People Caring for People Across the Globe: Honduras

Martin’s Point Nurse Finds Joy Amidst Hardship in Honduras

Bernadette Fox, R.N., had never been out of the United States when she signed up to go to Honduras on a medical mission. She didn’t speak Spanish. And her attempt to make the trip in 2018 was crushed when violence at the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa forced organizers to cancel. None of this made her hesitate.

“I didn’t think twice,” said Bernadette, a Care Coordinator at the Martin’s Point Health Care Center in Portland. Now that her own children are adults, she has time and ability to give back. So when her niece and sister-in-law asked her to join them for a week with Carolina Honduras Health Foundation, she was all in.

“I’ve always wanted to do work where it’s needed,” says Bernadette, who covered her own airfare, lodging and meals to make this happen.

585 patients in under five days

CHHF regularly sends teams to Honduras to staff a medical clinic in Limon and provide care at a tiny, remote clinic, 4.5 hours away. Many Hondurans live hours from health care, and travel dirt roads on foot or by bus. Few have proper shoes.

Bernadette’s team included two nurses, two pharmacists, a retired teacher/EMT, and two Spanish-speaking doctors from Honduras. In four and half days, the CHHF team helped 585 patients, dispensed 2,542 prescriptions, referred six patients to hospitals, and performed one surgery. They also handed out 159 pairs of reading glasses, 58 pair of flip flops, and scads of crayons.

The heat was intense – and so were the mosquitoes. Because of concern of Dengue fever, Zika virus, and other mosquito-borne illnesses, clinic windows and doors are closed tight at sundown, trapping stifling air inside. The team slept under netting they’d brought from home – Bernadette left hers behind with a grandfather who worried about his infant grandchild’s vulnerability to mosquitoes.

On the way to far-flung hamlets, the team passed through military checks points. “Fatigues, guns, the works,” says Bernadette. Even the crudest homes were surrounded by fences – sometimes with barbed wire or broken glass – to thwart theft.

From coordinating care to providing care

In Honduras, Bernadette’s work was very different from her role in Portland, which involves coordinating care for patients with diabetes, COPD, heart disease, and other conditions and helping them manage their health. In Limon, it was “old-fashioned, hands-on, down in the dirt nursing,” as she says. “Someone comes in with a problem and you rely on all your knowledge and skills to solve it.”

She performed pregnancy tests, administered IVs, calculated insulin, and cared for a young woman with Dengue fever. The “lab” was a table with a few supplies and bare bones equipment. The blood pressure cuff was one-size-fits-all. (“I’m used to having three options – it helps you get the most accurate reading,” explained Bernadette.) They communicated by relying on the two docs, both native speakers, and a translator.

Bright spots every day

A local housekeeper kept the team well fed. “Fresh fruit at every meal – and the most delicious breakfast I’ve ever had – tortillas, refried beans, eggs, salsa and cheese,” Bernadette recalls. Local coffee, pure vanilla, and coconut candies were also specialties. 

But the people she met made the biggest impression. “The children are so joyful – even though they have next to nothing,” explains Bernadette. “Getting six broken crayons in a Ziploc bag or an Oreo cookie is like Christmas to them. I kept saying ‘no habla espanol,’ but the kids swarm to us like flies.”

Bernadette particularly connected with a 12-year-old girl called Marianetta. “She saw my stethoscope and pointed to her heart. I put the instrument to her ears – and her face just lit up.” For the rest of the day, she was at Bernadette’s side. “I saw a lot of kids, but there was a special connection with her.”

Before she left, Bernadette asked an interpreter to give Marianetta a message of hope. “Tell her I want to come back and hear that she’s happy and she’s a nurse or a teacher.”

Giving – and getting back

A giving person by nature, Bernadette has volunteered in many capacities, reading to school children, visiting nursing homes, joining coastal clean ups with other Martin’s Pointers. This experience was for sure the most powerful.

“I’ve always felt you have to understand the journey that the other person is taking,” she says. “But now I can see that it’s even more important. I’m more aware and empathetic. You never know what the other person doesn’t know. You have to meet them where they are.”

Bernadette encourages others to the experience a try.

“If you’re thinking about something like this, do it. You won’t regret it.”

Making Wishes Comes True for Maine Youngsters

You know us as providers of great health care. You may not know we’re also big fans of healthy communities. At Martin’s Point, it’s a priority to make it easy for our employees to connect to the people that call Maine and New Hampshire home and help make our hometowns better for all who live here. 

One way we do this is by teaming up with Make-A-Wish® Maine. Since we became partners in 2006, Martin’s Point has donated $57,500 to help Make-A-Wish grant wishes for five Maine children living with critical illnesses. Financial support helped make some special dreams come true – dreams like visiting Disney World and going on a dig for dinosaur bones. Now the next phase is about getting more employees directly involved.

Behind the magic

One thing that helps us do just that is a special benefit Martin’s Point provides to employees: volunteer-time-off. Each year, our employees get 24 hours of time off with pay to they can use for the great good of their local communities. Then we help teams and individuals get involved, by connecting them with a variety of opportunities to give back throughout the year.

