Yadwinder Dhillon, MD: MMC Internal Medicine Resident
Guatemala: July 2011


I have served rural and underserved populations before so I thought this experience will not be much different and shall not be any more challenging. For sure I was in for a surprise.

Nearly 11,000 people live in Guatemala City dump communities; more than half are children and are derogatively called scavengers by the locals as their sustainment is by picking through garbage. Their average daily earning is $2.50 to 5.00. Hunger, illness, drug addictions, broken homes and gang wars are rampant in community. It's a place of little hope.

A sphygmomanometer, a stethoscope, a torch, a thermometer and a glucometer is all the technology that was at my disposal. I tried to put them to best use, you may doubt but there's a lot that you can offer by combined use of these instruments and your brain. It was very limited that I could do since I was there for a short period but I saw and tried to manage as much as I could. Half of what I saw was Infectious (T.B, GI infections, Skin infections, wounds etc.)Diseases other were chronic problems like high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, angina, seizure disorder, malnutrition, joint diseases, some trauma (lacerations). I worked at two clinics one setup at Potters House building at the edge of the dump another one in the administrative shed inside the dump. Two half days I walked in the community to see people who couldn't visit the clinic. There's a lot more that I need to say to describe the whole experience but due to word limit will close quoting these two statements-

I have but one candle of life to burn, and I would rather burn it out in a land filled with darkness than in a land flooded with light.
---John Keith Falconer

Sympathy is no substitute for action.
---David Livingstone


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