Fernanda

I wish I may, I wish I might… Yes, fairytales and prayers really do come true. The grass is green and the sky is blue but if you don’t own a pair of special red shoes to click and you can’t see well enough to find the yellow brick road, then you may never find the way to create your own fable.  The way is uncertain, with many scary moments and surely a wizard must exist somewhere, if only you could just get there. “Who is the wizard” and “where is there” asks the child?

This is no fable, but the real life story of Fernanda, a two-year old from Honduras with bilateral retinoblastoma, an eye condition caused by a malignant tumor. The story is so compelling that it just seems like it had to be a fairytale or an answer to a prayer...or maybe both?

Fernanda came with her mother to the Manos Amigas clinic in the fall of 2015 seeking medical attention as the child had a vision problem. As is typical in the country, the father is at work in some distant place and the mother is left at home to look after the family. In this case, the father was working in the U.S. The mother, looking for a solution to Fernanda’s eye problem, was able to make her way to neighboring El Salvador, as Honduras has very few ophthalmologists—only 82 in the entire country. The family was able to scrape together sufficient money only to learn that Fernanda, 20 months old at the time, had a cancer in one eye and alarmed that it could spread to the other one. Seeking treatment, the mother and child, residing in La Entrada, became aware of MA’s optometric services department and came to the clinic. The child’s right eye ball had been removed in Honduras prior to coming to the clinic with the recommendation for radiation for the other eye.

Two of SATC’a board members were in attendance at the time of the visit and they started to strategize on how to assist in the matter. Knowing that options and treatment protocols are limited in Honduras, the board members set up an appointment for a second opinion in the U.S., given that the mother and child would be coming to our country to be with the father. As these members recalled, their hearts ached for such a young child, knowing that the youngster enjoyed music, loved to dance, but she had hardly any chance for improvement in her quality of life if her situation was not remedied…and it was not going to happen in Honduras without assistance.  An on-line appeal was made on Gofundme.com which brought in about $4,000. Through many travails and answered prayers, Fernanda, with the assistance of SATC made her way to WillsEye Hospital in Philadelphia where she was seen and treated by physicians in a specialized department known as Ocular Oncology Services. SATC considers itself extremely fortunate to have had the contacts and a role in creating the pathways leading to the “yellow brick road” where the wizards of diagnosis and treatment of eyes were able to ply their skills in saving some sight in the remaining good eye.

We are pleased to report that as a result of the interventions provided at WillsEye, Fernanda was fitted with a prosthesis in what is now a healthy socket in her right eye and the left eye, following treatment, shows no signs of malignant cells. These are outstanding results and the prognosis is positive. There is improvement in vision and the expectation is that with special glasses, Fernanda will have hand motion vision.

MEET THE VOLUNTEER: BARB

Name: Barb McHugh

Age: 20

Barb McHugh is a rising junior at the University of Michigan. She is currently studying to be a dentist/ oral surgeon.

McHugh heard of Serving at the Crossroads and Manos Amigas through Father O’Donnell, who is the president and co-founder of a Honduran orphanage called Amigos de Jesus. McHugh volunteered her time at the orphanage last summer with her family. When she heard about SATC, she knew it would be a great learning opportunity for her because she could learn more about dentistry with a hands-on approach. McHugh contacted Bob Sumner, president of SATC, and asked if she could join him on his next brigade.

During her time at the clinic, she learned a lot about dentistry and got to watch the Manos Amigas dentists perform procedures. She became close to the dentists during her time in Honduras and occasionally communicates with them through a text-messaging app.

After the brigade mission was over, McHugh taught at Amigos de Jesus with Maggie Ducayet, executive director of Summit in Honduras, the following week. She is now enjoying her summer with family and friends. 

MEET THE VOLUNTEER: NORMA

Name: Norma Prahl 

Age: 64

Norma Prahl is a former neonatal nurse practitioner from Knoxville, TN. Prahl worked as a neonatal nurse practitioner for 28 years and as a registered nurse for 38 years.

Prahl heard of Serving at the Crossroads when she met Bobbi Hess, daughter of SATC Founder Bob Sumner, at her pottery stand where she was selling her handmade creations. Hess bought a few of her pottery creations and they started talking about SATC and its mission.

Prahl knew she wanted to visit and volunteer in a 3rd world country since she seeking for a way to make use of her time after retirement and wanted to continue working with women and children who needed her help.

During her week in Honduras, Prahl helped entertain children waiting to be seen by the doctors at Manos Amigas and organized the medical closet with the help of Bobbi Hess, Barbara McHugh, and Nicole Sanders. She also attended the Health Guardians Workshop and helped Health Guardians learn more about modern medical practices.

