Airmen complete Nicaraguan medical exercise

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jacque Lickteig
  • New Horizons - Nicaragua Public Affairs
Twenty medics finished the first of three New Horizons - Nicaragua 2007 Medical Readiness Training Exercises Feb. 28, giving free healthcare to 6,551 Nicaraguans throughout nine days. 

The $7.25 million joint U.S. and Nicaraguan military humanitarian and training exercise, provides a new school and medical clinic, as well as free health and veterinary care, giving aid while strengthening bonds between the two nations.

The medics, mostly from Beale Air Force Base, Calif., gave general, dental, optometry, gynecological, pediatric and internal medicine care in La Pita, El Sol and Santa Teresa, Nicaragua, from 6:30 a.m. until about 4 p.m. for three days at each site.

They treated everything from minor cases to a few, more severe cases, said Maj. Maud Oliver-Kelley, the MEDRETE commander from Beale AFB. She said the most prevalent conditions they treated were headaches, body aches, coughs, rashes and prevention of parasites.

However, they also treated a 3-year-old boy who suffered a third-degree burn on the inside of his right leg about a month ago, said Capt. (Dr.) Matthew Gill. He and Capt. Cherie Smith, both from Beale AFB, said the boy's family wasn't treating the wound properly, and it was covered in eschar, or a black, pus-filled scab.

They scrubbed and cleaned the burn, dressed it with an ointment and a bandage, and instructed the family to clean and dress it once a day. Captain Gill said the boy's grandfather brought him in two days later, and with the family following their instructions, the wound looked much better.

The two also treated a 74-year-old man who had an ulcer on his leg from poor circulation. The lack of blood supply to the tissue created an open wound he'd had for five or six months, Captain Gill said. They cleaned the sore, wrapped it with enough pressure to increase blood flow and referred him to the local clinic for daily dressing changes for 10 months.

"The people here are very appreciative," Major Oliver-Kelley said as she commented on the Nicaraguans' tendency to give hugs of thanks and bring baked goods or other tokens of appreciation. "This kind of work is very rewarding."

Socorro Martinez, a Nicaraguan woman bound to a wheelchair, gave her thanks in streams of Spanish blessings through intermittent groans of pain. She suffers from major body aches, earaches and bloody urination, none of which she hasn't seen a doctor for until the MEDRETE.

Through translation, she said she hopes God blesses the troops and she's very thankful they are here.

This group of MEDRETE Airmen had two-person pediatric, gynecological and internal medicine teams, a six-person general medicine team, and four-person optometry and dental teams. Some of this group's medics were from Moody AFB, Ga.; Minot AFB, N.D.; Dyess AFB, Texas; and Langley AFB, Va.

In conjunction with the MEDRETE, a three-person veterinary team from the California Army National Guard's 109th Medical Detachment in Stanton, Calif., vaccinated 3,372 animals for more than 270 farmers throughout 10 communities in the Carazo district. They also administered parasite treatments and vitamin supplements.

The next MEDRETE is scheduled for March 5 through 15, and it will be carried out by 32 servicemembers from the Wisconsin Army National Guard's 13th Medical Command. Another VETRETE will take place simultaneously.

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