Day One: Santo Domingo to La Romana
The MGH Institute/Boston Medical Center team gathered at Logan airport in Boston on Friday night for a JetBlue flight to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. In an early example of successful collaboration, several students removed, repacked, and reweighed a suitcase so it came in just four-tenths of a pound under the 50-pound limit. When we reached the gate, we realized that we would share the flight with another team of volunteers from Massachusetts General Hospital. In this case, they were a group of two nurse practitioners, registered nurses, administrators, and friends from Lunder 10, an oncology unit. As soon as introductions ended, we joked about planning a reunion on the MGH shuttle when we all returned to Boston. The flight arrived after 3:00 am in the Dominican Republic, and a representative from Casa Pastoral, our home base for the week, met us at the airport. A yellow school bus drove us another two hours to La Romana. We drowsily filed into our dorms, unloaded our suitcases, and went to sleep until daylight.
When we awoke, we came down to the dining hall and took in our surroundings. Casa Pastoral houses missionary groups from around the United States. The staff provides meals, transportation services, and interpreters. The building even has a phone with a U.S. area code for free outgoing calls.
Along with the other MGH team, we spent part of Saturday sorting medications for distribution during the week. The team members who travel to the bateyes during the week expect to see many patients with high blood pressure, fungal infections, and diabetes but need to be prepared for all cases. In the evening, we joined the team from MGH and a large contingent of undergraduate students from Quinnipiac University at a home game of the La Romana Toros baseball team. Although the scoreboard was in English and many of the players had connections to Major League teams, no Fenway fan celebrates with drums and bachata dancing in the aisles. When we left after 10:00 pm and in the eighth inning, the Toros were up 1 to 0. It's testament to how comfortable we feel in La Romana that we were already rooting for the home team as if we had lived here for years.