I was absolutely petrified and excited beyond belief to discover that I was going to be traveling with a Medical Brigade to Guadalajara, Mexico. With a less-than ideal immune system, I had been told that traveling to a third world country would be out of the question for “some time.” Though I never quite cleared the air on exactly how long some time was, so I can’t be entirely sure if Spring Break of 2019 was the time, but I decided to jump on in anyways.
They say that going to another country changes a person. It’s true, I was originally transformed in high school on the many missions trips I took to Mexico. My life was touched by so many little lives and my mind will forever be haunted by the dozens of children who chased after our van crying as we drove away from our work site in Monterrey for the last time. I was determined to return to Mexico in this capacity and in March of 2019, after years of Lyme treatment and immune system pampering, I finally did.
There are so many details I’d like to share, so many indescribable moments where reality briefly transcended into another world and I realized that this is why I was made. I went to Guadalajara hoping to touch the lives of so many people. I had the absurd notion that I could somehow help, care for and treat those who need it most. Little did I know that it was myself who was in most need to be helped.
I was changed from top to bottom by the endless hugs, bottomless kind words and grateful smiles we received. People walked for miles to come to our sites just to receive a brief assessment which included vital signs and brief questions. From our site, we would then tell them if they were severe enough to continue on to be seen in the clinic, in my opinion, almost everyone we saw was sick enough to continue on to the clinic, but that was just not possible. We had to be selective and every time I sent someone home with elevated blood sugar that would so quickly have been treated in the US, a piece of my heart went with them.
People waited so patiently, sometimes for hours to be seen, and there were times where there were so many people waiting that some had to be turned away and told to return the following year, it was gut wrenching. Some of those seeking treatment were too sick to leave their homes, we had to be walked to their huts and do vitals in their own space. I recall one woman who was surrounded by darkness, blood and stained napkins. In the corner, sat a young child who was watching television. The eldest daughter was the one who came to get us to treat this patient who had become so sick at this point that it was difficult to even presume possible means by which she could be transported to the clinic which was 20 minutes away. My heart ached as I stared at the young child whose demeanor mimicked that of her mother, whom I presume, also suffered from similar ailments. How could I have let this go on for so long? How could I have waited while so many suffered just a short plane trip south of KC?
1,025 patients were seen the week we were in Guadalajara and that was just in a few short days. My life is not included in the count but it is one that will forever be changed from my journey to Mexico. We helped so many people, it was phenomenal. But I have to say, I truly feel that I was the one who was helped the most in this situation. My eyes were completely opened to a form of suffering I had never known, not even with years of Lyme disease and other trauma had I been exposed to something so life altering. The truth was, the fact that these patients continued to have hope in SPITE of their circumstances was what changed me the most. How could one hope knowing that the next doctor’s appointment to fix her or his chronic illness wouldn’t be for another year? How could one hope knowing that they wouldn’t even be able to make it to the clinic to treat their ailments and even if they did, the supplies provided were so scarce that it would be possible that they wouldn’t even take care of the infection?
I learned a lot about myself through this journey, first of all, I really need to work on my gratitude. And second of all, my life is just a vessel that was created to be put into places like Guadalajara where I can become the best version of myself. I have never felt more alive than within the streets of Guadalajara, where the people overflow with gratitude for things I had never even considered to be anything more than a normal part of my life.
So if there is that something that you’ve had on your heart for awhile. That thing that scares you beyond belief, but that you can’t stop thinking about. I encourage you to do it. I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and place aside all your fears and insecurities and rejoice in the fact that the most beautiful growth comes from bending through curves we didn’t think we would fit through.
Guadalajara, you are a beautiful place, you have forever changed me and I’m eager and thankful to say that I look forward to coming home to you soon.
Peace, Love and White Hearth Coffee