Beginings of a New Referral System


Beginnings of a New Referral System

Brittany Estok, 04/14/2010

Every year Global Medical Brigades continues to expand by bringing thousands of volunteers that see and treat tens of thousands of patients. Not only is GMB expanding in numbers, but we are also increasing the quality of care provided.  One way we are working to do this is through developing a more effective referral system meant to increase our commitment to our patients.  Recently, GMB did just that.

This past winter season a doctor from UCLA saw a little boy named Elieser who had an enlarged head and limited motor skills.  The doctor suspected hydrocephalus, a condition where an excess of cerebrospinal fluid builds up in the brain causing enlargement of the head and mental damage. This is a condition that can be helped though surgery where a shunt and catheter is placed in the brain to drain the excess fluid into the abdomen. In the States, hydrocephalus is more common than Down’s syndrome and detection and treatment are easily obtained.  In a developing country like Honduras, taking care of a child with hydrocephalus is much more complicated as most people do not have enough money for transportation to a hospital let alone for numerous doctor visits, tests and surgeries. This case gives a clear picture of poverty’s effects on the well-being of disabled patients.

With the help of the UCLA doctor and Global Medical Brigades Director, Dr. Jenny Najera, Elieser was taken to see a neurologist where a CT scan confirmed the diagnosis of hydrocephalus.  In addition he saw a pediatrician who put him on a dietary regimen to increase his nutritive status to undergo the surgery. For the next month routine visits were made to track his growth. A child development psychologist from the University of Virginia went to visit Elieser before his surgery.  Even though he was three years old his development was diagnosed at the stage of a two to four month old baby. The psychologist pre-prepared materials and taught his mom a few exercises to help Elieser with his physical and mental growth. He recently had the shunt surgery and is currently making a smooth recovery with continual follow-up visits to note his progress.

This is an example of the care that Global Medical Brigades wants to continue. To ensure this, we are working to incorporate services provided by the Honduran medical system as well as utilizing specialized resources from the States.

However, this new system will not be able to run without the help of individuals committed to providing further care like the doctor from UCLA and the child developmental psychologist from UVA. Because of them, a child who probably would not have made it to his fifth birthday will live. This is just the beginning of the referral system we plan to develop; one that has efficacy and affects the lives of the people in greatest need.

Brittany Estok is a Medical Brigades Coordinator with GB, living and working in Honduras. To contact her about GMB or the Referral System email her at
Her favorite food is mint chocolate chip ice cream




One thought on “Beginings of a New Referral System

  1. This is such an important part of what GB is all about. Many patients are seen on medical brigades who need more than what we can offer (whether a test, surgery, etc.) In the future, we hope to increase our commitment from the initial consult to planning and ensuring their referral is carried out. As you can imagine – this takes money. We want to provide the infrastructure and logistics on the ground to make this happen. However, hiring drivers, paying for gas, paying for the treatments, tests, and follow-up visits is impossible without your help. And the neat thing: treatments are so cheap here.

    I met a man recently who needed surgery for a large and painful hernia. Thankfully, in the public hospitals, they offer free surgeries. However, there are certain tests and materials that a patient is responsible for getting before they can receive surgery. I asked them man why he hadn’t gotten his surgery. “There is a chest test I must get that costs L300, and I don’t have it.” So here we are folks. With the equivalent of 16 U.S. dollars, a man could have been rid of this pain.

    Join us in this fight by donating to the referral system by emailing Medical brigades can even choose to sponsor referrals seen on the brigades they visit. You can even specify individual patients you want your donation to go to! Let’s together increase our effectiveness and commitment to our patients – sponsor a referral, and you just might save a life.

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