LAKE PLACID — A mother waits outside a relief clinic with her severely dehydrated 3-month-old daughter; the woman has no money to pay for the medical care.Each year, a medical mission group coordinated out of St. Eustace Episcopal Church in Lake Placid visits the Dominican Republic to help those with medical needs. On this day, this infant, Ana Laura, was one patient.Dr. Pat Jolie of St. George's Episcopal Church in Clifton Park examined the baby and decided she needed to get to the hospital right away, said Robin Baxter, mission coordinator.At that facility, where missionaries noted beds lacking linens and patients waiting for care in hallways, Ana Laura was diagnosed with scabies. Her mother was told to clear up the condition and bring the infant back in three days.But missionary Sister Priscilla, one of three nuns taking part from the Sisters of the Transfiguration, an Episcopal order from Ohio, insisted Ana Laura needed to be treated for the more serious ailment — the dehydration — immediately, Baxter said.Ana Laura got treatment, and her condition improved.
The trip, from March 9 to 18, included 25 people from different areas, including Burnt Hills, near Albany; White River Junction, Vt.; and Duluth, Minn.; as well as the North Country.On the trip, which cost nearly $1,100 for each person, were five registered nurses, two medical doctors, a certified nurse practitioner, a pharmacist, a physical therapist and a part-time audiologist. Seven teenagers and two college students also took part.Deacon Blair Biddle, of St. Eustace Church, was the group's spiritual leader.Baxter, a registered nurse at Adirondack Medical Center, has gone eight out of the mission's nine years. Her mother, Alice Macnab, has taken part five times.Poverty, Macnab said, is the worst problem she sees in the Dominican Republic, while her daughter said it is waterborne illnesses.Mission member Paul Gutmann agreed with Baxter."The conditions are so bad," he said. "Everyone is sick all the time. They need to make available sources of clean water."
Since the first trip, it has been much harder to get through customs as the group arrives in the Dominican.Baxter has to send a list to officials there a month in advance with all medicine she's going to bring."You can't bring medicine that will expire in a year," she said.Hypertension medicine, Macnab said, is in high demand because of a high saline content in the water. The group is not allowed to give any pharmaceuticals that require follow-up.The group brought other much-needed supplies on the trip, including personal-care items that were provided, she said, by the women of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Keeseville."That's a wonderful part of the mission," Baxter said.
In the town of Buen Pastor, the missionaries had to carry equipment and supplies back and forth daily because of fear of theft, and no one ever went anywhere alone, Baxter said."We had a translator in every van," she said. We never left the hotel at night."The missionaries had been unsure if they were going to be accepted in the community of Gautier, as a previous medical mission had upset the locals. But things worked out fine for the St. Eustace group, Baxter said."I would say it was love at first sight," she said. "We worked well together."