Can you imagine doing something for so many years and then being thrown out of your comfort zone to help people in another country? That is what happened to Doug and Cindy Knoble along with Dr. Kurt and Barb Wilhelm.
“We were with a group of medical professionals and others from a church in Stevens Point, who has a strong connection with one of the missionaries in the Guatemala area,” Dr. Wilhelm said.
The two couples along with 12 others from the United States headed out by plane on Oct. 19 to start their eight-day medical mission in San Lucas, Toliman in Guatemala.
Their first day in San Lucas, was on Sunday, Oct. 21. They began the day with some shopping and a boat ride across Lake Antitlan. Lake Antitlan is a volcanic lake, which means it is surrounded by tall green mountains and is very deep in the center. Once they crossed the lake they were in a little town known as Panajachel, where the group was able to do some shopping.
After lunch they went back to San Lucas to the Iglesia Mundial Extendido church, where they would be holding the medical mission the following day. When the group arrived at the church, they were surprised to see how everything was set up. The medical rooms where patients were to be seen by the doctors were set up with pbc piping and were aligned with sheets to separate the rooms to make them more private. There was a special room for each doctor with their name on the outside. The flooring in the church was dirt as the church was under construction.
“It was well set up and the members of the church did a marvelous job preparing everything,” Dr. Wilhelm said.
When the patients arrived at the church, they were registered and triaged according to their needs whether it was medical, dental or optical. The patients then are placed in a waiting area until they are called.
“These people were very patient, as some of them were sitting there all day,” Barb Wilhelm said.
There were several doctors available at the medical mission center, to help the patients. However, they also had five Guatemala medical students and one physician to interpret for the group members.
“When the students would leave the room, it was like the whole appointment came to a stop,” Dr. Wilhelm said.
A difference that Dr. Wilhelm pointed out from working on the patients was that they were unable to run labs like they would at a normal hospital, so they had to base their prognosis on the patient’s symptoms.
If the patient had a need for a prescription, they were sent to the pharmacy area, where Doug Knoble was working. Knoble would give them medication to last the patient probably about two weeks. Even if the patient had not received a prescription from the doctor, they went to the pharmacy to receive a baggie of vitamins. Knoble thought there was a charge for the medication of $1.
“That way they would be taking accountability or ownership over the medicine,” Knoble said.
After receiving their medication, the patients were welcome to talk to individuals from the local church, for prayer and counseling at the spiritual clinic, also held at the church. It was supposed to help the local church reach out to the community and make them realize they were always welcome at the church.
“It was not only sharing medical care but also sharing our faith in Christ with these people,” Knoble said.
The final stop made by the patients was to the photo center, where Barb was working. She was taking pictures of the families together, with the picture of what the church would look like hopefully in about three years.
“They would get in front of the camera and the people would just go poker faced,” Barb said.
The days for the doctors generally started around 8 a.m. until about 6 p.m. At the end of the day everyone gathered at the pharmacy station to help get the patients through.
When all the patients had left the building, the teams were given the opportunity to return to their hotel or go wherever they would like. Then their night would be completed with a nightly meeting after dinner, usually held at the hotel, to discuss logistical improvements and pharmacy updates. The group had prayer together and shared in things they had witnessed throughout their day.
The group was able to visit the local hospital in San Lucas, while on their Medical Mission, and they were left in amazement.
“There is one physician, and he gets probably one day off a month,” Dr. Wilhelm said. “He was truly amazing.”
The physician at the hospital saw around 50 to 60 people in one day. He has a lot of help from the nurses, but he is mainly doing things on his own.
Dr. Wilhelm recalled touring their hospital and thinking that it reminded him of what Boscobel’s hospital looked like in the 1950’s era.
“It was scary how much it looked alike,” Dr. Wilhelm said.
With the doctors being able to help a total of 872 people in a matter of four days, there were some amazing stories to be told.
Dr. Wilhelm recalled a girl about 10-years-old who came to see him with an ear that had been bothering her for about a month. Her family had taken her to the local doctor and he could not find anything wrong. However, when Dr. Wilhelm looked in her ear he found a cotton ball, which had been there for about a month.
“The patient thought it was amazing when I got it out,” Dr. Wilhem said. “I think I just got lucky to find the cotton ball.”
Cindy Knoble recalled the amazement she had seen from some of the patients who were receiving glasses, which had been donated by the Lions Club.
“Some of these people couldn’t see,” Cindy said. “When we would do the eye test, some of them would get tears in their eyes when they received glasses and could see.”
Now that the two couples are back from their trip, they are happy they were able to be a part of the medical mission, especially Cindy and Barb, this being their first medical mission trip.
“Every time I go on a medical mission, I feel like I am stepping outside of my comfort zone because everything is different,” Doug said. “But yet when your thrust into an area where you’re stretched beyond you’re comfort zone you have to trust in God to help you.”
The trip was an eye opener for not only the patients but the doctors as well. Especially for Dr. Wilhelm, who came home remembering why he wanted to be a doctor.
“It makes us remember why we were called to do this in the first place,” Dr. Wilhelm said. “To spread the gospel and we just have to remember that.”