Prahl is now back in Knoxville with her husband and favorite dog, enjoying the rest of their summer together. She has continued creating marvelous pottery creations and if you are ever in Knoxville, be sure to find her pottery stand and look at her creations. 

Samuel

Samuel, a three-month old from Florida, Copan, came into the clinic with his mother. When doctors saw him, they were interested and confused by his condition. His legs were crossed across his body and wouldn’t move from that position. There was a brigade at the clinic from Summit in Honduras. The orthopedic physician assistant, Jen, took a look at Samuel and said she had an idea of what it was. But, she wanted several opinions for a diagnosis, including an opinion from her boss back in the U.S.

Besides his legs, Samuel seemed and acted like a normal three-month old; he smiled and made the doctors and nurses swoon over him. After seeing Jen, the brigade pediatrician, Ann, examined Samuel. She suspected that Samuel had spina bifida, a defect where the infant’s spinal cord doesn’t develop properly in utero. Ann wanted to send Samuel and his mother to the hospital in San Pedro Sula –a 2½ hour trip- to get an MRI of his spine to confirm her suspicions.*

*The staff at the Manos Amigas clinic is currently arranging for the MRI because Samuel’s family doesn’t have the money for transportation or to pay for the MRI. 

Pablo

Pablo is a 50 year old diabetic who came to Manos Amigas in November 2013 with a serious infection in his foot.  He lives about 30 minutes from the clinic and was a tractor trailer truck driver. To start the healing process, Dr. Alex used a combination of anti-diabetic medication and antibiotics, both oral and injections. Two weeks later Dr. Alex began to use topical oxygen therapy. Pablo came to the clinic every week for 14 weeks. The pictures below, while graphic, show the healing taking place in Pablo's foot.

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Guiellermo Receives New Hands

Transforming Lives… Providing hope… Making a difference - one patient at a time. It is not always easy and the challenges are many, but this is exactly what our Manos Amigas medical clinic in Honduras attempts to do on a daily basis. We can’t promise miracles, but they seem to happen here. Our clinic has helped the lame to walk, provided nutrients to the malnourished, the gift of sound to the hearing impaired and accommodated special testing for those too poor or unaware of what more could be done for them if they simply had the means to seek it out for themselves. There are life altering stories behind some of the activities taking place at the clinic that we would like to share with you. Meet a few of our patients… Guiellermo, a man searching for a helping hand

Guiellermo lost his arms when robbers broke into his home and attacked him and his family.

Carrying a burlap sack on one arm while walking past our clinic, with eyes cast downward searching for scraps of anything of value on the littered dirt street, Guiellermo suddenly looked heavenward, finding himself in front of our clinic sign that read Manos Amigas, Spanish for “Friendly Hands,” so he came in! He said he wanted a pair of new hands…you see he had none except for a pair of discarded WWII vintage prosthetic cast-offs with non-functioning pincher hooks held together by bailing wire. He survives by scavenging and selling whatever he can manage to place in his sack each day. He has nine children that live with him on a small farm that he is not able to maintain adequately.

Tragically he lost his arms seven years ago. Robbers entered his house, wacked him in the back of the neck and across his face with a machete, and then proceeded to chop off each hand above the wrist! Truly a gruesome event, but somehow he survived. Since that time, he has struggled to provide for himself and his family. Although he has other physical limitations like a deformed foot, it does not prevent him from balancing himself or walking quickly. He is gregarious with a good sense of self, humor and a positive attitude. Listening to his story, one of our board members took pictures and upon returning home, e-mailed a contact in California who owned a plastic company that was making prosthetic limbs for a Rotary project in other parts of the world. Soon wooden boxes, containing prosthetic hands donated by benefactors started arriving at our headquarters so that we could start a program in Honduras. What a God send! But first we had to attend training sessions on how to service and fit the apparatus on patients. That was the easy part!

Once attached, the prosthetic, equipped with moveable digits enables the recipient to grasp and carry small items. Guiellermo was outfitted with the device and he was ecstatic! Surprisingly, he needed very little physical therapy and training in how to use his new prosthetic hand. His life was changing before our very eyes! We worked with him initially to hold a pencil, training his muscles to control crayons and to color, paint with water colors and then progressing to holding a cup, using eating utensils and working with a hand saw.

After getting fitted with his new prosthetic, Guiellermo practices writing the alphabet.  This is the first time in seven years he was able to write his name.

Guiellermo was particularly excited about holding a knife and being able to feed himself. He loves avocados and he was eager to rush home so that he could harvest them from his tree. Unknown to us, Guiellermo helped build houses before he lost his hands, so it was important that he could hold the saw and cut wood. He was ecstatic with his new hand and he said that he was now going to attend school in the evenings so he could retrain and get a good job. Equipped with the appropriate skills, Guiellermo’s life now holds greater promise for what could be…he still needs some help, but he is willing to take the next steps.