In June, for example, 25 Martin’s Point employees and Make-A-Wish Maine helped a local family and their son share a remarkable day. The event began at Funtown Splashtown USA, and included a tour of the local fire station, a fire truck escort home, and then one final surprise: a new backyard play area, complete with protective fencing, wooden play house, and a digging toy.

Our team pitched in to plan the day and greet the family with signs, balloons and ice cream sundaes – with happy results. After a moment of surprise and shyness, one preschooler was thrilled to be able to play outside more safely.

Everyone wins

“This particular wish hit home for me, because it took place in my hometown,” said Katie Piantoni, a marketing specialist at Martin’s Point who took an active role in our June event. “I feel blessed to be able to use some of my volunteer time to put a smile on a little boy’s face. It’s wonderful working for an organization that values employee volunteerism and allows us time to give back to our communities.”

Martin’s Point employees have also used their volunteer time to help young students practice reading, share conversation with isolated seniors, fight food insecurity at local food pantries, and more.

Whatever the circumstances or cause, these efforts really do make difference. As Rebekah Roy from Make-A-Wish Maine says: “Everyone involved in fulfilling the wish of a child battling a critical illness is touched by the magic of the experience. Magic that brings hope, strength and joy to children and their families during a difficult time.”

The new fenced play yard is just one of more than 1,500 granted by Make-A-Wish Maine since 1993.

To learn more about Make-A-Wish Maine, visit their website at maine.wish.org.

Video: Martin’s Point in the Community |
Maine High School Athletics

 

The 107th Annual Thanksgiving Day Game between Deering High School and Portland High School takes place Thursday, November 22nd at 10:30 am at Deering High School’s Memorial Stadium. We’re proud to say that the volunteer Team Physician for each team is a Physician at Martin’s Point Health Care. In this video, Dr. John Colianni, Team Physician for Deering High School, shares what that role means to him.

Video: Martin’s Point in the Community |
Riding to the Top Therapeutic Riding Center

Martin’s Point’s Terry Keough volunteers her time at a very special place. Located in Windham, Maine, Riding To The Top Therapeutic Riding Center is a non-profit dedicated to helping people with disabilities reach their highest potential through the healing power of horses. At RTT, children and adults with disabilities work together with horses, volunteers and staff to overcome challenges and reach their highest potential.

Martin’s Point Health Care makes an impact on Riding To The Top programs

Donation and employee volunteer time support equine-assisted activists and therapies.

Martin’s Point Health Care recently contributed $1,000 to support Riding To the Top’s summer programs, but a group of employees wanted to do more! So nine members of the Martin’s Point Health Care marketing team signed up to do “whatever is needed” and found themselves directed to the horse paddocks.

Executive Director, Sarah Bronson, noted “In order to offer our services we need happy and healthy horses. Keeping their living spaces clean is vital to their health—and with a herd of 18, there is constantly work to be done!” According to Bronson, community volunteers and corporate work groups donated nearly 12,000 hours last year, working in lessons, caring for horses and maintaining the facilities.

Russ Phillips, Martin’s Point Manager of Marketing and Community Engagement, added, “Our group really enjoyed seeing Riding To The Top staff in action working with a client rider. It brought home the value of this organization’s work in our community and we left knowing our volunteer efforts were supporting a great cause.”

About Riding to the Top

Riding To The Top Therapeutic Riding Center (RTT) was founded in 1993.  Our mission is enhancing health and wellness through equine assisted activities and therapies. Located just west of Portland in Windham, Maine, RTT is the state’s only year round PATH Intl. accredited center (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International) solely dedicated to Equine Assisted Activities and Therapies. More than 250 clients visit annually, assisted by certified instructors, a herd of 18 horses and over 160 volunteers, all specially trained to assist with therapeutic riding, carriage driving and hippotherapy. Riding To The Top is a community-based nonprofit, receives no federal or state funding and provides scholarships to over 60% of its clients.  For more information about client services, volunteering, or making a gift, please visit us at www.ridingtothetop.org or call 892-2813.

Happy Trails…Thanks to Martin’s Point Volunteers

Molly Mendola, Patient Services Representative, knows the importance of maintaining, cleaning and building up local trails. So when she had the opportunity to volunteer at the Walton Park Trail in Falmouth, she took it.

“I love that I work for an organization that promotes volunteering while taking care of the community,” said Molly. “It was an awesome experience. The whole project was very rewarding and provided us all with instant gratification. It was a great way to meet other Martin’s Point employees!

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Martin’s Point is proud to partner with Portland Trails and their Adopt-A-Trail Program

More than 20 employees volunteered for Portland Trails, spending their time raking, laying crushed rock, spreading mulch, setting up trail barriers and removing trash. Not only did our volunteers get in some healthy activity, but they left the trail in shape for others to enjoy.

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Martin’s Point volunteers at work

Why Does Martin’s Point support trails?

Trails are an important resource in Greater Portland. They connect individuals with nature, but also to businesses, neighborhoods, schools, and destinations. In conjunction with streets, sidewalks, and public spaces, trails are part of a healthy, walkable community. A trail network supports active lifestyles, enhances the livability of the community, and strengthens the regional economy by serving as an amenity for residents and property owners.

To learn more about Portland Trails visit their website.