Healthy Living joins HANDS International for free healthcare
A Medical Mission by Health and Development Services International Incorporated has returned with its second mission to Belize. HANDS International has offered free medical services in Belize City and Belize district Rural from April thirtieth to May fourth. Healthy Living was there to lend a helping hand with Hands International.
Marleni Cuellar, Reporting
For the past two days, the Cleopatra White Polyclinic has been filled with anxious adults and children waiting or desperately trying to get an appointment with a team of visiting specialists. The medical mission is a collaboration between the Ministry of Health and the agency: Health and Development Services International INC. Internist, Dr Reynold Agard, is the Medical Director at HANDS International.
Dr. Reynold Agard, Internist, Medical Director, Hands International
“HANDS International was formed approximately six years ago and it was formed as a result of disaster relief in Grenada. Since then we have been to several countries including Grenada, Haiti, Guyana; this is our second trip to the beautiful country of Belize and we are here to really help with the medical needs of Belize. We’re here to see how we can help these people adjust their lifestyle even those who are on medication, try to target the best medication so that they can improve their quality of life and maintain longevity.”
The missions’ main target was to see people who’ve been diagnosed with chronic illnesses like diabetes and hypertension. Dr. Agard, echoed the same concern like other physicians in Belize; that patients are not sufficiently compliant with their prescribed regimen, which in the case of hypertension causes serious complications.
“These illnesses, most of the time, they don’t feel sick. And people are comfortable that if they don’t feel sick, if they don’t get the headaches—some people take the medication when they have headache. Lots of patients tell me that when they feel the headache coming on that’s the time they take the medication because they think the blood pressure is up. But these are chronic illnesses and if they don’t take it, it works on the heart. We have seen—with our limited of time here—lots of folks who have developed the complications of hypertension which is hypertensive heart disease because heart is muscles. Just like anyone that has muscles; if you lift a lot of weight, the muscles get bigger. So the hear if it has to bump against the high pressure constantly, what happens is that the heart becomes larger and larger and then it gets weaker and weaker. The last patient that I just saw has that complication. So as a result, fluid builds up in the lungs and that person has congestive heart failure there is congestion in the lungs because the heart muscle gets weak. One thing that we’re seeing too that I’m not sure if it’s addressed is a problem called obstructive sleep apnea that is associated with obesity. What can happen is that you can develop right heart failure and I must say absolutely that if you develop obstructive sleep apnea and have right heart failure; it leads to something called pulmonary hypertension; it’s like high blood pressure in the lungs itself. if you get to that stage where you develop pulmonary hypertension, I will guarantee you that you have less than one year to live.”
Pediatrician, Dr. Lester Horrell, says that even the children are suffering from poor lifestyle choices. The main concern is obesity, a problem not unique to Belize.
Dr. Lester Horrell, Pediatrician
“We have been seeing chronic problems in the United States and even in Belize. In Belize, the kids are healthier because they’re out a lot and running about and an exercising kid is a healthy child. But what we find more in the city is that they are more sedentary where they have television and video games. And even this morning, I saw a child that is really overweight and he was getting signs of early onset diabetes and that’s what we’ve been seeing in the United States—children being overweight and developing diabetes; adult onset diabetes not even the juvenile onset diabetes at an early age.”
The team of five specialists has been seeing on average sixty to eighty patients a day over the five day trip. All patients were treated at the different clinics. For both doctors, they really hoped to have increased the knowledge of the patients about their conditions and the need for a healthier lifestyle and compliance.
“The two most important things are education and education. And you find when people come in here, we spend a lot of time with them and the time we spend is educating them. The thing is what parents do; children do because they are great followers. So if parents live a healthy lifestyle; they eat healthy, they exercise. What the children see they do; they’re going to adopt a similar lifestyle.”
“I know it can be done. I know there are a lot of challenges—our taste buds have been spoiled so we go after these foods. But you try to live as simple as possible. And I’m not saying occasionally you don’t feel for a piece of finger licking good, but when you do it on a regular basis; that’s where the challenges are. And I know how Belize love rice—everyone have rice everyday and I don’t know how you do it, but try to have a variety. There are other sources of food that you can have. It has to be a lifestyle. It’s not about don’t eat this, don’t eat that; it’s a lifestyle change.”
The doctors intend to keep updated on patients via internet and are hoping to institutionalize their visits to offer their services as many as four times year. It is also the eventual goal of HANDS International to return with some much needed medical equipment.
Dr. Lester Horrell
“In terms of prevention, education is one thing and living a healthy lifestyle is simple. You talk about air, you talk about exercise, you talk about oxygen, you talk about sunlight, you talk about eating healthy fruits and vegetables—and these are easy things that anyone can do. Once they get that into their heads; don’t follow what we see on TV or what they see in the United States and eat the burgers and the fries and the pizzas because you have enough healthy foods here—simply healthy living.”
The HANDS International Medical Mission will be offering its final day of free outpatient care at the Port Loyola Health and Cleopatra White center on Friday. In addition to the internist and pediatrician, the team includes 2 clinical psychologists who will be offering counseling services as well.Email This Story