June 24, 2012

Ask a Nurse: Zero Deductible Healthcare

Pamela is an RN, MSN/Ed.

Pamela is a mother of 6 amazing children ages 11 to 24. She is a nurse educator and loves to travel overseas to work in medical clinics and teach health-related topics to schools and communities. She has been married to her best friend, Steve, for 29 years. She has many different interests including reading, writing (NOT arithmetic!), baking, teaching, and spending time with her family. She lives in central Pennsylvania with her husband and two youngest daughters. To see all Ask a Nurse articles click here.


Zero Deductible Healthcare

Have you ever griped about your high deductibles for health and dental care? Ever complained about the long wait at your doctor’s office?

What if it were not available at all? I am a Missionary Nurse. I travel to other countries with other healthcare professionals to bring healthcare to people who would not otherwise be able to obtain it. I just returned from a 10 day trip to Peru. We set up our clinic at the base of a mountain in a town called, “Calca.” Our advertisement was a huge loudspeaker announcing that American Doctors, Nurses, Dentists and Therapists were here to give free healthcare.
We set up in a little “community center” that consisted of a cement floor building with 4 walls. No running water, no heat, windows were open bars. We set up by stringing wire up to make separate cubicles and hung sheets for privacy.

Our fancy dental “office”

Sometimes when we arrive in a country we have problems getting our suitcases of supplies in. Some customs officials want a large bribe from us “rich Americans!” They do not realize that for many of us it is a huge sacrifice to lose pay from our jobs at home, pay our own way (which can be over $2,000 per trip), and pay extra baggage fees to bring medicine and supplies to their own countries! This trip we lost one suitcase, we have had other trips where suitcases full of eyeglasses or other medical supplies were confiscated. It is sad because they are for the custom agent’s own country!
We see diseases that we thought were eradicated, this time we saw a young girl with probable mumps. We see rotted teeth in young and old, most times all we can do is pull teeth. We often give a toothbrush and toothpaste to children for the very first time. We see large goiters on women from thyroid disease.  Many of them would not have gotten goiters if there were iodide in their salt, as we have in the US. We see deformed bones where a break was left to heal naturally. When you have no access to healthcare, there is nothing to do. This trip we saw a man in his 50’s or 60’s who walked with a terrible limp and had a lot of pain. He fractured his femur several years ago. It was a non-union fracture, where the bones did not meet end to end. He went to the hospital where he was told it would cost $12,000 for the operation to fix it. That sounds very inexpensive if you compare it to our own healthcare costs. But, when you have no insurance and your top salary is $4,160 per year if you live in a city (which this man did not), the cost to him was impossible. His bones had shifted so they were parallel to one another, which resulted in one leg being much shorter than the other and constant terrible pain. His only hope for relief was extensive surgery, which was not an option.  I can hardly complain about our own sad state of healthcare when I see such travesty as this.

On the other hand, it is such a joy to be able to help these people. When you have never taken any medicine, a simple dose of ibuprofen or tylenol works wonders for pain and fever. Antibiotics for infections are like miracle medicine to people who have never had any! Some infections would have killed them if we had not given them. It is so satisfying to see wounds clear up in days with simple cleaning and antibiotics!

Almost every time we have a clinic, we are amazed at how grateful the people are for the smallest amount of help.
I like to bring something for the children, this time I brought lollipops, crayons, and coloring pages. Some of the children had never seen a crayon, and had to be shown what to do with it! It was so cute seeing their faces light up as they see the marks they could make on the paper!

Proud of their pictures!

This trip we took “bicycle taxi’s, “walked through mud, walked through farmland with pigs, chickens, and cows, and crossed a stream on rocks to get to our site.

Our taxi

Local pigs!

Our walk to site

Crossing the stream

The mountains were beautiful!

Dr. Haedy seeing patients


Our pharmacist, Bianca

My husband, Steve (Physician Assistant), seeing patients

This sweet man was 104 years old! His complaints were typical aging symptoms.

We visited Machu Piccu before we came home!

We go on most of our trips with a faith-based ministry called, “Healthcare Ministries.” If you are interested in going on a trip, or helping some other way go to www.hcm.org to see what trips are coming up and what items are needed for future trips. If you don’t want to go, but would like to help us go on another trip, you can donate tax deductible gifts in our name at the same site.

So, the next time you drive in your comfy car to a state of the arts Doctor’s office, remember a lot of the world would love to have access to healthcare like we do! Our hospitals are required to treat us, regardless of our ability to pay-which is not true in many countries.

Have a great week!

Be Well,
Nurse Pam

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