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New Horizons' medical team makes a difference while training

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. James Law
  • New Horizons Belize Public Affairs
U.S. and Canadian medical professionals completed the second of two New Horizons large medical readiness training exercises April 25, at San Felipe School, Belize.

The 11-day medical exercise began April 15 and provided general medicine, dentistry, pediatrics, pharmacy, and optometry services at three locations in the northern part of the country: Guinea Grass School, San Pablo School, and San Felipe School.

"I believe conducting medical exercises provides the opportunity to build friendships, and friendships improve lives," said U.S. Army Maj. Carla Tate, Team Chief for the second medical exercise.

Among the 5,596 patients treated during the training exercise, U.S. Army Capt. Blong Ly, general dentist assigned to the 352nd Combat Support Hospital, recalled a dental patient in his early twenties whose quality of life was improved when he visited the team while they where at the San Pablo school.

"We had a patient who came in early in the morning with large abscessed swelling in the upper left area of his face," said Ly. "His left eye was swollen shut and the whole upper face was swollen comparable to the size of a baseball."

Ly performed a 30-minute surgical procedure after determining the cause of the swelling and reviewing the patient's medical information to ensure it was safe.

The procedure involved antibiotics, numbing the area with a strong anesthetic, incising the gum tissue to allow the infection to drain, compressing the outer skin underneath the eye, flushing the area with sterile water and suturing a drain tube inside the cheek.

Once the surgery was complete, the patient was able to open his left eye and see again.

"It was a dramatic improvement," said Ly. "He was ecstatic. He was very happy and satisfied with the service provided."

Ly elaborated on the severity of the infection and potential outcome if the condition would have went untreated.

"It was a very severe infection," said Ly. "That could have potentially led to a brain abscess or loss of sight."

The medical exercise was part of a larger on-going exercise known as New Horizons. The exercise is designed to provide humanitarian assistance and medical care to people in multiple communities throughout Belize, while helping improve the skills of military medical forces.

Ly believes this opportunity helped him and the medical team improve their skills.

"These are cases we don't normally see back in the states because [American patients] see their dentist or their physicians on a regular basis and they will catch these big medical or dental issues before they worsen," said Ly. "When we come here we can see anything ... and that's what we have experienced."

This year, New Horizons began April 2 and is scheduled to be completed June 30. Personnel are also building four schools; performing ear, nose and throat surgeries; providing plastic surgery for prescreened patients; and providing comprehensive dental care as part of the training exercise.