If crowds are any indicator of something “afoot” in the area, then the clinic will have to be judged as a huge success. Patients arrive early, with most arriving on foot, but some were able to come by 3-wheeled motor taxi and others piled out of the beds of pick-up trucks that had given them a lift from neighboring villages. The early part of the week, the assembled crowd numbered 75 -80 daily, but by mid-week, the numbers swelled to 140 or more. Not everyone was a patient, of course, because in this part of the world, it is customary to have a friend or relative accompany you when seeking medical attention. As patients arrived with children in tow, they were given a numbered card and quickly settled in under the tent canopy to await their turn with the doctor. When their number was called, they entered the large waiting room and encountered the glassed- in reception and pharmacy areas, their eyes quickly surveying the clean, shiny floors and wooden furniture.
They were happy to stand on the scales, get their pulse and blood pressure reading and to have a hemoglobin check. But the littlest tikes would scream as they did not want to be separated from momma or their siblings in order to sit or play on a “special” baby table where their weights could be recorded. Otherwise everyone was filled with smiles as they walked along the wide corridors to one of four private exam rooms where they had consults with the physicians. Afterwards they proceeded to an outside service window to pick up their medications where they encountered a large pharmacy with its broad, stainless steel metal shelving stocked with colorful bottles of assorted medications. Here they presented their script and watched as the clinic's local staff pharmacist filled the prescription and gave them strict instructions on how to take their medicine. Everyone was friendly, the children wide-eyed and curious and the parents were relieved to know that medications or dressings and supplies accompanied the diagnosis!
Even in the afternoons when the rain clouds came over and the sky darkened for what seemed to be the daily thunderstorm, the crowd waiting outdoors abandoned the
open-air tent canopy and instinctively rushed for cover provided by one of the few large trees on the campus. The clinic’s administrator immediately came outdoors to make an announcement that all were welcome to come into the clinic’s reception area to wait-out the storm. They were surprised to see that shortly after they entered and brought in mounds of mud, Adela, from the clinic’s laundry and custodial staff, moved about quickly mopping up and sweeping away the debris to reduce the chances of slipping and potential sources of contamination in the building.
In an impoverished area, old habits are hard to break. Periodically, some of the patients would head to the fence line or tall grass only to be reminded that banos or lavatories were inside, a feature that many were unaccustomed to seeing! Likewise, necessary items we take for granted, like toilet tissue, tend to disappear quickly when working in areas of scarcity and great need.
The nearby community of Chalmeca, with its 300 families and one of the largest concentrations of people with great needs, was happy to see the clinic open its doors, because now their residents only have a to walk a mile down a dirt and gravel roadway to seek medical attention at the Manos Amigas Clinic.