Our First Year in Mexico… Five Things We Wish We Would Have Known

We can’t believe it’s been one year since we loaded the U-Haul and moved as medical missionaries to Mexico. Looking back on our first year, here are five things we wish we would have known before embarking on this journey:

1. That we would acquire new skills they never taught us in medical school

Since arriving last August, we’ve found ourselves researching how to treat infected donkey bites and wounds inflicted by tigers. We’ve struggled at 3 AM to mix IV fluids and learned via trial and error how to run our own labs and x-rays.

2. That the needs would at times feel overwhelming

Though we both grew up in Latin America, our family still faces the challenges of learning the Tarahumara language and navigating this unique indigenous culture. The sheer amount of death, disease, and extreme poverty can be overwhelming. Instead of just looking to the need, we’ve learned to look for God for provision and direction as we care for our patients.

3. That our relationships with co-workers would look different

We’ve learned the value of slowing down for a coffee break at the hospital to chat with our Mexican and Tarahumara colleagues, who are now our closest friends. We love attending their birthday parties, we borrow their eggs and avocados when ours run out, and we’ve walked through various joys and trials with them.

4. That our fashion sense wouldn’t improve but likely deteriorate

This has actually been a big space-saving bonus! Living in the isolated Copper Canyon, our previously overflowing closets have shrunk down to just a few old t-shirts and scrubs. There are definite negatives though. Willy recently asked if he could wear a Tarahumara loin cloth to a presentation we were giving in the States (thankfully, that idea got shot down before it was too late!)

5. That we would be forever changed

Over the past year, we’ve learned to be a little less upset when our plans are thwarted by power outages, when the town store only has moldy tomatoes, or when the pharmacy runs out of the last bottle of Amoxicillin. We’ve had to come face-to-face with our own weaknesses, our inadequacies and our often-flawed worldview. Above all, we’ve learned to depend more on God through every new challenge and can truly attest to His faithfulness over the past year.

Samaritan’s Purse Cataract Outreach

The day after her surgery, a Tarahumara woman who had cataracts removed from both eyes enjoys shucking corn in her home

Last week, we had the opportunity to host an ophthalmology team from Samaritan’s Purse for a cataract outreach. Over the course of 6 days, 250 patients were screened and treated for eye disease, more than 80 cataract surgeries were performed, 2,500 meals were served, and countless hours of service were provided by volunteers and hospital staff. Our Tarahumara friends who could have never afforded surgery are seeing again for the first time in years. Because of this outreach, hundreds of people had the opportunity to hear about the Good News of Jesus Christ.

The New Butterfly Ultrasound in Action- Thank You!

Thanks to your support, we were able to purchase a portable ultrasound called the Butterfly IQ which attaches to an I-Pad or I-Phone. This is enormously beneficial in diagnosing a variety of conditions in the village setting, and was recently helpful in detecting a baby with life-threatening heart disease (see below.) 

Jessee and her assistant Ceci using ultrasound to evaluate a baby for heart disease

In July, a 4-month-old Tarahumara baby arrived to our emergency room in respiratory distress and was poorly responsive. His mother told us that he had developed labored breathing 2 weeks before. We grabbed a quick chest x-ray which showed a massively enlarged heart. The baby was in heart failure- likely due to a serious condition called viral myocarditis.

The baby’s chest x-ray

Using the Butterfly ultrasound, we confirmed that the patient’s heart was dangerously dilated and contracting poorly. Our staff coordinated an emergent transfer to the capital city ICU, where the baby was evaluated by cardiology and found to have diminished cardiac function of only 20%. In cases of children with viral myocarditis, up to 20% may require heart transplantation. We thank God for the baby’s arrival to our mission hospital, as he would have likely died at home without medical care.       

After spending a month in the ICU, the baby was discharged and saw Jessee here at our clinic. The mother, who mainly speaks Tarahumara and had never attended school, had been given three high-risk heart medications to crush and calculate dosages for her baby. Our hospital staff prepared the medications in a safe way, labeling them with symbols and colors that the mother could easily understand. Because the family has very limited resources, Hospital Misión Tarahumara is providing assistance with bus tickets, lodging, and a patient care coordinator to help the baby follow-up with a cardiologist in the future. We appreciate your prayers for this baby’s continued recovery.

Perhaps the most important lesson we’ve learned on the mission field is that it takes a team of people working together to provide sick children with medical services, social support, and the opportunity to hear about God’s love for them. You are a vital part of our team- thank you for your support and prayers that enable us to provide care for the Tarahumara people.

Nateteraba! (Thank you!)
The Bustinzas

We’d like to thank David Uttley for the beautiful photos in this blog post.

4 thoughts on “Our First Year in Mexico… Five Things We Wish We Would Have Known

  1. Amazing work you all are doing! There are many great things in the world, and you are fine examples of that.
    Cindi Harding MS, CRNA,CNS


  2. I love reading your blog and see pictures of Samachique and HMT!! You guys are such a blessing and answer to prayer to that community. Holding you guys up in prayer!


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