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    Building the strong

    Building the strong

    Photo By Staff Sgt. Joseph Vine | U.S. Army Col. Robert Tyscko, an optometrist with Task Force Northstar, assists a...... read more read more



    Story by Sgt. Kimberly Browne 

    366th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

    CIUDAD ARCE, El Salvador – Providing assistance after a natural disaster or distributing essentials for the homeless are just two factors that could pose the need for humanitarian aid. Other factors include alleviating suffering and helping to maintain civic services.

    Beyond the Horizon’s 2015 mission provides humanitarian and civic assistance for the people of El Salvador, such as medical and engineering support. Along with providing assistance, each military shares valuable knowledge and training with each other, thereby enabling stronger bonds and important skill advancements.

    “As a member of the Salvadoran military I feel pleased to develop the Beyond the Horizon project together [with the United States],” said Brig. Gen. William Mejia, chief of staff for the Salvadoran army. “This helps reinforce the relationship and friendship we have with the United States Southern Command and this helps us better train our personnel.”

    However, the MEDRETE validated more than just strong bonds and shared knowledge, it brought much needed free medical care to the local community.

    “I found out by a truck going by and announcing it,” said Felipe Melendez, of Santa Lucia, El Salvador. “I am very grateful for you all to be here … Sometimes I do not have the money for the doctor’s visit or the medication.”

    Melendez, who has not seen a doctor for more than a year, continued to describe his various ailments, which accounted for almost all the medical specialties BTH provides. Services provided include preventive medicine, dental care, adult and pediatric medicine, medical education, immunizations, optometry, women’s health and obstetrician and gynecology, general medicine, veterinary medicine and a small pharmacy.

    The people of the local community and the medical providers were in high spirits about the MEDRETE. This mission gave them a means to advance their skills outside of a sterile and controlled environment; it also helped them gain knowledge from the partner nation’s providers by working hand-in-hand with them.

    “I have a blast, and I love doing it,” said U.S. Army Capt. Donald Huntington, a physician assistant with Task Force Northstar. “By the end of our time here, you’re so exhausted, but you’re still smiling because it’s just great.”

    Huntington, who is a native of Concord, New Hampshire, and assigned to the New Hampshire National Guard Medical Detachment, and provided pediatric care during the MEDRETE, discussed some of the ailments he saw when he participated in BTH two years prior.

    “We saw a lot of gastrointestinal issues such as worms, amoebas, a lot of fevers, quite a bit of dental issues. Since the primary drinking source for children happened to be soda, [we] had a lot of dental extractions,” he said. “The kids are usually really great, even when they aren’t feeling good. They are overwhelmed, but they just want to play and have fun.”

    However, pediatrics was just one piece of the vastly organized puzzle. The MEDRETE was set up in a “round robin” style to better orchestrate the amount of patients they were expecting.

    “We are expecting to see anywhere from 500-1200 patients with varying degrees of illnesses,” Huntington said.

    Once the doctors and their staff were prepared for the masses, the gates opened and the process of facilitating medical care began. First, approximately 60 locals would line up to a receptionist-style setup to receive a form that listed the various types of medical care being provided. From there, they filled up seats under a canopy to receive a preventive medicine briefing.

    Upon conclusion of the briefing, one-by-one the patients would see a medic to discuss their ailments and in turn, the medic decided what type of care the patient needed. They would also have their vital signs checked, such as their blood pressure and temperature.

    Lines then began to form for each medical section, beginning with family and general medicine where there were American, Colombian and Salvadoran physicians attending to the patients.

    Norma Yolanda, who was suffering from stomach pain, was one of many seen by these physicians. Before being seen she expressed her gratitude and opinion of the partnership between TF Northstar and the Salvadoran army’s TF San Andreas.

    “I think it is good that the Americans and Salvadorans are working together,” she said. “Thank you.”

    Further down the hall more lines were seen forming at the women’s health and OB-GYN, adult, and pediatric medicine.

    The building parallel held dental, optometry, immunizations, and the pharmacy, with each section accumulating their own patients to see.

    Optometry posed its own unique and interesting opportunity for the local community and for U.S. Army Col. Robert Tyscko, TF Northstar’s optometrist.

    “Optometry is very interesting because of the three complaints I get; my eyes hurt, my eyes are dry, and basically over the age of 35 a lot of them are so farsighted they start to lose their ability to read well,” Tyscko stated. “Their complaint is, literally, I can’t read my bible. It’s really, really, really amazing.”

    Tysko went on to explain a reason for why the stations were set up this way and the feelings of those who see him following a dental procedure.

    “It’s funny considering the way they have it set up, because dental is right next to me and people come out [from there] and they’re groggy and crying,” he said. “Then they come see me and it’s the happy cheery place because they get to see.”

    At the end of day one, the MEDRETE care providers had seen and processed approximately 500 patients. Those who were unable to be seen on day one were given a ticket to come back for day two.

    On day one the mayor of Ciudad Arce came to talk to his constituents, observe the MEDRETE in action, and meet each care provider.

    “I want to congratulate the Salvadoran forces and U.S. forces for all the hard work they are doing to help my country,” said Mayor Jose Alfredo Contreras Escalon. “We have been through difficult times, but with the help of the government, the armed forces, and the national police, we are going to get through it and make it work.”

    Days two through five each saw more than 500 patients, with one day reaching 900 plus. By the end of the MEDRETE more than 3,500 patients were seen and given much needed medical care and assistance.

    BTH 2015 has not only provided essential medical care, but there are ongoing construction and engineering projects of schools and medical clinics throughout various cities in El Salvador as well. Ultimately, the people of El Salvador receive humanitarian relief while service members receive valuable knowledge from each partner nation.



    Date Taken: 05.16.2015
    Date Posted: 05.20.2015 16:50
    Story ID: 164001
    Location: CIUDAD ARCE, SV 

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