Medical Teams International | Official Blog

Stories of hope, health and lives transformed.

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  • Guest Post: Volunteers Bring Hope & Healing

    by Emily Crowe | May 06, 2016

    This post originally appeared on Bellevue Presbyterian Church's blog. Written by Ben Vendelin, Mobile Dental Program Manager at Medical Teams International.


    Roxanne was late for her appointment at the Mobile Dental Clinic stationed at a low-income housing facility on the Eastside. She was fatigued, stressed and concerned that she had missed her chance to be seen that day. For her, this was her only option and to lose it could mean months more of debilitating pain she had been dealing with for over a year now. She was late because she had been at the hospital that morning with her brother who had just been diagnosed with cancer. For most of us that would be a call to the dentist office to reschedule but when this is your only option you fit it in around a family emergency.

    These stories are uncomfortably commonplace at our Mobile Dental clinics but here is the good news…

    Medical_teams_international_mobile_dental_volunteersDr. Karr, who volunteers his time locally with MTI, leads dental missions overseas, was able to fit her in. About thirty minutes and a couple of extracted teeth later, Roxanne finally felt relief and had the highlight of an otherwise difficult day.

    The reality is children and adults from low-income families suffer from more dental decay and are less likely to receive treatment than those in higher income brackets. The situation is precipitated by high levels of poverty, coverage limitations of low-income insurance options, lack of insurance altogether and a shortage of accessible locations. Left untreated, dental problems lead to chronic pain, difficulty eating, speech problems and severe and debilitating health conditions. Healthy, pain free teeth and mouths increase confidence and can prepare patients for jobs and job searches.

    Volunteers like Dr. Karr and many others bring hope and healing to people such as Roxanne by partnering with Medical Teams International and their Mobile Dental Program. MTI has eleven fully equipped mobile dental clinics that travel throughout Oregon and Washington caring for patients. The clinics are in high demand and are regularly booked out several months. In order to care for these patients, we rely on dental professionals with hearts for those in need to come along side and make a lasting impact.

    If you are a dental professional there is a place for you. Dentists, hygienists and assistants regularly volunteer their talents around times that fit their schedules. We have people that volunteer from once a year to once a week and it all goes a long ways. We’ll have all the supplies and equipment you’ll need to be successful. Retired dentist? Washington has some incredible benefits for retired dentists who volunteer their time up to and including insurance coverage, license renewals and more at no cost.

    Roxanne could have easily moved on to the next thing in this demanding day but she wanted to express her thanks for Dr. Karr and the other dental professional volunteers who were there that day. With gauze in her mouth and a smile on her face she insisted that we shoot a video on our phone. “I’ve never experienced care this good. I am thankful. This makes my day better and I am very thankful for the dentists. I want them to know – thank you, thank you, thank you”.

    Never experienced care this good? How could that be?

    My guess is because it came as a gift wrapped in compassion and generosity on a really hard day.

    We are so blessed by the incredible volunteers, donors and staff who make our mission possible. Together, their support is making a real impact on lives around the world. On behalf of everyone we serve-- thank you!

  • Haiti: Taking Charge of Her Health

    by Sarah Austria | May 03, 2016

    Ketty labored to breathe. A usually slim woman, her weight had recently jumped to 240 pounds. But it wasn’t the added weight that was making it hard to breath. Ketty had a nerve condition, and her lungs simply weren’t working like they should.

    Just two years ago, Ketty’s life was very different. She could breathe freely. Her muscles did what she wanted. She was healthy. Then, everything changed. Ketty, who lives in Cayes, Haiti, suffered an infection that caused a serious nerve disorder- polyneuropathy. The condition took over her entire body.

    In just a few months, she lost nearly all use of her arms, legs, and trunk. She was almost completely immobile.

    In Haiti, nearly 80% of people live on less than $2 per day.

