Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Little Lety...My Encounter With An Angel

I was taken aback, caught unaware and vulnerable, thrown to the ground, crushed, bruised and humbled. Suddenly then resurrected, enlivened, loved, energized and renewed. All within a moment with little Lety. In the flash of a blink of an eye, she became and is my angel and saviour. My love has been rekindled. I am inspired, motivated, renewed and ever so grateful.

My words simply will not do justice to the extraordinary week I have had in Mexico. Lety is just one of many people that I had the privilege to treat in and around Tequila, Mexico. But Lety is a great big part in my very special experience. I will tell you more about her in a moment.

Our mission trip was coordinated by Francisco, a friend of mine, who lives in Austin. He is originally from Guadalajara, Mexico and most of his family lives in and around the Tequila area. Francisco is a hard worker, good, loving family man and servant. He has been part of our medical mission team for many years. We have travelled on previous mission trips to different parts of Mexico as well as Honduras. But this was our team's first time on his home ground. He knows first hand, the needs of the people. He himself grew up in a family with sixteen children. He is number eight. It wasn't unusual to go many days without food. And the small adobe brick home's roof would collapse and need repair after every rainy season. They slept in three rooms--five, five and eight including his parents. Francisco wanted to bring our team to his people and so we went.

Over thirty of us including nurses, translators, a nun (Sister Lillian), two dentists, one acupuncturist, five medical doctors and one chiropractor--me. By the end of the week we treated over 2,000 people in the towns of Tequila, Hostotipaquillo, Amatitan and Magdelena. With so many treated you might imagine there are many heart wrenching stories. And a lifetime of pain and anguish to go around. These people have more than their share. But as in past mission trips, the people are alive! They are joyous, happy, caring, proud gracious and oh so thankful of our presence among them and the little assistance we can give to them.

The bus driver who drove us from town to town duplicated cd's of Mexican music as a gift for all the team members. Some of us were given little handmade carvings of tequila barrels. I was given gifts of tequila, a bag of guava fruit, a beautiful crucifeix and a cane. These gifts represent the love and gratitude from people who knew we weren't going to cure them in one visit. They may feel temporarily better but they are being given hope, love, caring and respect. In turn, though most can't afford to, they come back and give some of us these gifts of love and appreciation.

Sister Leeticia Gonzalez Naeto was one of my patients. She is of the order of the Missionaries De Jesus Crucificado. After treating her she gifted me with a beautiful silver crucifex and chain that she was wearing around her neck.
It represents her order and is given to them when they are accepted into the order. This is the type of genuine heartfelt gesture that words do no justice to. The eighty plus year old man that hand carved a walking stick for me.
After treating him on the first day, he travelled to where we were staying and waited for three hours to give me his gift. He was only sorry he hadn't had time to paint or stain it. The cane is made from a local tree similar to bamboo and the eyes of the animal head are seeds. It's a crude walking stick, but beautiful and the love behind it is very powerful.

Victor Carrillo came to me on crutches in severe pain. He was helped by his mother. He is 32 years old and has been suffering with debilitating arthritis since he was 9 years old. He was apologetic for keeping me late one night after the rest of the team had closed up shop. But he explained he was in such pain in the morning that he couldn't get out of bed. When he finally managed enough strength to push through the pain, he made it to see me. He was sorry to inconvenience me! Can you believe that? One of the hardest mental hurdles to overcome is the knowledge that at some point our team must shut down and pack up. This leaves, regrettably, many people untreated. Fortunately, that day, Victor got his acupuncture and chiropractic treatment. I remain sorrowful as all of us do for those who we were unable to attend to. I struggle with images of the unattended. But I am grateful for the people I have been privileged to see and work with.

As one 80 year old man said to Rosa (my translator) and I, "He would always have us in his heart and it meant so much for us to be here; he wanted to cry!" I understand how he feels. We feel the same.

On the first day of the mission, Dr. Nathalie asked for my assistance with a young girl in a wheelchair. Upon meeting her and her mother I learned of her condition. Stunted growth from a hydrocephalic brain. A large scar from a spinal surgery due to spina bifida, a very compacted body due to severe scoliosis and lower limbs that did not function. Her name, Leticia...Lety!

