The baleada is a fresh tortilla, made with a smear of beans, scrambled eggs and topped with a sour-tasting cheese, named after a bullet, given its folded in half and aerodynamic shape. This small, but delicious Honduran cultural delight is certainly something I won’t forget.
As the patients got wind of food in the halls, ever so kindly they notified me they would be in the cafeteria eating lunch while they waited for their visit with me. I would often accompany them at the table, discussing a sick family member while passing the pico salsa to place on top of our baleadas. Whether they were dropped off by a friend, paid a small red taxi to take them or walked a far distance, these patients were happy to be seen, were patient with their time and loved to give hugs to show their gratitude.
They had the usual medical diagnoses, Diabetes, Hypertension, then the more rare, Batsi-fly infestation, or “Honduran Hysteria” a surprisingly common dramatization of their symptoms, ie faking a seizure or passing out, pretending to be paralyzed from a car accident, though suddenly regaining strength. These people were kind, humble and had so many values deeply entrenched in them, and they exemplified a God-focused life.
I really did feel my work at Loma de Luz Hospital in the Northern coast of Honduras was needed, such as bringing a pre-eclamptic, 19 year-old’s daughter in the world, teaching her to breast-feed and to take care of her newborn, placing a cast on the broken foot of an injured soccer player from the neighboring village, sewing up a complicated facial laceration on a young boy running from trouble, and even helping a worried, single mom learn to de-stress by teaching her yoga stretches. These people gave me so much excitement to be a doctor, to use my skills from VCMC to provide honorable, quality health-care and showed me why international medical travel is so important for both the people receiving care and providing it, igniting in me a new passion to continue to do so in my future practice.
I met wonderful volunteers while in Honduras, other surgeons, medical students, ER, and family medicine doctors who made me feel I was part of something great. We saw patients together in a multi-disciplinary approach though also donated toys to the orphanage together, frolicked on the beach and in the surf with the kids, went snorkeling, and even made homemade baleadas together.
My time abroad was an immeasurable experience. Driving by the small open-aired shacks, with smoke from dinner preparations, roaming chickens and dirty-footed babies running around in diapers, I saw where these patients lived, I also saw how unassuming and appreciative they were.
I would love to continue to return here, to remind myself of how blessed we are to have what we have, and to use our blessings to give to those less fortunate. I will likely get a craving for that bullet-shaped delight that cost me 30 cents per day and helped me taste the beautiful culture of his little Honduran village of Balfate.