‘Flying doctors’ make their mark in Mexico
When three Truckee women left for a rural Mexican village almost two and a half months ago as part of “Los Medicos Voladores” (The Flying Doctors), none of them knew quite what to expect.
What they found was a desperate population in need of medical and dental care, and countless opportunities to help make a difference.
For three days, local dentist Leslie Joseph, dental assistant Gail Blair and Truckee Elementary teacher Esther Bousquet, who served as the group’s translator, volunteered their time and dental services to the people of Zorillo – a small town in Baja, Mexico.
This was the trio’s first trip with Los Medicos Voladores, a local group that flies teams of much-needed medical supplies, physicians and other healthcare providers into Mexico.
Every other month, The Flying Doctors send groups to a different small village in Mexico to set up medical and dental clinics for a weekend.
“The trip began we hopped aboard a Cessna with our wonderful pilot Dan Hale from Reno,” Joseph said. “We each got a turn as co-pilot, too, which was fun. We had a perfect flight down to Mexico.”
Upon landing at the military airport in Ensenada, the group was a little shocked by the federali welcoming committee, complete with assault rifles.
“They were very friendly after they learned of the purpose of our visit,” Blair said.
The group then headed south to Zorillo, where they set up a makeshift clinic in an old church.
“It was very primitive to say the least – needing a lot of cleaning and organizing – but we made the best of what we had,” Joseph said.
For the first day, the women treated about 16 children from the local orphanage. The children ranged in age from babies to young teenagers.
“We pulled a lot of teeth,” Joseph said. “Every child had cavities and we had a limited amount of time, so often we had to find the worst tooth to work on and that was all we could do.”
Despite the uncomfortable procedures, Blair said the children made great patients.
“They just sat there, perfectly still and quiet in the chair,” she said.
The group spent the second day treating the adults in the community. On the last day, they met up with another medical relief group for some R-and-R before heading home.
While Los Medicos Voladores is partially funded through various local fundraisers and donations, volunteers have to pay out-of-pocket for food, hotel and fuel for the flight.
“We each ended up paying about $400, but it was worth it,” Joseph said. “I would definitely do it again.”
According to Blair, the greatest part of the journey was being able to eliminate some of their patients’ physical pain and suffering.
“Even if we just helped them enough so that they could make it through until the next crew of volunteers arrives, I feel that we did something,” she said. “It was also great to spend time with the children, especially since they don’t get very much individualized attention with 31 kids at the orphanage and three caretakers.”
On one of the days, the group went and bought balls at the local dollar mart to give to the children – an instant crowd-pleaser.
“When Esther goes back this summer, she’s going to bring them more supplies and items that they need,” Blair said. “The kids need everything. They had holes in their shoes. If anyone is interested in donating anything, please let us know.”
She also noted that the Los Medicos Voladores is always in need of supplies, health care providers and pilots.
The main thing that really struck the women was the tremendous optimism of the children, despite their sordid living conditions.
“Even though these kids have absolutely nothing, they were extremely happy, and very, very appreciative of everything that we did for them,” Blair said. “We just fell in love them. It was hard not to want to take them home.
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