A desire to serve (Part II)

January 13, 2017 at 6:00 AM

Dr. Mark Veenstra examines the knee of a patient on Gracias, Honduras, in 2015, to determine if he had torn in ACL.          (Photo by Dan Breen)

(Editor’s note: Eileen Dolan is a registered nurse from Long Island, New York. She was a member of her first Luke Society medical bridged to Gracias, Honduras in October.)

A desire to serve (Part II)

By Eileen Dolan

(Note: This is the second entry in a three-part blog series by Eileen Dolan about her experience on a brigade to Gracias, Honduras. The final entry will run during the next month.)

These are some of the things I observed while on my first Brigade, October 2016:

Once I got on the plane, I recognized Dr. Mark from his photos on Facebook. I said, “Hello.” He gave me a hug and then I needed to put my carryon in the overhead compartment. The gentleman sitting next to me offered to help and I had no idea he was with our group. I’d later find out half-way through the flight that he was one of the dentists. We chatted and he told me how much he loves coming to Honduras with this group.

In the airport, while we waited on the immigration line, I got to meet my roommate and the rest of the group. Everyone was so warm and friendly.

As we headed into the vehicles to get to Gracias, everybody loaded the luggage, got on the bus or into the van and immediately began chatting. It was an instant bonding experience.

Dr. Mark not only was a great driver but had a unique sense of humor. If we were confronted with police at a stop point or some strange traffic situation he always kept his calm and instilled confidence in the passengers like me who were not keen on the crazy driving rules or lack thereof and the potentially dangerous no-seatbelt issue. Nothing fazed him.

Becky was the ultimate organizer of every small detail of the trip. She is the copilot, knows where everyone is, what is needed and orchestrates it all with a smile and humor.

There were small ways in which Becky and Mark wanted to make the newcomers like me feel welcome. They hosted us in their guest house and surrounded us with love and kindness.

There was a lack of ego. People were all on an even plane, regardless of their level of education and skill. Everyone was respected whether they were doing surgery or cleaning instruments. Every job was important and everyone was made to feel important. Unless they were first-timers like me, they returned year after year.

At Carlos Mendoza’s church on the first morning I felt very choked up listening to Mark and Becky tell the story of the struggles with Mark’s health and their determination to be back this year.  When it came time for song and prayer, everybody participated enthusiastically. Several days later we attended an evening service and Carlos and his wife called us up on the altar and they prayed over all of us. The people were so friendly and wanted to hug us and shake our hands. I have a new favorite song, “Bendecido.”

In the village on the first day I was supposed to be a helper with sterilization of dental instruments. Dr. Paul came over to Sandy Palumbo and me and said that he needed an RN to triage and to take vital signs to save time and speed up things so all the patients could be seen.

Sandy pointed to me and said, “She knows Spanish. Take her.” Little did she know that that would be my dream job. I went on the trip prepared to do whatever job I was asked to do but never knew I would be doing exactly what I was meant to do. I was in my glory.

Next story:

A beautiful graduation