Un-Belizeable! That is the best way to describe the North Belize Medical Mission team that I have been a part of for the past five years. In 2003, my mother, a nurse practitioner, was invited to be part of a team providing care to the villages of northern Belize around the town of Corozal. So I went with her, along with my sister, an ’08 Aggie graduate in psychology. We began spending the 2nd week of July providing medical, dental and eye care to over a thousand Belizeans every summer.
Tyler Eads and his mother, Shawna Eads, with a family at Corozal Clinic.
As a freshman at Mays Business School, I enrolled in the BUSN 289 Integrated Work-Life Competencies course with Dr. Roemer Visser as my professor. In this class, students are put into teams that are challenged to raise money for the organization of their choice. I thought getting my class team, Team Corozal, to support North Belize Medical Missions was a great way to tie in Mays Business School with a third world country in need of help. After fundraisers, solicitations to local dentist offices, and the donation of an RX medical mission pack from Johnson & Johnson, Team Corozal had raised over $5,000 dollars for North Belize Medical Missions. It was awesome to directly see the donations being distributed out to the needy Belizean families. I greatly respect Mays Business School for its desire to not only reach out to support local organizations but to support a team of students in its desire to make a difference in the world.
North Belize Medical Missions is a mission based out of the Central Church of Christ in Bryan, Texas. This year, our team of 33 people came together from all over the state of Texas, with a few from Indiana. We accomplished the enormous task of treating 1,452 Belizeans in just five days. Every Belizean we saw at the clinic received medical checkups along with eye and dental exams. Prescription lenses and sunglasses were distributed. Many rotten teeth were pulled. In the end, our pharmacist from San Angelo distributed 4,913 prescriptions that included vitamins, worm medicine, antibiotics and Tylenol, along with medication for high blood pressure and diabetes. Many of the medications distributed came from the donations Team Corozal (Mays Business School students) obtained.
Tyler leading a Belizean family through the clinic in the village of San Narciso.
When I first began participating in this program at the age of 13, my duty was to weigh and measure each patient before sending them to triage. Eventually, I progressed to triage where blood pressure, pulse, temperature and medical histories are taken. This year I took over my sister’s role of coordinator of care. My multi-tasking skills were definitely tested as I moved each family from triage to the medical station, eye clinic, dentist (if they needed a tooth pulled), and on to the pharmacist — all inside of a hurricane shelter. Because many Belizeans only speak Spanish, I often caught them chuckling at my “hick” Spanish as I attempted to communicate.
One story that has really impacted me is that of a workingman named Norberto who lost part of his leg after he was hit by a drunk driver. When our team first came in contact with him, we arranged for him travel back to the United States to be fitted for a prosthesis. After receiving his prosthetic leg and returning to Belize, he returned to our clinic every year to see our team. Unfortunately the prosthetic foot deteriorated and turned to powder. He had to continue to work in the papaya fields to provide for his large family, so Norberto got creative and used the top of a butter carton as a replacement foot in order to prevent his peg leg from sinking in the mud. When you see a man not promoting Adidas or Nike shoes but Land O’Lakes margarine, it really opens your eyes to how lucky we are to have the life we take for granted.
In Belize, Tyler is not a common name and therefore stands out. Most of the kids cannot pronounce my name and instead call me “Tiger.” On my first trip to Belize I was weighing and measuring the patients when I noticed this young woman’s son was also named Tyler. I told her I had to take a picture with her son in order to have proof that another Tyler lives in Belize. Five years later I have not missed my annual photo op with this young boy. His mother informed my mom that she was not going to come to the clinic this past trip because the ride on her bike was too far, but she wanted Tyler and I to take our annual picture. They made the trip. It’s people like this that motivate me to always find a way to go back year after year. I know we are touching lives, and that is an amazing feeling.