Our first brigade of the year, and the final brigade I will work with during my time here arrived early February. It was a primarily Canadian group from CCNM in Toronto, with a couple from the United States joining as well. We also had the pleasure of having another good friend of NDI join us for this brigade, a nutritionist who I had the pleasure of working with on my student brigade back in 2009. As our previous meet and greeter for brigades has gone back to school, I was designated to be the one to come in and pick up the group. Fortunately for me the nutritionist would also be meeting up with us at the airport and would be able to help me get everyone fed and organized as the brigaders were to arrive on 3 separate flights. Nineteen brigaders were to arrive, which for us is quite a large group and aside from one missed flight and a mixed up bag, both of which were fixed up by the next day, everything went quite smoothly.
The next day was a very early day for everyone, as we had to be up and on the road by 4:30 am to make it to the island in time. Usually once we get onto the island there is time for a relaxing breakfast at the Cornerhouse and a welcome class. This time for some reason breakfast was as quick as possible, which for me is always a bit of a challenge, and the class was held back at the rancho in Los Angeles. After lunch we did the usual clinic and hospital tours, followed by putting away the donations brought in and getting the clinic ready for the week. As is with the majority of the brigades companies and sponsors were very generous and we were able to fill up our dispensary with a lot of new and very needed products, including some great multivitamins. As the Fiesta Patronal was happening in Esquipulas, just 2 km away from where the brigaders were staying in Los Angeles, several of them decided to stop by for a while that night. I decided to stay home in Moyogalpa as I knew the week would be busy and I was still catching up on sleep from the travel to and from Managua.
The clinic days went by very quickly and as is usual were very busy. There seemed to be a few bugs going around with some of the brigaders feeling under the weather as well as Tabby had to step out for several days as she had a bad chest infection. With Tabby getting rested up to regain her health, the groups got divided again between Trish and I, and everyone really worked hard to see any extra patients that came. This grouped worked extremely hard and during the brigade we each saw almost the equivalent amount of patients that we would see in a regular clinic day, which is no small feat. Each group also had its share of very difficult cases, which the brigaders handled with grace and empathy. Due to the challenges of access to further medical testing or specialists on the island, as well as other challenges that are bred within this system, the NDI clinic tends to see more than an average share of very severe or advanced illnesses with limited options for treatment, as well several cases that are often very emotional. The final day of the brigade Tabby was back in form and word has seemed to spread around the island about our DIOSA room for PAPs as there was a line up of women who had just come in for an exam.
The week came to a close with the entire group choosing to hike Volcan Maderas, and everyone made it to the top and down which after a long week in the clinic and in the heat doesn’t always happen. The couple from the U.S. were staying on the island and then going to come help NDI for the next week after the brigade, but most of the group were traveling on to the coast. This time Trish came to join me to bring the few brigaders catching earlier flights to Managua. We were a small group, but still a bit on the large side for one taxi so the ride to Managua was rather squishy and unfortunately started out with a slight altercation with the police in Rivas. It was sorted out in not too much time and then we were on our way back to where we started at the hostel in Managua before dropping off the girls at the airport the next day. For me the end of the brigade was a little bittersweet as I felt very fortunate to have the chance to meet with and work with a great group of people but I was also a little sad knowing that it would be the last brigade this year for me. I want to take a little moment to thank all those on this brigade for making it a very memorable one for me, and wishing you all the best on your own journey.