Press-Republican

May 2, 2014

Medical need high in Dominican

BY ELIZABETH REFF, Contributing Writer
Press-Republican

---- — LAKE PLACID — Medical personnel with St. Eustace Episcopal Church’s recent mission to the Dominican Republic saw almost 1,000 patients over five days.

“There was a little girl (named Gina) with asthma and pneumonia that came back every day for treatment and antibiotics,” said Robin Baxter, a Lake Placid nurse and one of the coordinators of the trip.

At week’s end, Baxter said via email, Gina’s mother told them, tears in her eyes, that she believed Physician Assistant Kara Comins and the mission medical team had saved her life.

“The mother may be quite close to the truth, as Gina was extremely sick. In (the United States), she would have been in the hospital and maybe even in ICU.”

This year, the 23-person volunteer mission group included a physician, three physician assistants, two registered nurses and two licensed practical nurses.

The St. Eustace Dominican Mission has traveled to the Caribbean nation for 16 years, providing medical and spiritual care to the people in and around the community of Gautier.

“There’s a functional clinic,” Baxter said. “We used to work in the church, but a few years ago we switched to a community center built like a church.”

TREATMENT AND PRAYER

Every morning during the mission, she said, the medical providers and local volunteers would have a team meeting to discuss their daily plans and share a group prayer. 

Next, they would drive to the community center for an opening prayer. Afterward, the team would treat patients until 5 p.m.

As patients would enter the clinic, one of the volunteers would sign them in. Then one of the workers would run tests to check their vital signs and get background on each person’s illness. 

Then patients would either see the physician or a physician assistant. After treatment, there would be a healing prayer for each person. 

Baxter said that many of their patients came back each day for medication, among them the child with pneumonia.

The medical professionals also made home visits for those who were too weak or sick to go to the community center clinic.

“We probably did maybe 20 throughout the week,” Baxter said.

Aside from medical supplies, the group brought about 50 care packages containing soaps and shampoos for the locals. They also gave out crutches, walkers and canes to those in need.

Baxter said most of the patients were diagnosed with parasitic and upper-respiratory conditions, which are the result of toxic drinking water.

CONTAMINATED WATER

Paul Gutmann of Lake Placid said that about 80 percent of those treated during the week suffer from water-related illnesses. That includes dysentery, cholera and dehydration.

Gutmann’s niche with the group is providing home water-treatment devices.

“I follow along with the doctors, nurses and the pharmacists,” he said. “My job is to prevent illnesses, and I do that by bringing with me home water devices so people can have safe drinking water.”

Each purifier costs $33.

Four local Dominicans help out with the water systems, Gutmann said, each paid a stipend of $200.

“I bring (water purification systems) there in pieces,” Gutmann said. “They assemble them, teach people the importance of the systems and teach people how to use them.”

FUNDRAISERS, DONATIONS

Baxter said the cost for this year’s medical supplies and water purifiers totaled between $8,000 and $10,000. 

“We also buy about $3,000 worth of medical supplies when we get there,” she said.

The medical workers and volunteers raised the money via fundraisers and donations. People made jewelry, baked pies and cooked community dinners.

However, for personal costs, such as flights and accommodations, volunteers paid their own way, about $1,100 per person.

Baxter said she thought this trip was successful, and the locals look forward to the mission coming back to help their community.

“It was another great trip,” she said. “I just love doing it — just being together and worshiping together.

HOW TO HELP

The next St. Eustace Church Dominican Mission will take place in early 2015.

For information on specific donations needed and volunteering for a future mission, leave a message for Robin Baxter at the church: 523-2564.

To contribute funds, make checks out to St. Eustace Church, with "DR Mission" in the memo line to: St. Eustace Episcopal Church, 2450 Main St., Lake Placid, NY 12946.