When Donna Moser was preparing to travel to Panama on a medical mission, she did typical things like study Spanish and gather supplies. But she also had to do something a little different.
“I had to prepare my heart for the experience,” she said.
Moser was one of a handful of people from Mesa’s Banner Baywood Medical Center to travel abroad this summer.
She went to Panama in May to set up temporary medical clinics in small villages and was joined by two others from the emergency department.
Dr. Kevin McCabe, a pathologist, spent a month in Kenya diagnosing diseases and was joined by Dr. Keith Braun, an orthopedic surgeon who works in Chandler.
Moser and McCabe both went in conjunction with religious efforts, and say their perspectives on medicine and faith were changed dramatically.
“These are God’s people, too, and they belong to him,” Moser said.
Moser of Apache Junction has worked at Banner Baywood as a microbiology lab coordinator for 20 years.
She attends East Valley Church of the Nazarene.
When she first heard about the trip through Nazarene Missions International, she wasn’t sure they would need her.
“Usually on medical missions, they want a doctor or a nurse,” she said. “But they’d never had a lab person, and I enabled the doctors to get some lab work done.”
At the end of May, Moser traveled 15 hours to arrive in Panama City, then drove to the outskirts to settle in Del Rio.
Each day, her team would travel by bus to a different village, usually an hour outside of Del Rio, to set up a one-day clinic in a house or a church.
Between 60 and 120 people would arrive throughout the day to be seen by the doctor, and the medical team kept scales, blood pressure cuffs, stethoscopes and medicine on hand to treat the patients’ problems.
The chief complaint, Moser said, was parasitic infections caused by bathing and drinking from the same water source.
“These people could not get medical care,” she said. “They were poverty stricken.”
Moser developed a love for the people in Panama, who she describes as “not standoffish at all.”
“They love to be touched, and to touch you, and Americans especially,” she said. “And it’s so easy to love them back.”
Moser said she plans to take a similar trip next year to Guatemala.
Kevin McCabe has been thinking about a medical mission for about 10 years, and this year finally was able to travel to Kenya to spend a month in a hospital there.
He went in conjunction with World Medical Mission, the medical branch of Samaritan’s Purse, a nondenominational Christian organization that provides aid around the world.
He attends Red Mountain Community Church in Mesa.
McCabe has worked as a pathologist for 17 years, nine of which were spent at Banner Baywood.
His trip to Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, took about a day and a half, and he and his wife and daughter packed medical materials such as paraffin, used for processing tissue, and a fetal heart monitor.
The Kijabe Hospital, about 60 miles northwest of Nairobi, has about 200 beds and was built about 40 years ago by Christian missionaries.
McCabe and his family stayed in the Pathology House, built by previous visiting pathologists.
The house had three levels, two bathrooms and a washer and dryer.
“We couldn’t complain,” he said.
His work at the hospital would usually start early in the morning, and he spent his time diagnosing biopsies and samples from 43 hospitals across Central Africa.
“A lot of what I saw there was cancer,” he said.
McCabe said the hospital had some cancer therapies available, but a larger one in Nairobi had the more advanced technology, such as radiation therapy, and more access to drugs.
“But a lot of these people couldn’t afford to go there, so they were basically sent home to die,” he said.
McCabe said he had to rely upon his years of experience to diagnose correctly, as the hospital lacked much of the technology available in the U.S.
“A novice would find it very tough,” he said. “But I was impressed by how much they were able to do, like advanced surgical techniques with limited resources.”
McCabe said he plans to travel to Africa again in two years, and continue to go on a regular basis.
“I hope I was able to facilitate the care of the patients there,” he said. “It strengthened my faith.”