It has been a minute since I have had time to sit down and write a blog! What have my family and I been doing? My wife, Leda DeRose, and I set off on a Volunteer Medical Mission with Global Clinic in April! We spent 9 days in Dominican Republic!
When we arrived in Santiago Airport we went got our bags and went through customs and into the warm humidity of the island air. A bit overwhelmed after attempting to sleep on an airplane where your knees had only about 2 inches between you and the seat in front of you. Seriously, I couldn't imagine being anything other than an infant to be comfortable in these seats. (Airlines, get it together, there's more room in coffin!) Outside the airport amongst the crowds of people our tribe that came early from San Diego to have a few days free, started to find each other, gather and arrive one by one.
When our fearless leader and good friend Chris Brenner arrived we found our hired ride. I wish I had a picture of our purple ride blasting reggaeton, I do however have a quick video of the ride! (I will try to post it at the bottom)
If you have never been out of the US you first cringe at the 2,3,4 people riding a tiny moped or motorcycle flying in, out and around just inches from the flying vehicle you are in. I have experienced this before, however Leda had not, you should have seen her first reaction! I laughed, took a deep breath and relaxed into our 2 hour drive to Cabarete, laughing, sharing travel stories and stopping for water and poddy breaks we all got to know each other even better. As we arrived in Cabarete we stayed at a super cute place called Surf Break B&B that Chris had found on a previous mission. Here is where we met up with the rest of our San Diego tribe that had arrived earlier and had our first walk down to see the local beach to breath the fresh air and let the ocean wash away the stagnant traveling energy we all were carrying. We all went our separate ways to unpack, rest, see the property we were to stay at for the next 3 nights. Having a large group, 9 of us, it was a bit difficult to get everyone ready to go at the same time but we had several lunches and dinners together, some we collaborated and cooked onsite and some we went out.
Waking to the beach one evening a taxi drove by and the guy stopped and started saying get in free ride... Yeah right buddy, nothing is free when you are an american tourist in a poor country... lo and behold it was the guy Chris had spent time with on a previous trip and it turned out that we too would spend a lot of time with Rodolfo! We planned a trip to the beautiful blue lagoon Lago DuDu with Rodolfo for the next day. Wow, I can't even begin to describe the beauty of Lago DuDu, it was a bit chilly and raining on and off but everyone (but myself, I don't like being cold haha) went in the water and even zip lined over the lagoon and dropped in! Even my wife Leda DeRose L.Ac.! There was also a smaller part of the lagoon where you could swim back into a cave a bit. Pictures do not do this place justice! There was also a cave we climbed into into and being the crazy group we were out came the portable speaker and so ensued an impromptu dance party in the cave. Crazy Americans! Haha! The next day we all had a bit more beach and surf time, had our lunches and packed up to head into the city of Santiago to work the clinic for the week.
What a contrast... We went from the gorgeous beaches into the concrete jungle of Santiago. As we all arrived tired and weary from our beach day and 2 hour car ride we arrived and the Hotel Aloha Sol to meet the Global Clinic organizers, check into our rooms and get settled in. That evening we met the whole team for dinner and were introduced to the Global Clinic founder Alice Kimand organizer Peach Ciucur, our Dominican 'body guards', Dago and Freddy, organization translator Ana Rodriguez, 2 fellow San Diegans that couldn't make the previous days with us, our amazing Chinese Herb Specialist Karen Vaughan, and finally there to film a video about the organization Dr. James Bell. What a beautiful group of souls were brought together. We all bonded immediately and heard the stories of the organization and how it was started and that this was the largest group of acupuncturists that they have ever had on a mission.
The following morning we gathered at 8am and took our first ride over to the gymnasium that we were working in. There were 3 areas, 2 circles of chairs and 1 row of tables, for the acupuncturists to be split up and work in. I settled at the check in table with Peach to do the intake forms, take blood pressure, blood oxygen levels and temperatures. Not able to speak Spanish we devised an intake system where Peach and a few volunteers helped clients fill out their medical forms and write down in english what the patient were there to be seen for. Then then came to myself and James where we took their vitals and introduced them to their acupuncturist. The thing we most saw was (very high) high blood pressure, diabetes, low back and general body pain. There were also cases of topical skin conditions and a lot of painful scares from accidents (auto and motorcycle). I was very busy throughout the days so I was only able to snap pics running delivering patients but I got quite a few!
We took lunch breaks in shifts and walked down the street to the host family that was making our lunches for our team. They were so sweet and went out of their way to make Leda and I vegan meals. This is when we truly discovered how poor the diet is. The food was delicious however, everything was heavily salted and we also had heard they use a lot of MSG. The yucca was so good! That I do miss. And the beans were delicious. We had a salad one day other than that the vegetables were not the freshest quality. After lunch we went back to work where the team that was still there was desperately trying to keep up with the demand. Everyday we left the hotel at 8am and arrived back at 5pm when we did a debrief and discussed our day, experiences and unusual cases. The one that stuck out to me the most was a very young girl around 10 that came in with what seemed to be a fungus in her hair. Between Chris and Karen the gathered local herbs and treated her. The family had driven 2 hours to come and get help for their sweet beautiful girl. Also a gentleman from the years prior returned. The last time he came to the clinic he had no feeling in the left side of his body due to a stroke. After the week of treatments that year he regained feeling in the left side of his body and this year he came waltzing in with the biggest smile on his face to get treated this year. He was so happy and grateful for what acupuncture gave back to him and he was a joy just to see his smile.
What an experience this was! We met so many amazing people and feel so blessed to have been able to be a part of this mission and the Global Clinic organization. The 5 days working flew by so fast and it was over before we knew. As exhausted as we were we didn't want to stop. Are you ready for the numbers? Our amazing team treated 695 patients in 4 1/2 days. YES almost 700 patients!!! On the last day as we finished packing all the supplies and cleaning up the clinic a huge rain storm hit. It was so cleansing! It was like the universe was cleansing us and saying thanks for all of the hard work.
That night our volunteers and the DR organization that the Global Clinic teamed with threw is a party with lots of dancing! It was SO much fun! We had the volunteers kids showing us up on the dance floor. Everyone was so grateful and happy and we ended this trip on an amazing love high!
I could not imagine a better team. It truly was a dream team! Minimal disagreements or frustrations and we all came home loving each other more and knowing each other better than before. Almost the whole team is on board for next years mission!
A huge THANK YOU to Alice Kimand the Global Clinic for creating this opportunity for us to share the love and gifts we have. If you would like to donate to the Global Clinic or support Leda and I on our next mission we would greatly appreciate it. We couldn't do this without the support of our friends and families that helped us fund this life changing mission. My heart is wide open and I just want to give more and more!