Monday, February 17, 2014

a report sent from the team...

Today is our forth day of spaying/neutering and vaccinating the pets here in Todos Santos.  They have been long days starting at 6am and ending at 5pm.  Although I am happy to report our showers have all been HOT!  With propane showers this year in our hotel rooms, life in Todos Santos has been more comfortable. We have already exceeded the numbers of surgeries and rabies from last year.   The numbers are astonishing, and it is nice to see the local people understanding the need for rabies control and dog population.  It is great to see familar faces and dogs as we walk. The locals are so thankful for the work we do.  I have 3 children that visit me every day after school.  They only speak Spanish and love to repeat every word I say in English.   I have started to teach them our Canadian anthem.  The joy these kids get from us visiting is contagious.  I love seeing them smile. -Melissa

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Where do you begin?

A word from another team member - Jenn 

Wow, were do I begin? This trip to Todos Santos, Guatemala has been a lot of firsts for me! My first time out of North America and my first ever plane ride!  Being here has been one amazing experience; my position here is in recovery, monitoring patients coming out of surgery. With 15 - 20 surgeries a day it makes for a very busy time but its great.  We have the chance to interact with the people of Todos Santos! From the moment they come out of surgery we need to get their temperature, surround them with heating bottles, check the heart rates and respiratory rates, connect them back onto IV fluids and monitor for a safe recovery. We have up to 7-9 patients at once in recovery so it can get a bit crowded. Courtney and I hand out some snacks to the parents and kiddies! Just like back home in Canada we all share the same love and compassion for our furry little friends. The owners will stay by their side talking to them trying to wake them up. It’s very sweet to see those giving kisses and hugs to their pets after surgery.
I’ve had the chance to monitor patients during surgery with some of the Guatemalan Veterinarians as well as Dr. Lechten and Dr. Poon. The surgical area is not what you would expect to see, but with what we have to use, it works great giving the conditions. It really makes me feel great every night when going to bed, that being a part of this mission makes a difference here in Todos Santos.
The Vets without Borders team is an amazing group of people and I would love to be a part of this mission again.  I am truly blessed to be here and very thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this team, something that I’ve always wanted to do since I was a little girl.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Dr. Poons English-Spanish vocabulary, numbers 1-10, "hello", "goodbye"... and more.....

My first visit to Todos Santos and Guatemala has been an amazing experience so far. I am extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to travel with a select few of my Allandale colleagues and work alongside some remarkable individuals with Veterinarians Without Borders to help make a difference.

After 2 flights and a ~8 hour bus ride up through the mountains, our team and 8 totes of medical supplies arrive at our destination. We were introduced to the other members of the Guatemala spay/neuter initiative, which include several veterinarians, a veterinary technician and other helpers to provide English-Spanish translation - the latter being especially important considering my Spanish vocabulary consisted of the numbers 1-10, "hello", "goodbye", "bathroom", "chicken" and "cold beer"...

Although this is not my first time in Central America, the cultural differences between here and back home still astonish me. It is humbling to see the people make so much of what they have and it brings me such joy to see the people's faces light up with simple, albeit foreign, pleasures like glow sticks, Life Savers and coloured paper. This was definitely highlighted during the Community Day in the central marketplace, being able to interact with the locals to educate them about proper pet care and Rabies awareness.

On the other hand, it is heartbreaking to see the large number of stray dogs that roam the town. They are often seen as pests rather than pets and are usually not offered the same love and care as dogs get back home. The plump, happy dogs that I am used to seeing on a daily basis in Barrie are a vast difference to the under-nourished, shy dogs in Todos Santos that will fight over any scraps of food on the ground. It is common to see dogs riddled with fleas or limping from old fractures that have not healed properly or enduring through debilitating diseases. Which really brings us to why I was given the opportunity to travel here. 

After a few days of organization and preparation, Monday kicked off the weeklong  campaign of spays, neuters and vaccinations. It was remarkable working alongside Canadian veterinarians as well as local Guatemalan veterinarians as well. I spent most of the surgery time assisting the Guatemalan veterinarians with surgery and teaching them the different tricks and skills that I have learned through my (short) career in private practice. Their skills improved with each stitch and it felt incredible being a part of something that will one day become a self-sustaining cause in this country. I am sure the following days will be just as positive.

- Dr. Alan Poon

Monday, February 10, 2014

another write up, this time from Melissa

I am very happy to be having the opportunity to return to Todos Santos, Guatemala again this year. I am one of six staff from Allandale Vet Hospital that has made the long journey which started Thursday Feb 6, 2014. Our flight schedule started with us leaving Person airport and heading to Miami. As usual we stuck out like sore thumbs at the airport. All of us had our personal bag, carry on and 8 totes filled with medical supplies to last the week. U.S. customs must of thought the same as they called a few of us over and wanted to peek in our totes to see what we were bringing. With no problems we carried on, and arrived in Miami. With only an hour and a half to spare before boarding our plane to Guatemala, we grab a quick bite to eat and off we went. 

