Dear Dr. Wil,

 I am writing this email to you to tell you thank you.  The GMT Nicaragua trip was an experience unlike anything I have ever been a part of.  It took me a few days when I got back home to realize what exactly I had just been through, but the moment that it hit me I was blown away.  This experience was everything I imagined it would be and more.  My family asked me to describe my experience and tell them what I learned, but I struggled to be able to put into words what was going through my head.  I tried to depict to them the culture and environment that I was surrounded by and how a typical clinic day worked, but I felt like I couldn't justify my experience.  

Even after showing my parents and family the pictures that I took I still felt like I was missing something.  I began to tell them the experience was indescribable and that the only way to truly appreciate it is to experience it first hand.  I realize that you have been through so many trips that you probably understand exactly what I am saying, but my thank you goes deeper than just my experience in Nicaragua.

For the past 6-7 months my mom has been trying to hide the fact that her health has been deteriorating at a drastic pass.  Being at school makes it tough to judge how she is doing on a day to day basis, but when I would return home for a weekend I could always tell she was worse than when I last saw her.  When I returned from Nicaragua I couldn't believe how bad of shape she was in.  She is a prideful woman and I love her to death, but sometimes her pride gets in her way.  After working with the patients in Nicaragua and seeing how important preventative medicine can be and how important it is to see a doctor I took it upon my shoulders to do something about it.  I sat down with her two days before Christmas and asked her questions like we did at clinic.  The trust was already there since she was my mom, but I could tell she didn't want to talk about it.  However, the lessons I learned on the trip taught me how to make her comfortable and taught me how to ask the right questions so that she literally diagnosed herself.  When she told me some of the symptoms I realized just how bad it was; blood in the stool, blood in the vomit, occasional white stool, problems eating, nausea, inability to sleep, etc.  I tried to do some research and came to the conclusion she had drastic liver damage, possible liver failure, and some pancreas problems as well.

I don't know what it was about the GMT trip, whether it was the knowledge I gained about how to interact with patients or just a confidence in myself that developed while on the trip, but I convinced my dad to take her to the ER Christmas Eve.  After numerous CAT scans (3) and MRIs, along with a full blood panel and urinary diagnostic, the doctors said she had liver damage, pancreas damage, a thyroid imbalance and some other organ complications.  Her numbers were so variable that they were amazed to see her able to move around.  The doctor pulled me aside and told me that I had literally saved her life.  Her blood levels were so low that he said she most likely would have bled out in the next 72 hours.  They said the heart surgeries she had as a child (3) and the medicines she took for them were so toxic that they accelerated the liver decline, which in turn began further organ failures.  Everything is treatable, which is good news, but the experience will always remain.

I realize this email has gone on way too long, but I needed to say thank you and I needed you to understand just how important this trip was for me and my family.  The experience in Nicaragua reaffirmed every reason I want to become a doctor and I cannot wait to go back next year, if not sooner.  Please tell your wife thank you for the help while I was working with her in the pharmacy and good luck in the future.

PS: I read T.R. Reid's book, the one you recommended.  It was definitely worth the time and very insightful.

(Trippers name removed for privary reasons)

Before venturing on my GMT trip to Nicaragua, I was unsure as to if I wanted to pursue the medical profession or not. I am not declared pre-med, nor was I using this trip to make myself more applicable for medical school. I used this trip to find myself & to discover what my true passion really is. As an engineering major, I believe I am able to solve problems rather efficiently and I discovered that being a doctor would require essentially the same tools. I know now what I want to become. Now it is time to figure out how to get there. I will continue to be thankful everyday for what GMT has given me and I hope to return to my GMT family one day.- Amy Guisinger, 21, University of Florida