Written by Emily Fisher, MD, Fellow at the Kaiser Permanente Napa-Solano Community Medicine & Global Health Fellowship Program while on Global Health rotation with Good Samaritan Hospital in Chichicastanango, Guatemala in December 2018
In December of this year, I had the privilege of joining a group from Georgia on their yearly trip to the Guatemalan town of Chichicastenango. What used to be an annual medical mission trip had been on hiatus for years since they had no physician to attend the trip. Since I was introduced to the group, we set out to spend a week setting up pop-up clinics in the rural villages outsides of the already small, but famous, town of Chichicastenango.
Having had ‘relative’ success bringing my daughter along on international trips, I brought by husband and my 2-year-old with me. There’s something about travelling with a child to give you a different perspective on things. She’s a built in ice-breaker and friend-maker, and helped my husband and I look at the culture through the lens of what it must be like for parents living in this place. At times, like when we could barely breathe in the town center due to the black poison that….
the frequent ‘chicken buses’ emit, this brought us near to tears thinking of the lungs of the children who lived there. At other times, it gave us a deeper look into the kindness and welcoming spirit of the people we were treating.
At our pop-up clinics, the only medical providers were myself and a retired ED PA. Between the two of us, we saw 75 patients a day, which was no mean feat! Since my husband was helping with some construction, this left our 2-year-old daughter to roam about the clinic, sharing books and snacks with the local kids. I discovered rapidly how bad of an idea this was when I was trying to do a physical exam, work with translators from English>Spanish>K’iche, and give my daughter her morning snack. My savior came in the shape of a little girl probably about 8 who, seeing my struggle, came over and grabbed my daughter’s hand.
She gave me a look of ‘I got this’ and proceeded to start looking through the books and blocks I had brought for entertainment. This pattern held true in each of the 3 villages we visited. There was always a little girl or boy, who lovingly took up the mantle of babysitter/entertainer. I was privileged each day to look after members of the community, while the smallest members of the community looked lovingly after my daughter. I am eternally grateful to the generosity of these little humans, and will forever hold in my mind’s eye that image of my little girl giggling like mad while surrounded by 10 local kids reading Goodnight Moon.