This month I got to fulfill a decade’s long dream to practice mobile outdoor medicine in a developing country. I was invited by my Belizean counterpart Dr Orlando Baptist to join up with the group Helping Paws Across Borders out of New Mexico. We traveled to the Spanish speaking island of Roatan, in Honduras, to take part in a week of free exams and surgeries.
Each day we rode 50 minutes in a van to reach our destination. Our first location was in Oak Ridge. With a team of 4 vets, 4 techs, and about 10 support staff we set up a mobile clinic. This included areas for exam, pharmacy, anesthesia induction, surgery, and recovery. At this location I did hundreds of exams for vaccination, deworming, and heartworm/flea/tick prevention. Most of the dogs tested were positive for heartworm, which is spread by mosquitos. Many dogs were also infected by a tick born illness called ehrlichia which causes a variety of symptoms and eventual death. I also did some spay/neuters and a mass removal here.
Examination and surgical areas
Recovering from surgery
Our second location was Spanish Hill. Here we were able to move the surgery into a tiny room normally used for Sunday School. The pastor and his wife were kind enough to provide us with food and facilities. Hundreds of people showed up with their pets.
Sign in and surgical room
I performed many surgeries here and was lucky enough to have the spot just inside the sliding glass door. This meant more natural light but also provided me with an audience of curious children, as well as often having to act as the security guard while spaying dogs! Some of the animals were pregnant or had pyometra (uterus infection). Multiple dogs also had tumors from a sexually transmitted disease called TVT.
Surgery and dogs waiting their turn
I have never been so hot, and sweaty in my life. The work was physically and emotionally demanding. People came from various communities and waited many hours to be seen. The local Hondurans were truly appreciative of our efforts to help improve the quality of life of their animals.
Ready to go home after recovering from a spay
I went home home dirty, bloody, and exhausted every night and loved every minute of it.
If this type of work is something you have considered doing, I highly encourage you to find a group and go for it! We had many medical and non medical volunteers. I look forward to the next time.