We arrived in Guatemala City at around 9pm and grab our belongs and supplies. I am always nervous when it comes to customs in Guatemala, as none of us speak Spanish (fluently) and they do not have to let us bring our supplies in, so if they decide to take anything it can ruin our purpose of being here. They looked through a couple of totes questioning the de-wormer products, but once confident that we were not bringing anything bad into their country, we were on our way. Now the hotel we were staying in in Guatemala City was sending a car to pick us up, which was waiting for us when we exited the airport and to our surprise so was Heidi. Now if you don't remember Heidi was a vet in Guatemala that we met here last year. You may also remember her from the hospital as she came to Canada and stayed for about 6 months and worked at Allandale. Now the car the hotel sent was a compact car and could only fit half our supplies and 2 people the first trip. Luckily the hotel was 1 min away so the second group did not wait long, and the rest of us squeezed in Heidi's vehicle. We headed to our hotel, which was very quaint and clean. With a quick visit with Heidi she was on her way and our heads hit the pillow, as our ride was picking us up at 8am. Our drive to Todos Santos is a long one and we were hoping to make it there before dark. Our driver did not speak much English, but he was able to thank us for coming to his country and for providing him with work. Another man was with him, which spoke amazing English and he is employed as a tourist guide, his name was Norman. We were so lucky to have him, as he's enthusiasm to tell us all about Guatemala was amazing. About an hour or so along our journey there is a old Mayan city, so we were able to stop and Norman explained all the history, which was amazing.

 Our trip was educational with all the history, but exhausting. We finally arrived in Todos Santos a 6:30pm. With dinner at 7, we quickly dropped our gear and ate dinner. Our hotel this year seems like the Hilton compared to last year, however there is only 2 twin beds in my room with a desk. But the floor is tiled and the walls have stucko, which is a big upgrade compared to cement floors and walls last year. Now the bathroom has no door on it and the shower has no shower curtain which would not be a big deal, however I am sharing a room with Natalie (Dr Lechten's exam room technician). So what we may not of know about each other I am sure we may find out. 

We were all quick to bed as the journey here was exhausting. Today is community day, which is were we educate the people and children about responsibilities of owning a dog. There were crafts, games, coloring and painting. I worked at a table that the kids were able to color on the paper and then I would cut it out and tape it in a cube shape. The kids loved them.

 I am not sure when the last time any of the kids did crafts, however I am sure it is not a routine thing. It is amazing to see how little these kids have, as I watch I young boy play with a old rubber bike tire, and see a 9 year old girl carry a child on her back and another child on her front. The responsibilities the children have is sad, as I watch one boy who would like to partake in the crafts but can't because he needs to shine shoes, my heart breaks.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

our first update from Natalie and the crew.....

Wow, what a day! We all met at the clinic mid morning to await the taxi that would take us to the airport. This year we had some awesome donations so we actually had 2 extra totes to bring with us. Lisa added up all the weight and it was around 350 lbs of medical supplies to take with us. Most of this will be staying in Guatemala to help with the medical needs of the animals there. Thank goodness for baggage carts as it took 4 to carry all the stuff from the taxi to check in. Last year we brought an autoclave (to sterilize the instruments) and it was quite the ordeal to get it there. This year even with the extra baggage we flew through check in and customs, thanks American Airlines! The flights aren't to long (about 3 hours each) and we had a layover for an hour in Miami, Florida. It was good as we all needed dinner and it was just enough time to grab a bite to eat. We boarded and headed off to Guatemala. We arrived in Guatemala City about 9 pm and claimed our totes and baggage quickly. Guatemalan customs was fairly easy to get through and we had a driver waiting for us outside the airport. Is was a great surprise to have Heidi waiting for us also. We had so much stuff it took the driver two trips and Heidi to get everything to our hotel. We had a nice visit with Heidi and met with Stacy a tech from last year who would be joining us on our journey to Todos Santos. We were in bed by 11:30 pm as the van coming to get us in the morning was arriving at 7:30 am. Up at 6:00 am for a quick shower (it might be our last warm one for a week) and a wonderful ethnic breakfast, we awaited the van. It was very prompt and we were loaded and on our way by 8:00 am. It is an eight hour drive but with lunch and bathroom breaks it takes about 10 hours. The roads very curvy and we were thankful our driver and guide tied our luggage and totes tightly to the top of the van. We were very lucky to have time to stop and do some sightseeing this year as last year we made the 2 day trek in one day. Our guide took us to a Myan ruin historical sight and we got to spend about 40 minutes walking around and learning Myan history. Back in the van and onward. One more stop in San Francisco ( not in the USA) for lunch and then again in Wawa for ice cream at Mc Donald's. Fortunately the scenery is very beautiful and the company was good so the drive didn't seem to long. We arrived in
Todos Santos just as it was getting dark (around 6:30 pm). We met the rest of our team at the the Municipal Salon and they helped us unload everything quickly. We headed off to dinner and to hear the itinerary for the week. Saturday is a community kids day so we needed to get settled and get to bed. We are all staying in the same hotel this year so that will definitely be more convenient this year as it is right across from the Salon. We settled fairly quickly into our rooms and were asleep by about 10 pm as we had an early start the next day.