Thursday, October 17, 2013
Georgetown County, S.C. — Six local residents, including two couples, recently joined a team of 34 doctors, dentists, nurses and volunteers on a mission trip to San Pedro, Guatemala.
The locals who participated are Ed and Luciann Slomkowski, Phillip and Rita Tallmadge, and Dr. Sean Murphy, all members of Precious Blood of Christ Catholic Church in Pawleys Island; and Barbara Mathis, a member of St. Mary Our Lady of Ransom Catholic Church in Georgetown.
Organized by the Catholic Diocese in Charleston, this bi-annual trip to a year-round Catholic clinic in LaLaguna in San Pedro provides basic medical and dental care for the Mayan people who live on the foothills of dormant volcanoes. The latest trip was from Sept. 22 to 29.
“It was a wonderful experience. I never thought I would be able to do something like this,” said Luciann Slomkowski.
“It is a beautiful country and culture and the people are very family oriented.”
She said the mission team was greeted with songs and a skit that paid tribute to the visitors.
Children dressed up and carried luggage and backpacks, mimicking the team as they arrived in San Pedro.
Phillip Tallmadge said that the community is on a mountainside, 5,500 feet above sea level.
“The mountains seem to shoot up, straight out of a beautiful lake.”
He said it was a very special trip that helped a lot of people.
“It is amazing what 34 people from all different walks of life can accomplish in the highlands of Guatemala,” Tallmadge said.
He and Ed Slomkowski worked together to help people find eye glasses that worked for them.
“It seemed like most of the women had trouble seeing close up and most of the men had trouble seeing at a distance,” Tallmadge said.
“They all would have liked sunglasses and they all wanted drops in their eyes.”
He said since the community does not have electricity, cooking on wood fired stoves causes a lot of smoke, which causes eye irritation.
Dr. Murphy of Murrells Inlet, a nephrologist who works with Waccamaw Kidney and Hypertension Specialists in Georgetown County, was one of three doctors for the mission.
“I went on this mission trip to help provide medical services, learn about the people of Guatemala, and to enrich my faith,” Dr. Murphy said.
He said since people don't have access to basic healthcare, these trips are very important for them.
Rita Tallmadge, who served as a nurse on the trip, said the most common ailments were gastric problems because of parasites in the water and respiratory problems because of the wood burning stoves.
“We mostly treated people for nausea and weight loss,” said Mathis of Pawleys Island, who served as a nurse for Dr. Tom Joseph of Camden, S.C., a pediatrician. “We also saw a lot of children with poor teeth.”
She said this is because the children eat a lot of candy and they rarely have water with fluoride.
The doctors provided fluoride for children who had adult teeth. They also provided vitamins. Translators helped bridge the language barrier.
For more information about future mission trips through the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston, visit www.sccatholic.org.