Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, May 14, 2001

Mission trip is an experience of a lifetime for Fieckes

By Patrice Waldron

After many hours of preparation, fund-raising, and making arrangements, Pam Fiecke and her son Brandon, of rural Winsted, recently headed for Carron Hall in Jamaica, on a medical mission trip.

Pam and Brandon were part of a group of 35 people, mostly from a church in Missouri, who took the challenge, complete with living out of a carry-on sized bag for the 11 day trip. The two suitcases per person normally allowed on an airplane were used to carry medicine and supplies to Jamaica.

"It took three people to zip my carry-on bag," said Pam.

While preparing to make the trip, Pam received a donation of three hand-made quilts from Florence Kuhlmann of Glencoe. A few weeks before Pam left, she received a call from Florence that she and her daughter Jane had completed 15 more quilts to be donated to the poor.

"I was filled with joy when she donated the first three quilts, but to receive the second call for donating another 15 full-sized quilts, what an outstanding contribution to the poor," exclaimed Pam.

The group took a moving van full of medicine with them. The van was filled with 82 boxes containing $300,000 worth of donated medicine and medical supplies. While going through customs, each box was opened and its contents examined.

After arriving in Jamaica, the group had to travel up the mountainside to where they would be staying. Everyone was given medicine for motion sickness.

The four and one half hour drive up a winding road brought them 3,000 feet above sea level, with cliffs on either side of the road. As they got closer to Carron Hall, people lined the sides of the road, waving and cheering as the bus approached.

The local church was converted into a medical center. Two people helped fill out medical questionaires and entered the information into the computer.

Brandon was assigned to take patients to their respective treatment areas. People could either receive medical care, or could be seen by the dentist, but there were simply too many people to allow patients to be seen in both areas.

Pam was in charge of checking people's blood glucose levels.

"I enjoyed my job, got to meet many people, and found that the people were very friendly," said Pam.

One of the smaller rooms in the church served as an optometry screening room. Two hundred and nine eye exams were performed with 80 percent of the patients receiving glasses.

Another room was converted into a surgical ward. An old, long, table was adapted for surgical procedures by being covered with quilts and plastic sheeting.

Rounding out the medical team were three nurses who performed blood pressure checks, and a physician's assistant, who performed physicals.

A pharmacist, assisted by three volunteers took orders for medications, counted pills and dispensed prescriptions.

"I was very impressed with the church medical operation, and the staff that came along to help. Everyone did the job they were there for, and gave 110 percent," said Pam.

While in Jamaica, the medical team saw 1,500 patients; the oldest was 92 years old, and the youngest five months old.

Those who received medical treatment also received a 'goodie bag' filled with toothpaste, brushes, books, soap, and other similar items.

The 10-hour work days were long and tiring, but everyone had the same mission, to help the poor. The doctors, dentists, and pharmacists worked until the day's work was completed, sometimes up to 12 hours a day.

One of the physicians, Dr. Gibbs, performed different types of surgery on the patients. The patients were so strong, that even after having surgery, some of them would walk the two miles it took to get home.

A satellite telephone was used by the doctors to call the United States so that they could receive answers to medical questions that might arise.

Biopsy samples that were collected were brought back to the United States for identification in order to spare the patient the expense of having it completed in Jamaica where it was very costly. Arrangements had been made to have some of the work done in the United States for free.

The dentist saw 233 people, and extracted 552 teeth. When the patients have problems with their teeth, it is typical practice to simply pull the tooth. One of their patients had 18 teeth removed in one sitting.

Pam's uncle, the Rev. Loren Boettcher, helped in the dental area by cleaning all of the dental instruments.

New to this mission trip were two dental chairs which had been donated to their cause.

It took 11 days for the chairs to arrive at Carron Hall by boat.

Last year, when dental work was done, the patient sat on a folding chair, with someone holding their head while the work was completed.

There were many things that were different from in American. The Jamaican farmers made their own tools, had cows, but did not have barns. The parsonage (where the group stayed) had bars on all the doors and windows.

The food was difficult to adjust to. The taste, smell, and looks were quite different.

An apple was shaped like a pear, contained a pit like a peach, was soft textured, and tasted like a flower blossom. The one percent milk tasted like half and half, and was actually goat's milk instead of cow's milk, said Pam.

The chicken was similar to ours, the bread was tasty, but pickled fish and baked beans for breakfast was a different way to start the day.

Long hours filled our days. Saturday night, the medical clinic was converted back to a church. Sunday, a church service was held in the group's honor, and gifts were presented to the mission team members.

"We brought a plaque back to be presented to Holy Trinity Church in our behalf," Pam said.

There were 17 different churchs represented by members of the team.

"When we arrive in Jamaica we were each given a 'What would Jesus do?' pin, and were instructed to give it to someone who touches us in a special way," Pam said.

One member of the medical team gave her pin to Brandon as she felt he showed excellence in attitude and was very enjoyable to be around. She was astounded to find these things in a ninth grade boy. He just worked and went beyond the call of duty to make things work, explained Pam.

Along with all of the work, we were allowed some fun time when the mission work was completed.

Monday we left for Montego Bay. We traveled to Dun's River Falls, where somemembers of the group climbed the rocks on the water falls. We took a ride on a glass bottom boat. Some walked along the beach, swam, and went snorkeling, said Pam.

"It was hard to visualize that people in one area are so poor, and in the next area people lived like what we are accustomed to," said Pam.

The experience was a memorable one for us. It was mostly a time of hard work, and a mighty long trip to travel there. The Jamaican people saw us off at the airport, thanking us for all of our good works, explained Pam.

"We took your donated items and made someone less fortunate feel rich and loved inside. We all gave in a way to make a difference to the Jamaican people," said Pam.

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