PENDLETON - Two local doctors and five members of Cornerstone Community Church recently spent two weeks in Ecuador, primarily treating people who suffered from poor nutrition.
The group helped run two medical clinics during its mission trip late last month.
The team was made up of Dr. Mark Yeske, a podiatrist, and Dr. Frank Szumski, a family practice physician, along with church members Lori Johnson, who was team leader and works in Yeske's office, DeeDee Jones, who works in dentist Dr. Don Harsch's office, and Szumski's daughter, Summer. The Rev. Arron Swenson and his son, Nels, also went.
The clinics were in Ecuador's capital city of Quito in the north-central part of the country and in Esmeraldas, a small town on the northwest coast. Doctors and group members saw around 1,600 patients during their two-week stay, some of whom traveled eight or nine hours to get there.
"The people just lined up," Johnson said. "They don't often get to see a medical team with American doctors. It was just wonderful."
The most common problems the doctors and medical team saw were people with poor nutrition and the resulting stomach problems. Another issue with the poor nutrition was worms, which attack the intestines and cause stomach problems, Johnson said.
"We also saw a lot of people with depression, especially women, which we hadn't really expected to see," Johnson added, noting that the country has quite a bit of domestic violence, which spurs the depression. Missionaries from local churches in each of the cities provided counseling services for the women, she added.
Johnson noted that the common medical conditions changed between the two cities.
"It's a completely different climate and geography from one part of the country to another," Johnson said. "It goes from sea-level to 12,000 feet up in the mountains."
She said that in Esmeraldas, arthritis was a big problem for residents from years of hand-washing their clothes and carrying items around.
The people of Ecuador could "probably be self-sufficient as far as their natural resources" go, Johnson said, because of their wide-range of climate and geographics. "They can grow just about anything."
It wasn't all work and no play for the Pendleton team during their stay in the south American country that's about the size of Colorado. They took a trip to the equator, and spent a half a day each at the ocean and in the Andes Mountains, Johnson said.
The trip cost each team member about $1,800, Johnson said. St. Anthony Hospital donated numerous medical supplies, as did Yellowhawk Tribal Health Center in Mission, as well as Yeske's and Szumski's offices. Each person paid a portion of their costs to travel to Ecuador, and the remainder was subsidized by the Cornerstone Community Church.