In the past month, WINGS held a family planning and cervical cancer screening clinic in the town La Libertad, in the department of Tucuru, Alta Verapaz. Two women from the community, Victoria, 36, and Gloria, 29, came to the clinic looking to undergo a VIAA exam, a cervical cancer test using visual inspection with acidic acid. For doña Victoria the results came back normal, however, for doña Gloria the results showed bleeding of the cervix.
The nurse at the community health center shared with WINGS staff that a month prior, four women were suspected of having cervical cancer after abnormal results from a Papanicolaou test, more commonly known as the Pap test. Each woman underwent biopsies and was given information about the importance of cryotherapy as treatment.
However, the women were frightened as they had no previous exposure to such an exam and treatment. Among their concerns were if the procedure would be painful or if it was similar to a surgery. There was also the issue of cost, and finding a health center that performed cryotherapy treatment.
WINGS feels it was truly a miracle to encounter these women when we did and be able to answer their questions, provide reassurance, and ultimately deliver the cryotherapy service.
With the help of the dedicated nurse, we were able to go and find each woman, bring them to the clinic, and provide them the necessary treatment to live without further complications.
Cervical cancer is the number one cause of cancer related death in Guatemala, and yet knowledge of cervical cancer, its causes and treatment, is still very limited. WINGS is committed to providing women with the resources to prevent cervical cancer and ensure healthy futures for themselves and their families.
Recently, WINGS responded to the needs of a partner institution, the Centro de Atención Permanente (CAP) which found itself in a difficult situation. CAP was holding a family planning clinic in the community Chamelco, Alta Verapaz, but only had the resources to attend to 25 people. Nearly 70 women and men arrived, many having left their homes as early as 3 a.m. to travel a great distance and attend the clinic. Very worried about turning away people in need, the Clinic Coordinator made an urgent call to WINGS, asking if we could fill the need.
WINGS’ mobile medical unit quickly responded and upon arriving, was met with applause and gratitude. WINGS staff was able to help the remaining 44 people in attendance and provided services free of charge to 11 users who lacked the economic resources to cover the subsidized cost of contraceptive methods.
One woman in particular stood out among those 11 users. Catarina timidly approached WINGS’ staff during the clinic, unsure if she would receive any help due to her economic situation. As a mother of four, 31 year old Catarina did not wish to have more children. She shared the economic hardships her family has faced with our team. Her husband´s income is unstable due to his seasonal work cultivating African palm-oil. The uncertainty of if and when he can work makes it difficult to provide for all four children, especially Catarina’s youngest daughter who is only 11 months old.
WINGS staff were truly overjoyed to tell Catarina that she would receive the Jadelle sub dermal implant free of charge. Her smile upon hearing the news was infectious and reminds us that the services we provide allow women like Catarina to achieve a better quality of life for themselves and their families.
WINGS thanks you for making our work possible and supporting Guatemalans as they make informed decisions to strengthen their families through reproductive health.
WINGS brings direct reproductive health services to communities that would not otherwise have access to this care. Often the communities are remote and difficult to get to, either because of the terrain or limited access roads.
Last month, WINGS staff left for Chacalté Carchá early enough to compensate for the fog and the roads, muddy from the rain the night before. For hours, the truck slid through the narrow trail, unguarded on the mountainside. Then the truck sunk into the mud. Then it began to rain. Since hardly anyone passes on this road, there was no one to lend a rope or a hand. The staff thought they might have to cancel the clinic, so Eli, a WINGS driver, walked thirty minutes to the Health Center to let them know that they would be late. Upon returning to the vehicle, he continued trying to maneuver it out. Success! Though a short distance later, it was stuck again.
Carmen, a WINGS nurse, said, “The stick shift just wouldn’t comply, we weren’t getting through. At that point we just put ourselves in God’s hands since we thought that at any minute we’d be rolling down the mountain.”
It started to rain harder when the staff decided to walk the rest of the way to the Health Center, hours late. Eli carried all the equipment he could by himself from the truck to the center, and the staff used what was available there to improvize. During the day, the rain stopped but the wind picked up, bringing with it the makeshift curtains and registration forms. Staff grabbed the edges of the curtains to ensure patient privacy, and paperwork had to be held down with rocks. Despite everything, WINGS nurses performed 31 cervical cancer screenings, 11 Jadelle 5-year implants, and one IUD.
Thankfully, after the clinic community members helped get the vehicle out. They followed the truck with buckets of rocks to place under the tires, pushing when it got stuck. Carmen reported, “I have to thank our team, that even in the worst circumstances we help each other out—enthusiastic, optimistic, and always with the desire to do the best we can with what we’ve got.”