Soldiers from the Wyoming National Guard kicked off the second of three medical readiness events as part of Beyond the Horizon (BTH) 2017, at Macal River Park in San Ignacio, Belize, on May 8th. BTH is a U.S. and Belize partnership exercise designed to provide humanitarian and engineering services to communities in need, demonstrating U.S. support for Belize.
U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Amy Surdan, a nurse practitioner with the Wyoming Medical Detachment (MedDet), has served on a previous Beyond the Horizon mission. Lt. Col. Surdan, who works in the women’s health tent, claims that the way the event is set up this year is better than her previous experience. “I really prefer this one,” said Lt. Col. Surdan. “Just for the way this is set up, where it is in one location throughout the whole duration. It makes it easier to work out the kinks of supply and transportation of medical equipment. It allows us to bring and use more specialized items we wouldn’t be able to otherwise.”
The hum of the generators in the background greets patients as they filter into the optometry tent, manned by U.S. Army Major Jess Mendenhall and U.S. Army Sergeant Anglia Matheis, reservists assigned to Wyoming MedDet for the two-week mission. The generators power their automatic refractormeter, a tool used to measure where a person’s eyes focus, helping to determine if they need glasses or not.
Maj. Mendenhall says that he is prepared to receive a lot of requests for prescription glasses. “I anticipate seeing over 100 people a day,” said Maj. Mendenhall. “There are some patients who will require different glasses for reading and distance vision.” Maj. Mendenhall said that they have approximately 6,000 pairs of glasses in their inventory for the medical event.
People began lining up in the early morning hours in order to be first to receive a ticket for general medical or dental services. The park rapidly filled with people sitting in chairs under tents and trees, waiting for their number to be called.
After checking in, they were directed to tents designated for specific medical treatment. Services offered include general medical health, women’s health, dental, pediatrics, and optometry.
Mixed in with the U.S. Army and Air Force doctors and nurses are members of the Belize medical community. Providers and nurse practitioners from San Ignacio and Belmopan are working alongside U.S. troops and offering medical aid to the Cayo District community; something else that is an improvement over her last rotation.
“This time around is much more collaborative with the locals, more communicative with the public,” said Lt. Col. Surdan. “I see doctors and nurses from around here and that makes this more of a community event.”