Triage in Honduras

People wait to be seen at a clinic site.


By Captain Tracy Hughes

In a tradition that is over a decade strong, a medical team made its annual pilgrimage to Honduras to meet physical, social, and spiritual needs of the people in Jesus’ name. The trip, a joint venture of the Raymond Foundation of Ohio, staff from the Cleveland Clinic, and The Salvation Army, has elements of an Army M.A.S.H. unit, an evangelistic campaign, a shoe drive, and so much more.

The team included doctors specializing in dermatology, cardiology, gynecology, pediatrics, and general medicine. At each of five locations, patients first saw helpers, who did intake. These included some of the doctors’ family members and a team of teens, dressed in bright red Salvation Army vests, from the San Pedro Sula Corps (church). Then the patients saw appropriate doctors for their needs, as well as workers who could get them basic reading glasses, shoes for their children, medicines, vitamins, dental care items, granola bars—and if they could read, a Bible.

Needs were slightly different at each location, but everywhere, we saw the impact of poverty. The people suffered from malnutrition, untreated (and often infected) foot wounds, and parasites. But I was struck by the fact that these were people who were trying to do the best they could for their families. They won my respect and a permanent place in my heart.

The facilities varied from rustic to barely existent, with little or no lighting or running water and poor sanitation. In San Pedro Sula and in the outlying areas, where only Spanish is spoken, a translator accompanied each doctor.

The doctors worked steadily from the time they arrived and set up until all the equipment and medicines (except what was left in each place for ongoing treatment) were loaded back in the vans. The Raymond Foundation provided those medicines, to the tune of $12,000.

At every site, waiting in lines was inevitable, and it was always very hot— so hot, in fact, that the crayons for the children just wanted to melt. However, a coloring space was usually available, and we gave out a multitude of stickers. Sometimes we did some singing or played with puppets with the children while they were waiting for parents to be finished with their exams.

Two locations were of particular interest. One, Meriden Mountain Ministry, was new this year and was accessible only by four–wheel–drive vehicles. The dedicated souls who run this mission are Toby and his wife, Amy, a nurse. They have been there for 14 years, ever since Amy got her nursing certification. Toby reported that the church there is now strong enough to continue if they need to move on. He is amazed by what God has done.

The people we saw there were so isolated; many walked great distances to get to us. With the horrible conditions, the list of health issues (including machete accidents) is too long to describe, and it is no surprise that depression ran rampant as well.

At the end of the day, when we were mostly packed up, one doctor noticed a girl with no hair on top of her head. She and her brother had walked many miles and had not understood the process of being seen. Knowing this might be her only shot at medical attention for quite some time, the doctor addressed her condition.

We also ministered at a men’s shelter, where many homeless men came in and, after a shower, looked like different people—quite literally. One man had been released from prison with nowhere to go and had gotten a gash on his head in a brawl. It had been stitched at the hospital but was already infected and had to be restitched, not a pretty sight.

Under these conditions, alcohol is an all–too–common escape. However, we met one young man volunteering at the shelter that day who had turned his life around with Jesus’ help and was determined to help others.

My favorite scenes from the week were the children getting new sneakers and our staff gathered around patients praying. Jesus was an integral part of everything we did. Gospel songs even broke out at that men’s shelter.

The One who made the situation bearable was God Himself. Before we saw any patients, we would gather in a circle, sing the doxology, and pray. God was extremely faithful every day. There is no way to properly express the gratitude in our hearts for the team that has come together each year for 13 trips to Honduras. We are also grateful for the shoulder–to–shoulder work of the Ruth Paz Foundation. I, for one, am uplifted to see how God is working in Honduras.

Captain Tracy Hughes traveled with the team this year.    Send article as PDF