By David Rizo and Rich Reader
During this year of the pandemic, we have tried to fill the need for medical attention among the people we visit. With hospitals full of COVID 19 patients, other services are much harder to obtain. In addition, some people are fearful to seek services in clinics and hospitals because of the perceived risk of contracting COVID 19. This issue and the difficulties of obtaining medical attention have resulted in a few deaths. In response, we reached out to medical students in our scholarship program and asked if they could help. We now have three and sometimes a four students who travel with us on our visits.
These students, while restricted in what they can do, are able to check vitals, treat wounds, advise about and encourage the use of already prescribed medications, apply ointments, give baths, cut nails, etc. They are also helpful in persuading patients to go to a clinic or hospital, and they have knowledge of which places have services available.
A couple of weeks ago, one medical student, helped transport a man to the hospital late in the evening and then spent the whole night navigating the system to get him seen and treated. On another occasion we needed a first-thing-in the morning urine sample, and the 89 year old patient suffering from an infection, wasn’t able to do it herself. So, the student arranged to arrive at 6 am and assist. They have treated a gunshot wound that wasn’t healing, advised and encouraged two young and depressed tuberculosis patients, taught a man how to use his glucose level checking device, recommended a young girl get checked for a lazy eye, arranged for a sitz bath, inspected oral infections, and secured discounts on medical supplies and medicines.
As you can imagine, it is a significant sacrifice/service for these students to take time away from their medical studies to provide these services; nevertheless, they generously give of themselves. Thanks to the Oblates, we have a small fund to assist with purchasing needed supplies and medications however, the visits revealed the urgent need for a new medical outreach program. Fr. Jesse Esqueda, OMI and the Oblates at the mission are working on a plan to improve this outreach. The plan would include more visits, partnerships with local hospitals, laboratories, medical specialists, and equipping these students with medical devices and supplies to better serve our community.
To make this project possible, a fund must be established that would cover the costs and provide a stipend for the hours that the medical students spend on the visits. The stipend would assist the students with their educational supplies, transportation costs, and meals. It would also eliminate the need for our students to find part-time jobs. The med students would be able to focus on serving the community while gaining valuable medical experience, and transforming the lives of those who desperately need medical attention.
The Oblates have been great in arranging for scholarships for these students through donors, and for providing an extraordinary level of food distribution for this community. St. Eugene, founder of the Oblates would say, “…first help people to act like human beings, and then like Christians and, finally, help them to become saints.”
On December 3, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the canonization of St. Eugene De Mazenod (founder of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate) by Pope John Paul II. We were blessed this year that the anniversary fell on a Thursday because our Thursday Mass is special for youth and parents who had attended retreats. A video was shown with highlights of St. Eugene’s life and the Oblate charism. At the pope’s announcement of sainthood, there was great applause on the video, which was echoed at our Mass. Fr. Jesse wore the same chasuble as he wore when he was ordained to affirm his vows.
The group in the picture (above) lead the congregation in the Salvé Regina. Shown are 4 pre-novices from the Oblate Pre-novitiate overseen by Fr. Guillermo (Bill) Antone, OMI and 4 afiliados (affiliates), who pledge themselves to the charism of St. Eugene while discerning their vocations.
In the grey jacket (3rd from right) is Erik Solis, who is also a medical student (pictured left), thanks to his scholarship donor. He currently leads the youth deanery group for our diocese. He is best known as our Taekwondo teacher barking out commands through a smiling and proud face.
(The Oblate Youth Group in Tijuana, Mexico is a ministry of the Oblate Mission in Baja, California which is part of the U.S. Province of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate)