Maridalia Lillis Helped Provide Critical Health Care While on a Medical Mission to Honduras
Ms. Lillis, Who Lived In Honduras As A Child, Spent Seven Days Helping Under-Resourced Patients
With the thought of helping those in need, Maridalia Lillis, a medical technician in the Department of Family and Community Medicine, traveled to Honduras for a seven-day mission trip in July, helping physicians communicate with patients in Spanish as part of a team that saw upwards of 100 patients each day. Having lived in Honduras for seven years as a child, Ms. Lillis fulfilled a desire to return to the country while also helping bring vital medical care to people who normally wouldn’t have access to it.
Ms. Lillis was at the Family Health Center when Elizabeth Sillcocks, M.D. ’22, a student at the time, was talking about how she lived in Honduras for one year as part of a mission trip. Ms. Lillis was intrigued asking many questions and was assured by Dr. Sillcocks that the trip would be safe and rewarding. “I began to get really excited about not only the opportunity of going back to Honduras, but most importantly going back to bring health care services to people whom I can relate to so much,” Ms. Lillis said.
In early July, Ms. Lillis was part of one of three “brigades” who saw patients each at the Jungle Hospital in a rural region of La Ceiba, a city in northern Honduras. It took three plane rides and a two-hour drive up a mountain to get to the hospital, totaling 17 hours of travel. Ms. Lillis assisted with prepping patients to be seen by the physicians, checking vital signs, drawing blood and monitoring point of care lab results.
Since she was working primarily with an obstetrician gynecologist, she encountered many pregnant patients, including one 14-year-old girl who hiked for more than an hour while 34 weeks pregnant. “I was able to see how much she didn't know about pregnancy or prenatal care. It was shocking to see how much people in Honduras need proper health education and care,” Ms. Lillis said. Her time in her brigade also exposed her to many patients who unknowingly had diabetes and to many children who had parasites.
Understanding the great need for specialized health care was difficult for Ms. Lillis, who had to come to terms with not everyone who needed help could receive it during her time there. “I think one of the biggest challenges I experienced was the feeling of helplessness. The need for health care was vast, so there were patients that needed to see specialists for certain conditions but since they were not available to them, the only thing a doctor could do was treat symptoms,” Ms. Lillis said.
Being able to contribute to the efforts on the mission trip was both memorable and fulfilling for Ms. Lillis, who got her opportunity to return to the country she once called home. “Heading back to Honduras was very emotionally healing to me. I was raised there from age two to nine and a part of my childhood was traumatic. I almost felt like I didn’t really have anything left to go back to, but when I saw the young girls there and saw the need for care, it felt like life was telling me that Honduras was not done with me yet,” Ms. Lillis said.
With the trip to Honduras being her first mission trip, Ms. Lillis wasn’t sure what to expect, but her experience has fueled her with a desire to go back. “I felt a calling to go back and give more to these people whom I related to so much. I remember the things that I lacked as a child and thought I could fill some of those needs for the Hondurans I would be helping,” Ms. Lillis said. “I never thought I would do missionary medical work in my life. In fact, it's not something that even crossed my mind, but I think fate dropped this on my lap in the form of Elizabeth. It’s almost like it was meant to be.”