News | Published April 10, 2012

Mount Nittany providers travel to Nicaragua for 8-day mission trip

Driving in an old bus through narrow streets in country villages of Nicaragua, four Mount Nittany providers - Judy Pleskonko, RN, BSN; Kristie Kaufman, MD; Lester Griel, CRNP; Brian Newcomb, MD - traveled to clinics set up in schools to offer medical care along with other members of the mission team, organized by Grace Lutheran Church, State College.

The group provided healthcare services to over 600 people in the cities of Los Cedros and Jinotega - from March 3 - 11.

"As a physician at Mount Nittany, I treat patients most days of the week, but it is extremely rewarding to be able to use my skills to help people who rarely receive medical care," said Dr. Kaufman, whose trip to Nicaragua was her second mission experience. "My fourteen-year-old daughter, Kylie, came on the mission trip this year to help with the clinic and better understand the need for general care in certain areas of the world."

"We take for granted the medical care that is available in the United States," said Pleskonko, who has now completed three mission trips. "The people we saw were so happy for the little amount of care that we provided them."

A local nurse distributed tickets to the sickest members of each community to ensure they were seen in a timely manner, but the 18-member medical team made sure they saw everyone who wanted care. Each patient was given an overall health exam and was treated for any ailments, which mainly consisted of minor complaints like back pain and sore throats.

All patients were given vitamins and deworming pills in addition to the medical care. Other medication offered included antibiotics and ibuprofen to treat each patient's needs. Dr. Newcomb even went to homes to see patients who were unable to travel to a clinic. Areas in the clinics were designated for a laboratory and pharmacy.

"To be able to provide so many patients with just a little better health is extremely rewarding to me," said Griel of his second mission trip.

"On the last day, everyone who had received treatment came back to the clinic to say goodbye," said Pleskonko. "They were all kneeling outside praying for us to have a safe trip home and to come back soon. It was an amazing feeling and is certainly the best thing I've done for myself and others."