Piaxtla’s Official and Unofficial Medical Volunteers

We have been fortunate in having a large number of U. S. physicians donate their services in Ajoya this past year. I will not mention each by name, but we are grateful to all. One of the most significant visits was that of Dr. Rudolf Bock with his wife, Trude, and sons, Oliver and Peter. Five years ago we were able to get government permission for Rudy to operate in the Centro de Salud of San Ignacio. A year later, however, a team of our American surgeons was forbidden to perform surgery by the Federal Department of Health, in spite of the fact that the State Government had made the invitation. It seems probable that we shall soon re-obtain official permission to conduct surgery in Sinaloa. Nevertheless, Dr. Bock’s visit this last spring had to be what we euphemistically call “unofficial”. He performed surgery on the back porch of the Ajoya Clinic in a “prefab operating theater” which George Dueker helped design and we set up the day after the Bock’s arrived. With his teenage sons as surgical assistants, Rudy performed cataract surgery, muscle repositioning (for strabismus), plastic lid repair, and. many pterygium removals.

Other doctors whose visits were notably worthwhile because each stayed for several weeks, during part of which time Dr. Benedict was back in the States, were Dr. Stan Hajduk with his wife, Gloria, and more recently, Dr. David Bushman with his wife, Jean. Dr. Bushman took over in Ajoya for awhile when Kent returned to the States this November. Apart from medical professionals this last year, we have also had the assistance of several American and Canadian youths, some of whom have stayed for several months. Especially able have been those who previously attended the crash medical training program set up for our volunteers by Dr. Donald Laub and his conferers at the Stanford Medical Center. Within a short time, these young trainees have been able to function with surprising medical sophistication. Outstanding in this respect this past year have been. Dave Sklar and Bill Vogel, who ran the Ajoya Clinic by themselves for a month when Kent was in the States. My special thanks, however, go to Terry Hotti, Oliver Bock, Mark Miller and Janet Ewing, not only for their contribution medically, but also for their friendly willingness to pitch in and do the vast amount of drudge work, maintenance and unglamorous cleanup, which, although mundane, makes up four fifths of the crucial work in a village medical project such as ours.

Janet Ewing, a pre-medical graduate who took crash training with Don Laub this summer and came to Ajoya in October, will be with us at least until spring. She is doing a superlative job in every respect and has already become a first class medic.

Speaking of first class medics, Allison Akana, who spent more than two years with us and opened our third clinic in Chilar, decided a year ago to continue her education in the field of medicine, a long haul, since she never completed high school. But she has done very well at San Mateo Jr. College and this year she received a modest scholarship from the Peninsula Hospital Auxiliary.

To further finance her studies, last summer Allison served as medical director for a group of students from the Athenian School Summer Program who participated in our village project during June and July. In turn the villagers, who have become as devoted to Allison as she is to them, managed to help Allison meet her school expenses by feeding the visiting students free of charge in their homes so that the funds provided for the student’s food could also go toward Allison’s education, as the villagers’ donation.

Improving Conditions for Volunteers at Project Piaxtla

Visiting doctor’s wives, especially, will be relieved to hear that the Clinic of Ajoya at long last has a flush toilet, a cold shower and watertank which provides us (if we conserve) with running water around the clock.

The construction of these luxuries proved a horrendous task, especially the septic system and building of the brick watertower. The job was made more difficult because we had decided to take it on during the hot summer monsoon season (when most of the village men are occupied planting) thinking it would be a great project for the Athenian School students to tackle. With this in mind, the school agreed to send us a group of husky boys with experience or at least interest in building. You can imagine our surprise when, the day after they were due, a group of one boy and seven girls, all disgruntled and exhausted from their long bus trip descended upon us in Ajoya!..

“Where’s the bathroom?”

“Well, girls, wha’d’ya say we make one!” . . . .

But the girls, once they got over their initial shock (which took awhile), proved to have more pluck than they themselves had ever guessed. They swung picks blistered hands, wheelbarrowed sand and even laid bricks. What is more, their mere presence recruited more muscle and manpower from the village men, in spite of its being planting season, than we could ever have got otherwise. Indeed, I suspect that if the Athenian School had sent us an all male group of strapping athletes instead of these pretty girls, the heavy work would have taken twice as long.

The success of the construction project, however, rested largely with young Bob Steiner (son of Bob and Dorothy Steiner, who come to Ajoya several weeks each year). Employed as construction foreman of the Athenian student group, Bob did a heroic job of organizing and doing the brunt of the work. Although dying to help in the dental clinic (for he plans to become a dentist), Bob worked doggedly on the construction program because this was where he was most needed. To top it off, Bob donated his entire Athenian salary to the project!

Now I turn the newsletter over to Dr. Kent Benedict! Take it, Andrés!