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Stanton ER doctor helps in Honduras
Canadian army prepares for Haiti-like situation

Miranda Scotland
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, May 31, 2012

They came in the hundreds, walking for miles and waiting patiently all day to see him and his colleagues, hoping they could help.

NNSL photo/graphic

Canadian Forces medical officer, Capt. Dwayne Coad, examines a young Honduras girl. Coad was in the country as part of a military exercise, which involved giving medical care to three communities in Honduras. - photo courtesy of Dwayne Coad

"We would be coming in on the bus and you would see little groups of families walking, they’d walk for you know an hour, an hour and half just because they knew that we were coming, just to be able to be seen," medical officer with the Canadian Forces, Capt. Dwayne Coad said of his mission to Honduras. "They're remarkable people."

In late April Coad traveled to the country as part of a military exercise in which the Canadian army worked along side the Americans and Colombians to provide dental, medical and health education services to local civilians in need. Over the course of two weeks the group helped thousands of people in three remote communities in the Honduran mountains. The team spent three or four days in each area.

Coad, who also works as an ER doctor at Stanton Territorial Hospital, said that being able to help the people was very rewarding. However, the main point of the exercise was to train the various armies to work together in a disaster-like scenario to provide medical care.

“What we are trying to do is to ensure we are able to embed ourselves easily and quickly into a multinational force so that when the times comes where something big happens like Haiti or something like that at least we have had some experience," Coad said.

"So it’s less about the individual, did we treat this person today and make them better? That’s a nice bonus, if we can help some people along the way.”

The team's days would start at 4 a.m, with them busing to a temporary facility, such as a school, located in an area chosen by the host country. Patients were allowed to visit either the dental, medical, public health or women's health units to receive care.

Coad said on the medical side the most common ailments he saw were headaches, arthritis, muscular complaints, backache and belly pain. What was interesting, he added, is that very few patients suffered from heart disease, which doctors often see in North Americans.

"We were screening people for diabetes and hypertension and hardly saw any of it," he said, attributing it to the Hondurans hardworking nature. “They are a very hearty people and all they do is work. They work in the fields with machetes and they start at a very young age, eight or nine years old.”

Coad said the other difference he experienced while working in Honduras was the lack of diagnostic equipment available to the team. It was difficult to diagnose people, he said, because all the team had was a glucometer, a blood pressure cuff and an urine dip stick. Luckily, they were able to point patients in the direction of a local doctor who could help people get further care, he added.

“In Canada you might do a lot more testing before you might treat certain things. There you would say this may help and I think it’s safe so it’s worth trying … It’s a bit different but you still try to maintain a certain standard and that’s what I was trying to bring to it. You want to be sure you don’t do any harm,” said Coad. “I think for the most part we were probably doing a good thing for folks.”

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