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The student news site of Clayton High School.

The Globe

The student news site of Clayton High School.

The Globe

A Week in Catacamas: Two CHS juniors make a difference abroad


Power lines run across a road in the small Honduran town of Catacamas. (Fergus Inder)
Power lines run across a road in the small Honduran town of Catacamas. (Fergus Inder)

Lisker and Inder spent a week in Honduras working with a group of doctors from Wash. U. and across the nation to treat patients. Both found out about the trip, which is an annual event in its tenth year, through their parents who work at Wash. U. The town itself was small but spread out, consisting mainly of small, one-story buildings.

“The hospital was about 15 minutes on paved roads from the center of the town, which has a cathedral,” Lisker said. “And as you go out from the small center of the town, the fringe communities are mainly stricken with poverty, and you can see that as you go out, the poorer the community becomes.”

Lisker and Inder saw upwards of 300 patients a day at El Hospital Santo Pedro Hermano, with common ailments ranging from asthma to epilepsy.

“A lot of the time, [the doctors] would prescribe medicine, we would go get it, and then teach the patients how to use the medicine,” Inder said. “But then some doctors would have you do preliminary interview on what medicines [the patient] is taking and what their symptoms are.”

Asthma is a major problem in Honduras because cooking is often done with firewood and trash is often burned. The dusty roads only add to the problem. As a result, Lisker and Inder gave out inhalers to many of the patients.

Patients crowd a hallway of El Hospital Santo Pedro Hermano as they wait for treatment. (Paul Lisker)
Patients crowd a hallway of El Hospital Santo Pedro Hermano as they wait for treatment. (Paul Lisker)

Much of what struck them was the poverty that they encountered in Catacamas, things like illiteracy that are so foreign to Clayton.

“The memorable part is seeing people come in without shoes, and you’d give people their prescription and they’d say, I can’t read this,” Inder said. “I’ve never been in a place where that sort of poverty exists and where people are so grateful despite that.”

Indeed, the people were grateful. Lisker said that you could see by “how they smiled” that the patients knew they were getting great treatment. But at the same time he said that patients would often ask for just a bit more medicine, hoping that it might last them the year until the next doctors come.

“The interesting thing about all of [the patients] is that, regardless of their socioeconomic status, they always came with their Sunday best – they came with their best clothes to see the American doctors,” Lisker said.

Inder and Lisker had a chance to get to know some of the patients and doctors that they met in Catacamas. Inder mentioned a neurologist from Cuba, Otico, who taught him how to diagnose Parkinson’s, and a pair of young girls he spent time with.

“I worked a lot with the kids,” Inder said. “I would entertain the kids while they were waiting because I worked with the pediatrician for two days. There were a lot of really cute kids – I had them playing Fruit Ninja on my phone.”

Lisker, too, found his experience working with children especially remarkable. He described one patient, a young boy, who was microcephalic, meaning the circumference of his skull was much smaller than usual.

“As I worked with one of the pediatrics, there were several extremely tough cases which I thought were very memorable,” Lisker said. “There was a particular case of a microcephalic patient who had unfortunately developed the condition prenatally because of radiation to the mother with cancer. So just seeing the father with the microcephalic [son] was a rather impressive experience.”

In short, while most students spent their spring break sleeping in, relaxing and vacationing, Lisker and Inder spent theirs changing lives. And as they gave an impoverished town life-changing medical care, they found that they, too, were changed by their experience.

“It’s hard to decide if one week changes your life,” Lisker said. “But there’s no doubt that this week was a memorable experience that will last me throughout my life.”

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A Week in Catacamas: Two CHS juniors make a difference abroad