Mission trip just what doctor ordered

Doug Boock
Bethany VanDeVelde checks a native’s lungs during a recent mission trip to El Salvador. VanDeVelde, a medical student, returned with a desire to do more mission work in the future.

Yanking bugs from kids’ ears, treating urinary tract infections and looking at poor teeth doesn’t sound like a great way to spend a week away.

But that’s how Bethany VanDeVelde spent seven days recently. Her thoughts?

“I will definitely do it again,” she said.

VanDeVelde, a Galva native, spent May 17-24 in El Salvador, San Salvador. She and 18 fellow first-year Physician Assistant students of Midwestern University in Downer’s Grove, Ill., went there to provide medical treatment to people of that impoverished Central American area. They served over 500 people suffering from a variety of maladies.

“Most common conditions we saw were parasitic infections (due to bad water); high blood pressure; diabetes; obesity; ear infections or foreign bodies (bugs) in the ears; gripe, which is their word for a cold or flu; urinary tract infections; kidney infections; eye infections; headaches; arthritis; breathing problems, allergies and poor dentition,” said VanDeVelde, 24.

“We had drugs to treat most of these conditions and if a situation arose that needed more specific attention, we provided the person money to catch a bus into the capital to go to the hospital (about 90 minutes away).”

VanDeVelde took the El Salvador opportunity to do something she’d always wanted to.

“We decided to go to San Salvador because a group of PA students went last year,” said the daughter of Tim and Becky VanDeVelde. “We are hoping this can be a tradition for the PA classes in the future as it is great experience before we start our clinical rotations as second-year students.

“I personally wanted to go because I have always wanted to do mission work and never had before. And now that I have done mission work, I will definitely do it again.”

“This mission trip is the most humbling thing I have ever done and I have much compassion for the people,” she added. “Some people there live in pain with headaches and urinary tract infections and ear infections and they did not complain to us but merely stated they were uncomfortable. They were just so appreciative that we were there.”