"Help Them Help Themselves" foundation and the international, non-profit organization "Bridge of Life", led by Sara Hendren and Katie Chandler, coordinated a very special mission to Nicaragua to help locals with chronic kidney diseases. This was their first mission together, and it turned out to be a huge success. The efficiency of the team, and the computer system they provided for the cause, allowed 292 patients to be helped in just one day.
The patients began the diagnostic process in triage. This is the area where volunteers collected basic information, such as name, age, address, and a list of any symptoms the patient may have been experiencing. Based on the initial assessment, the patient was sent to a specialist for a series of tests. Every patient received a urine test, blood test (including creatinine and glucose), and had their vital signs checked including blood pressure, height, weight, and BMI (body mass index). This gave the physicians the needed information to complete the diagnosis. Many patients were referred to the nephrologists who examined their kidneys, and provided treatment and guidance to improve their kidney function, how to prevent further damage, and in some cases, reverse the disease.
A pharmacy area was set up with the necessary supplies for treating basic symptoms. There was also an educational area where volunteers taught families about nutrition, hydration, and healthy habits to encourage prevention of disease. The lack of hydration was found to be a huge cause of kidney diseases among the villagers. Apparently, many workers who spend hours in the sugar cane fields are not drinking enough water. Those men are highly susceptible to serious kidney damage, and are not aware of any problems until they are in need of dialysis. At that late stage of the disease, it is irreversible and can only be resolved with a kidney transplant.
Women and children are not exempt from kidney disease either. Living in a country where the temperatures go as high as 40 degrees Celsius (over 100 degress Fahrenheit) during the day have a high risk of developing kidney problems at a young age. There is already a high percentage of women and children who have frequent urinary infections and lumbar pain without knowing the cause. This is why education and prevention is so important. Katie Chandler from "Bridge of Life" stated, “This is only the beginning. We need to be consistent with future treatment and education to stop this!”
This mission was extremely valuable in opening our eyes to the state of kidney disease among the local population of the sugar cane areas in Nicaragua. Studies have been deemed necessary to further investigate the possible causes and to help determine long-term solutions.
It was a pleasure working with the kind and generous volunteers from the "Bridge of Life" foundation. Gran Pacifica Resort and "Help Them Help Themselves" foundation all learned a great deal from each other, and are eager to support the "Bridge of Life" foundation again on their next mission to Nicaragua.
Beautiful, happy faces made it all worth while