Saturday, May 30, 2009

En la clinica

(For travel in Asia, go to 11/2008-1/2009)

Random thoughts in this last week of May, 2009. There were three Burmese (Karen) patients in the clinic today. Diagnoses included depression x 2, anxiety, insomnia, hypertension x 2, diabetes, nodules of unknown etiology, and so on. Two of the patients came in with our outreach worker and one with a woman involved in several Baptist-sponsored orphanages in Burma and on the border. So when Diana, the Grace pastor came down to the clinic for her weekly prayer with patients and staff in the waiting room, we all gathered (since swine flu, no longer holding hands) and Diana began her prayer (translated by Nora), with, “Dear God, our father and mother …” and meanwhile several of the Cristianas were muttering accompanying prayers and babies fussing and a toddler trying to get her mother’s attention, “Ma! Ma!” And there we all were, Mexican, Salvadoran, Karen, Mexican-American, Anglo – hearing and praying a prayer for healing, understanding, acceptance, and gratitude.

Photo above is borrowed from the Smithsonian Magazine article on Amerasians (June 2009). The older man at the table is Thao D (Uncle Thao), who came out of prison dedicated to liberating all people, including Amerasians. Uncle Thao is a Great Man, a manifestation of the beauty we all can be. See the upside down photo of the pretty girl with the checked dress on? I knew her too. Photo below: Pat B and one of her patients in the pharmacy. What a life we lead!

Later I wondered what people thought about the prayer to “God, our father and mother…”

I was saying to one Karen person, that when we were in Burma we were treated with kindness and that the country was beautiful. I didn’t say (and should have) that overall, it seems to me that people in & from Burma have a gravitas, a sense of dignity and substance. Back in the 1970s someone said, like royalty in tatters.

As part of her masters in social work, Erika R spent more than a semester in the Agape Clinic examining mental health disparities among Hispanics. Her most startling finding was that the main barrier to mental health services was that people were unaware of a mental health concern (72%).

(The following are conclusions drawn by me.) In other words, most patients who receive mental health care at Agape did not realize or acknowledge that they had a problem; they thought being depressed was just the way life goes. During the course of care for chronic or acute physical illnesses, patients are often asked questions like, “On most days are you mostly happy or mostly sad?” A positive response elicits further assessment questions and sometimes leads to the conclusion that the patient is experiencing depression and/or an anxiety disorder. Treatment is offered and provided when appropriate – in many cases, including further evaluation and treatment through Dr. K. Photo: in exam room 1.

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