Editor's Note: Megan Corazzin has served as a volunteer medical technologist at a small clinic in Honduras for nearly a year. Her time there is coming to an end, and the clinic is looking for another MT to replace her. Please read and share this story-contact information is provided below for anyone who may be interested. ADVANCE would love to hear from you if you take advantage of this opportunity, as well. Contact: email@example.com
Early in 2011, I decided I wanted to dedicate my time and volunteer abroad. I applied to different organizations and was accepted at Catholic Medical Missions Board (CMMB) to go to a clinic in Kenya. After months of planning to go to Africa for a year my plans were almost destroyed. I got an email less than a month before I was suppose to leave telling me the funding for the lab had fallen through and they no longer needed me. I had quit my job and started packing already. I was about to give up on my idea of volunteering when CMMB had contacted Peggy Stranges at Clinica Esperanza in Roatan, Honduras and asked her if the clinic needed a medical technologist. Peggy jumped on the opportunity to have a MT come down for year. I had contacted past professors and got in touch with several people who were able to help me with getting supplies, procedures for tests, and any information I needed.
When I landed in Roatan in October 2011, I had no idea what awaited me. I was given a quick tour of the clinic and then shown the lab which was a storage room. The clinic was able to do urine pregnancy tests, spun hematocrits, HIV testing and urine dips. There were supplies already at the clinic from their previous attempts to start a lab. I had reagents to do white blood cell counts, manual differentials, gram stains, AFBs, malaria smears and wet mounts for ova and parasite exams. There were slides, phlebotomy supplies and a microscope already there. They needed instruments. So I started contacting every company I could think of to get information on the instruments they sell and if they would donate or give discounts to a clinic in a developing country. I found World Wide Lab Improvement, a company that refurbishes lab equipment and sells it for a discount. After several months of getting the finances in order, we decided on the chemistry instruments through WWL which was the Vitros DT60 II Chemistry System. We opted for this because it uses a dry reagent system and had few moving parts, so we didn't have to worry about reagents getting contaminated or expiring. It also did not require a deionized water line. We can now run 21 chemistry tests on site.
The CBC instrument was purchased directly from the QBC Company. I was able to get the clinic a refurbished instrument which helped with our costs. This instrument also uses dry reagent technology to give a nine parameter complete blood count. It has also has few moving parts which means little maintenance needs to be done on the instrument.
Most volunteers come down for a month period, so I was able to ask several doctors with different backgrounds what tests they would want available on site for quick results and what they would order more of if it was available cheaper to the patient. I was able to contact a medical supplies company in Honduras to get any additional supplies and tests we would need. So I added tests like Dengue (antibody), H.Pylori, hemoccult, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea and Rotavirus. There is a new second floor at the clinic, consisting of a pediatric inpatient and birthing center. We have a part time OB-GYN who does prenatal visits. All women must get several tests done during their pregnancy; I thought it would be a good idea to offer them at the clinic. So we ordered supplies to test for hepatitis B surface antigen, Syphilis and blood type.
Clinica Esperanza does charge patients for medical services; however, if they cannot pay we do not turn them away or give them any less care than if they could pay. The clinic was set up to give everyone in Roatan better health care. The lab will hopefully continue to grow. Once the lab is moved into a bigger room, the clinic will add an additional chemistry instrument to run thyroid function tests. I also hope to start screening African descendant children for sickle cell. This is still a work in progress but has come a long way in the past year. I in no way ever imagined the lab how it is today. I never believed that I was capable of doing something of this magnitude.
The clinic is now actively looking for a volunteer to take my place in October when I return to the States. If you or someone you know would like a life changing experience, you can contact CMMB (firstname.lastname@example.org), Clinica Esperanza (email@example.com) or World Wide Lab Improvement (firstname.lastname@example.org).