkups, I spoke with a mom and her four children who were sitting and waiting patiently. She told me her sister-in-law introduced the HMO clinic to her and she agreed that it was going very well so far. Her daughters were raring to go and weren’t shy about telling me that they were sure they didn’t have any cavities!

The Mississauga clinic was another great experience that I feel lucky to have witnessed. Whenever I get to attend an HMO event, I know it will be filled with dedication, good works, and plenty of smiles. Especially around the holiday season, it’s great to know we have such wonderful people who create a place of giving and sharing where everyone is welcome.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Local Clinic: Bramption - October 16, 2010

Submitted by Emily Harris, an HMO Volunteer

            On a crisp Autumn Saturday in downtown Brampton, patients and doctors alike shared a memorable day filled with the will to help out and the true spirit of community. Volunteers from all across the GTA, including dentists and hygienists, doctors and ophthalmologists, and even a friendly poodle contributed to the day’s great success.
The Kennedy Tabernacle Church acted as host for the Greater Toronto Outreach Program’s free medical and dental clinic on October 16th, 2010. Around 160 patients came from near and far to get everything from dental check-ups to chiropractic work and eye exams, all free of charge!

I was able to get a feel for this great event and had the chance to speak with some of the people involved.
Now, you may not think that a visit to the dentist would put a smile on many faces, but everyone from the patients sitting in the dental chairs to the volunteers handing out coffee and cookies couldn’t help but grin. As Pastor Ted of the Church commented “It’s great to be able to help people out with no strings attached!”

Touring through the facility, it was truly amazing to see the room packed with dental chairs and tables topped with intricate dental equipment set up and humming with maximum efficiency. Even though some of the younger patients held on tightly to their stuffed animals in the chairs, it was clear that those in need of help were truly appreciative and excited to be able to come. As one nursing volunteer explained, some patients aren’t able to afford the care they need, so it’s amazing when there’s a place to go where they can find help.
            As I walked upstairs to the midwife, chiropractic, and smoking cessation seminar areas, I ran into two young ladies aged 10 and 12 who greeted me with a friendly smile and stopped to chat. When asked why they wanted to get involved and volunteer, they simply replied “It’s fun, you get to meet new people, and it’s a great experience!” These feeling of positivity were echoed amongst everyone in the room.
All the hard work and effort that goes into holding the free clinic was well worth it when seeing what this event means to people in need. HMO will be hosting another clinic in December, at that time it will be held in Mississauga. I was very glad to be a part of this great program, and look forward to next time!

Friday, August 13, 2010

South American Mission 2010

The following is a journal kept by Dr. Lun Hangfu, as he recorded the rollercoaster experiences from his recent mission to Paraguay and Brazil in July 2010.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010
We got up early to check out the Baguassu hotel at 7 a.m. The city bus was waiting to take us to Sao Paulo airport.

The morning was sunny and we were able to see the roadside scenery. On the way to the airport, we were invited to have a Chinese lunch by our Brazilian doctors’ group. Some members took the advantage and went shopping in the pouring rain.

It took almost two hours for our bus to arrive at Sao Paulo airport due to regular traffic congestion in Sao Paulo city. We managed to check in on time and board an 8 p.m. flight home.

Some volunteers continued their Brazillian tour.

Thursday, July 15, 2010
It was a huge relief when we all arrived back in Canada safely. I went straight home and enjoyed a shower.

On behalf of HMO, I am very proud to have served with this group of volunteers. They worked very hard with professional dedication and personal compassion. I could not imagine what more anyone could ask. They should be commended for their actions and deeds.

South American Mission 2010

The following is a journal kept by Dr. Lun Hangfu, as he recorded the rollercoaster experiences from his recent mission to Paraguay and Brazil in July 2010.

Monday, July 12, 2010
It was our first solo dental clinic day. The pace was fast and none stop.

The mayor, local health official and newspaper visited us and we had many photo opportunities.

Most of the volunteers laughed when they found out that there was no church service that night.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010
We started early at 8 a.m. because the clinic was scheduled until 1 p.m. The vice mayor would like to take us for a city tour in the afternoon.

Again, the dental clinic did not finish until 3 p.m. before we finally packed our equipments and concluded our mission trip in Capao Bonito.

Later, we visited local water park, public dental clinic and finally a farm house in the country. It was raining very hard when we were at the farm house. It was a spectacular modern chalet. The driver urged us to leave early because the road was not paved and it was very difficult to travel late. He was right – our bus tilted 10 to 15 degrees and we got stuck in a ditch. They called a tractor to pull us out with everyone inside.

We had to walk 100 yards to meet the bus down the hill in pouring rain with no rain gear and very few umbrellas. Dr. Reavell commented that I planned this on the last day as a team building exercise. I was relieved when we all got back to the hotel – but we were totally soaked. It was an interesting experience.

The local hospitality was the best we ever experienced in all our mission trips. From the beautiful smiles to gourmet kitchen foods and many acts of sincere appreciation, we were truly fortunate to be there.  We would like to express our sincere thanks to everyone from the wonderful village of Capao Bonito. We loved our brief stay.

We treated about 850 patients. The mayor and the organizer were very delighted with the outcome and have proposed to enlarge the service to the adjacent villages for next year.

South American Mission 2010

The following is a journal kept by Dr. Lun Hangfu, as he recorded the rollercoaster experiences from his recent mission to Paraguay and Brazil in July 2010.

Saturday, July 10, 2010
The mayor and the Presbyterian Church were very organized in every detail from patient registration and selection, transportation, and our daily meals. They published our medical and dental mission in the local newspaper and the rest you can imagine.

We set up nine dental stations, one medical doctor, one optometrist and one acupuncturist. There were long line ups and a lot of hard work.

Many volunteers declined evening church service because they were very tired. Dr. Reavell, his wife and I represented HMO. The church service was lively and had lots singing. The translation was poor and sparse but it was enjoyable.

Sunday, July 11, 2010
I was surprised to find out that the clinic would only open until 1 p.m. because many locals wanted to watch the final match of the World Cup. Furthermore, all our Brazilian doctors are leaving too because they are going back to Sao Paulo. That means we will only operate the dental clinic for Monday and Tuesday.

The dental clinic did not finish until 3 p.m. because many last minute patients and emergencies showed up.

We went to a local establishment for the soccer match and walked about Capao Bonito. Some enjoyed their brief shopping experiences.

I had to attend the evening church service for three hours with no translator. It was an experience.