Mission News and Breeding Updates

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We had a very successful week in the Dominican Republic. The mission base was located in a high mountain town called San Jose de Las Matas. Although the water supply was intermittent along with the electricity, the physical conditions were not as harsh as the desert area we were in last year, so all members of the team came back healthy. The terrain was lush and jungle like and amazingly free of bugs compared to last year. It did take a while to get used to the guards patrolling the compound with shotguns and machetes however.
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The people live simply. There is no running water or electricity in most of the town. There are no mail addresses and very few street names. I saw only one working traffic light in the whole town. These people live in the present, with little hope that tomorrow will be any different from today.

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The medical team travels around in a big yellow bus. Most of the roads are unpaved. There is no trash pickup and so debris and filth are everywhere. There was only one working toilet in the whole hospital, and that was also where the liquid medical waste of blood and body fluids went. Of course the toilet only flushed with gravity, by pouring water from a large garbage can into the bowl. The water came from a faucet that was locked in a closet with locks on the spigot. A special local official was in charge of the key. There was an XRay tech there that had an antiquated machine. He is paid 15 dollars per month. He has only done about 5 XRays in the last 3 years.

So the medical needs are tremendous and empty benches in the hospital are soon replaced by teaming numbers of people seeking help once they hear of our arrival.
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We did about 70 surgeries in 4 days of hard work, plus one day to set up the hospital and another to pack it up again. We lost no patients this year, although one had to be transported to a big city hospital to an ICU after complications of thyroid surgery required an emergency tracheostomy. Three in country hospitals had turned her down as too risky a surgery. The surgeons with me successfully did her operation. Post-op complications occurred mainly because she hadn’t been taking her required pre-op medications and she didn’t tell anyone. Two team members stayed with her overnight for two nights as we learned from last year that the local nursing care is non existent. At the end of the week we learned she was doing well and expected to make a full recovery.

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On a personal note, we did two successful emergency cesareans, and both mothers and babies did well. One delivery we completed by flashlight as the power went out in the middle of the case. The happy smiles of the new mom and dad helped me mentally balance out the lives lost on the prior mission trip.

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I have a new appreciation of the fine line between life and death down there but also realize that is the way of most of the world. And any success is one that wouldn’t have happened without our presence there.

There were personal rewards everyday and most were unexpected. Like the impromtu concert my son Brian put on in the street among the squalor. The team was gathered outside a small cantina at the end of the day, and a passing school student came along with a guitar. I asked if I could rent it for a short while and she cautiously agreed. By the end of a few songs we had a gathering of children surrounding us with beautiful smiles and amazed looks. That was definitely one of the highlights of the trip for my son who came along as an interpreter and helper.

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Of course we had to leave a little bit of American culture there when we left. All the children got goody bags filled with crayons, toothbrushes, and assorted small toys. The photo of these four kids says it all… God bless America!

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Be sure to click on the photo above to see the smiles on these young faces.

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Now back to life here in dogville. Sorry about the digression into areas far removed from the world of golden retrievers. But if I can inspire just one person to donate some time or funds into helping another during this Thanksgiving season, then the effort required to compose this post will be worth it.

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The disappointment continues here with our recent breeding attempts. Riley had an ultrasound yesterday and no puppies were seen. I will repeat the study in one week and if that does not show any life, then our attempts were unsuccessful. On a positive note, our five year old Emma just started her heat. The amazing sire from last year is available. Unfortunately her fertile time will place her needing insemination around Thanksgiving. Looks like I will be spending my holiday in the truck commuting back and forth to the Cape and the infertility vet. A small price to pay though if we can finally have a successful litter.


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