When I started to work with Lety, she hurt and then she relaxed, eased into it and from then on she was all giggles, smiles and laughter. She loved the spinal adjustments and muscle work I was performing on her. Dr. Nathalie said you could just see her body unfold. Lety had an infectious giggle, engaging smile and a spirit of life that burst from her. A spirit that you don't often see in people who have every comfort and health. Never mind someone like her with obvious disabilities and hardships to struggle with daily. There were many wonderful people but Lety really got to me. As she spoke you could hear the joy in her. I became increasingly humbled and inspired as I learned more about this little girl. Confined to a wheelchair yet still wanting independence she sold gum and candies on the street. While thinking this was remarkable, her mom began to explain that she had actually been working since she was 13 years old. Then she had a job at the tequila disillery as a greeter!

This little girl displays more love, joy, strength, courage, fortitude...well you name it. She is more than most of us. That's why I said in all of a short moment she crushed me and a resurrected me. If Lety could be like this there's hope for all of us. She is an example, a role model, a person to look up to. She saved me. She became my angel in that moment. And then proved it to me three more times as I had other encounters with her over the next few days. She is a genuine loving soul.

The next day, I found Lety on the street selling her candies and gum in front of a pharmacy--her usual spot. She gave me and two of my companions a piece of candy. She was very generous. We spoke for a while, took a few photos and then I bought a $20 piece of gum. She didn't ask for it, but I wanted to buy it. I'm confident I got a great deal.
The next encounter with Lety gave me the opportunity to treat her one more time and I was thrilled to see her excitement as she told me how wonderful she had been feeling since her first treatment. Once again her giggles, smiles and excurberence were contagious. This girl was good for my health. Each time I saw Lety, life was better. She truly is a little angel to me, a gift from God.
I was given a gift the night before we left. It was a small statue of a girl with paper tags glued on a stick afixed to the statue. It was from Lety. They read :
"Que bonito es recibir,
Pero mas bonito es dar,
Gracias por darte a los demas,
Sin experar mas que una sonrisa.
Gracias por dar felicidad,
Gracias por dar alivio y consuelo,
Cuando te sientas triste y solo.
Busca una sonrisa,
Que Dios te bendiga hoy y siempre,
Tu amiga, Lety"

"How wonderful it is to receive,
But it is a lot better to give,
Thank you for giving yourself to others,
Without expecting anything more than a smile,
Thank you for your happiness,
Thank you for giving hope and much needed help,
When you feel sad and lonely,
Look for a smile,
God bless, you now and forever,
Your friend, Lety"

I will always keep Lety in my heart and mind. I look forward to seeing her again. And when I do, I know I will be renewed once again. My goal is to make her more comfortable by replacing her wheelchair with a modern electric wheelchair. A small something to make her life a bit easier. I'm sure I will succeed in locating and acquiring one for her.

I hope you've enjoyed a little of my trip. There is so much more it's difficult to process and write about all of it.

I want to personally thank the magnificent team of doctors, nurses and support staff that made this trip exceptional. Each one has their own heart warming stories.
Thanks to all who have donated funds, prayed and sent love and positive thoughts our way. Our next mission will be to Tamasopo, Mexico, November 8th through the 16th. As always, feel free to contact me at (281) 499-4810 for more information.
With love and respect,
Que Dios Te Bendiga Hoy Y Siempre
Dr. Rick Barrett

P.S. This paper came out the last day we were in Tequila. Anyone look familiar?

Please enjoy a small sample of photos from our trip.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

South of The Border...

Buenos Dios!

Just a note to let you know our team arrived safely for our medical mission in Tequila, Mexico. This mission is with the team from St. Williams in the Austin Diocese. We have a wonderful group of medical doctors, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, acupuncturist and support staff. Yesterday we treated over 600 people! Please remember the people that we are treating and the team in your prayers. Our next mission will be in November to Tamasopo, Mexico with the Sugar Land group. Here is a link to view some great photos of the blue agave plant which is found in the area of Tequila.