MUNSTER | Plagued by long, hot days with seemingly endless lines of patients, a Munster ophthalmologist who went on a medical brigade to Honduras said he was engaged in "front-line medicine" there.
Dr. Jonathan Buka, of Eye Specialists Center in Munster and affiliated with The Community Hospital, joined his son, Zakk Tritsch, on the trip as part of Indiana University's chapter of Global Brigades, a student-led global health and sustainable development organization.
Buka, a Schererville resident, said he wanted to set a good example for his four children by giving back to those in need.
The group of 45, including doctors and IU students, set up in the Nuevo Paraiso orphanage. The residents in that rural area rely on groups from Global Brigades to arrive every few months and provide health care, Buka said.
Some patients walked five to 10 miles in the 85-degree heat for an exam. Some were in their 80s and 90s. During the six-day visit, the doctors with Global Brigades met with more than 800 patients.
"It's really a very special experience where you can make a difference in people's lives," he said.
For the trip, each person packed one suitcase with personal items and a second with medical supplies.
Some of the students spoke fluent Spanish and served as interpreters, including Tritsch. The students worked in the dental clinic and in the pharmacy.
Although he works as an eye surgeon at his Chicago-area offices, Buka served as a primary care doctor on the Honduras trip. Most of the care involved managing high blood pressure and diabetes, but the biggest problem were parasites, which people consume in their drinking water.
"Parasites in the U.S. are rare," he said. "There, the water systems are all contaminated. Almost every patient had to get anti-parasitic medicine."
As part of the weeklong visit, the group did its part to improve the water quality. It dug ditches for PVC piping to provide a chlorinated water system to the community, he said.
"Me and my son were out there digging ditches, to help break the cycle," he said.
The next group from Global Brigades will pick up where this group left off.
Despite the heat, the crowded accommodations and a scorpion in the shower, Buka said he was impressed that no one in the group complained.
The area has a lot of crime, so two men armed with M-16s accompanied the group wherever it went. Its bus got stuck in a divot on a dirt road, going up the side of a mountain that had no guardrail.
"Nobody complained," he said.