    Thankfully, there is treatment: physical therapy. However, it’s not quite that straightforward. It’s hard for patients with the disorder to move, causing additional health problems- like Ketty’s struggling lungs. In Haiti, many people with disabilities don’t receive the care they need, and most can’t find work. In Haiti, nearly 80% of people live on less than $2 per day. This makes physical therapy even more challenging.

    But, thanks to your support, Ketty found help. At the clinic affiliated with Medical Teams International’s Haiti Advantage program, doctors put her on a ventilator to ease her strained breathing. Finally, she was in the care of doctors - but a long ways from good health.

    Medical Teams International doctors next put her on a therapy regimen. At first, she couldn’t walk, even with the help of a walker. She had no control of her body - but she refused to quit. Day-in and day-out, Ketty and her doctors put in a tremendous amount of work on her physical therapy. Slowly, she made progress. After much hard work, her legs began to work again.

    Once Ketty could walk, she wanted to run.

    She entered a sports program at the clinic for people with obesity and became a star student. In just six months, she lost 65 pounds, significantly increased her muscle mass, and gained control over her blood pressure.Ketty_Haiti_Advantage_physicaltherapy

    Ketty is an inspiration - especially to those at the clinic where she worked with her doctors so very hard to regain her health. Ketty went from nearly immobile and obese to strong and healthy, thanks to you - and some serious determination by Ketty.

  • Volunteer Spotlight: Saving lives around the world

    by Emily Crowe | Apr 29, 2016

    Drs. Phyllis and Travis truly embody the spirit of Medical Teams International’s mission, “to demonstrate the love of Christ to people affected by disaster, conflict and poverty around the world.”

    Dr. Phyllis led 11 teams for Medical Teams International - impacting lives around the world. Here she is, serving as a volunteer in Somalia.

    In 1979, Dr. Phyllis answered the call from Ron Post, founder of Northwest Medical Teams (now Medical Teams International). He had an urgent request: Cambodian refugees were fleeing from the ravages of the bloody Khmer Rouge regime and needed care. Post was recruiting medical personnel to help save these vulnerable victims. When Phyllis heard the call, she said to her husband, “This is something I can do,” – and he urged her to go. Find out how Medical Teams International is continuing to serve in Cambodia >>

    Cambodian refugees were desperate for safety—traveling through the jungle at night to avoid being captured. Northwest Medical Teams cared for them with food and medicine—treating dysentery, diarrhea, pneumonia, malaria, worms, measles and tuberculosis. But, most importantly, as Dr. Phyllis says, “We were there to show them kindness, the first act of kindness for each refugee after surviving four years of horror.”

    Phyllis_volunteer_healthy_women_world_CambodiaDr. Phyllis went on to lead 11 teams for Medical Teams International—traveling to Mexico, Ethiopia, Somalia, Jamaica, Moldova, Uzbekistan and Honduras while her husband, Dr. Travis, served on trips to Ethiopia, Iraq, Kosovo, Rwanda, Uzbekistan and Mexico. He subsequently made two trips to Thailand to help both the Cambodian and Laotian refugees. He was also an integral part of the creation of Medical Teams International as a nonprofit organization and served as the first board president.

    It is fitting that both Dr. Phyllis and Dr. Travis were instrumental in building the foundation of what is now Medical Teams International. We are honored that they returned to share many incredibly moving stories from their trips at the Healthy Women, Healthy World gathering on April 21 at Medical Teams International’s headquarters in Tigard.

  • Syrian Refugee: Where are Her Sons?

    by Sarah Austria | Apr 28, 2016

    Shamsa’s children are scattered in different countries: Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia. But it’s two of her sons that she worries about. Last she knew, they were in Syria. She does not know what happened to them- or if she will ever see them again.

    After the bombing of her city, Homs, Syria in 2012 Shamsa fled to Lebanon. Now, home is a refugee camp where she lives with two of her other sons. She traveled to the camp because she knew many of her friends and former neighbors from Homs were going there, as well. Anything familiar, any sense of community, is a warm embrace so far from home - especially after so much trauma.

    "I hope I will see them someday before I die."

    But Shamsa’s health is not well - she suffers from hypertension, asthma and back problems. Fortunately, while living in the refugee camp, she has received help from Medical Teams International. “MTI is really helping us. They are providing medication that I need on a monthly basis.”

    Forced to flee the violence of the now five-year long war in Syria, Shamsa is just one of many. Over one million Syrians have sought safety by crossing the border into Lebanon. Unfortunately, the Lebanese infrastructure simply cannot support the sudden, immense numbers of people needing care. Government and local and international agencies are overwhelmed. Thanks to your support, mothers like Shamsa are not alone.

    Programs offered in Lebanon by Medical Teams International prevent and reduce disease for refugees living in camps. Our programs also prevent and monitor dangerous epidemic outbreaks and increase health education through the identification and training of community health workers.

    Shamsa and her son at their new, makeshift home in the refugee settlement in Lebanon.

    Thanks to you, women like Shamsa are able to receive direct medical services in the refugee camp. “MTI’s doctor is really good. He always shows respect and patience.”

    Patience is a hard concept for a mother waiting to learn the fate of her children. She wants to go back and be with her children in Syria, but - for now - this is impossible. Speaking of her two sons last known living in Syria, Shamsa shares her heartbreaking wish: “I hope I will see them someday before I die.”

    Thank you for being there for women like Shamsa, and protecting the families who are struggling to endure and keep hope, even after so much loss.

  • One year after disaster: Nepal

    by Emily Crowe | Apr 25, 2016
    • 5,233 hygiene kits distributed to pregnant, lactating women, families with children under five years old, and other at-risk families
    • 20 distribution centers established
    • 51 Community Health Volunteers trained in five communities
    • 6,765 community members trained at 21 hygiene education sessions

    On April 25th, 2015 a 7.8 magnitude earthquake shook Nepal- affecting more than five million people. Thousands of families lost their homes, and more than 30,000 were left dead or injured.

    It's now been one year since the disaster. How did your support help save lives during the disaster, and what are we doing now to make the country safer? Find out.

    It's now been a year... what's changed since then?

    The earthquake left more than 700 health facilities completely or partially destroyed, and many safe water sources were lost. This left thousands vulnerable- pregnant women with little to no access to medical care, children unable to properly wash their hands after going to the bathroom, and families with no safe access to clean water. Together, these can spell major disaster for months or years after the initial quake.

    Thanks to you, we've been able to do more than just react to the immediate disaster- helping thousands who were left vulnerable. We've worked hard over the past year to improve the health system- focusing on protecting the children and mothers who were at greatest risk. Your support has helped local facilities, clinics and communities provide better care, creating more safe, reliable places for mothers and their children to receive care. You provided hygiene kits to "at-risk" people, including nursing or pregnant mothers, children, at-risk families. Your support is still on the ground, implementing a better healthcare system that will help so many.

    Meet Badu, 82-year old earthquake survivor

    Badu_Nepal_earthquake_disaster_helpBadu is one woman who was injured in the quake. She'd lived in her rural home for most of her life. An 82-year old subsistence farmer, she was hit by a falling piece of rubble from a nearby building before she could reach safety. Thankfully, your support had sent a volunteer to the remote health clinic near Badu's home-- here, our volunteer wrapped and splinted her broken foot, allowing her to heal safely and avoid further injury.

    "You could hear them moaning from underneath the mud."

    Her entire village was destroyed in the earthquake, and at least seven people were killed. One of her neighbors said, "You could hear them moaning from underneath the mud, 'help us, help us.'" Although Badu's foot was broken by the collapsing building, she was grateful it wasn't worse. And, thanks to you, she was able to receive quick, safe treatment - avoiding suffering for months or even years to come.

    Stronger for years to come

    It was because of your quick action that our teams were some of the first on the ground, providing medical supplies, emergency relief and assessing damage caused by the earthquake.

    And, now, it's because of your continued support that we're able to help Nepal become stronger and more prepared- helping lives for generations to come.