International Health Service of MN
Feb 2011    Steve, KI4ZUI in Lisagnipura, Honduras

Daily updates via Winlink e-mail on HF.   Click on dates for links.
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My radio
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                 Friday 11 Feb: 

Spent Thurs. night at my daughter's house, drove to airport
early Fri. AM. Delta has new check-in computers to issue tickets. You type
in your reservation confirmation & scan your passport and it prints out your
boarding passes. Their single clerk only weighs your check-in. Almost totally
automated. TSA screening at Charlotte was efficient & polite. Nice change from
what we received in Atlanta last year. I had the total body scan. You have to
remove everything from your pockets, even paper, handkerchief, etc. They had to
coach me how to assume the correct position. Have to hold your hands in a certain
way. Like getting an MRI. You have to remain still. Then you step forward while
they check your image. I passed. Probably not with flying colors, but they let
me go.
But when the case with the radio gear went thru the Xray, they took notice.
Had to take everything out while they did a swipe test for explosives. But the
guy who did it was a ham! He immediately noted my TNC and asked if I ran WinLink.
So we chatted while he checked out my gear.

Plane left on time and Atlanta was easy to deal with. You arrive at one terminal
and in transit via their subway you remain
in a secure area, so you do not have to go back thru TSA screening again. Got some
breakfast and plane lifted off for Honduras on time. Crowded flight.

In San Pedro
Sula the immigration screening was slow and the bags were late getting off the plane.
They have spruced up the SPS terminal with more shops to cater to tourists. IHS bus
was waiting for us and we started for La Ceiba at maybe 2PM. Partly cloudy and mild
temps in 70's at SPS. But as we got closer to La Ceiba, I noticed the rivers we crossed
over were turbulent and muddy. The clouds thickened and heavy rain hit us. Heavy rain
in La Ceiba, all evening. We got soaked trying to offload the bags from the bus.

Had initial organization and meal Fri night. Met all of our team members. About 2/3
of our Lisangnipura team is new this year, although some had been on previous IHS
medical trips. Looks like we will work together well. We have Dr. Joe Tombers as our
team doctor again plus Angela DeAngelo as a returning PA, two nurses, dentist and his
assistant, registered pharmacist and phar. student plus the rest of us. So they should
be able to run several simultaneous clinics/screenings at the clinic. My gear seems to
have survived the trip. No signs of loss or damage although I will have to wait until
Monday to see for certain. We will remain here in La Ceiba at the hotel until Monday
when we have commuter flight to Puerto Limpeira to get gear and disperse to the
villages. Hopefully the rains will hold off.

Got a decent sleep although my room is
on the street side and I get a lot of noise. Writing this early Saturday AM after getting
a hot cup of coffee at the next door coffee shop. Cloudy and muggy. Hope the rains hold
off today. We have team breakfast and then meetings this AM. I will go to the nearby
"super mercado" today and try to pick up some things to take with us to make a curry meal
while we are in the village. Probably curried beans and rice instead of ordinary beans
and rice. End of day one.
 Steve, KI4ZUI

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Saturday 12 Feb:

Quiet day in La Ceiba. Advanced team left early for Puerto Limpeira
(PLP). We had group breakfast, then briefings and meetings here in La Ceiba.
Convinced radio operators that shifting PM net from 5PM to 4PM was a good move. Enabled
those of us in the more isolated areas to clean up and close down before it got dark.

Received WinLink email via Telnet from PLP (Larry Foster, KC0JON) who was able to set up his HF radio and start sending emails. That part works. Bad news is that he cannot get the VHF repeater to all. Dead. He has no means of analyzing or repairing it. So we will probably have no short-range VHF commo down here, at all. He will probably
operate on VHF simplex which means only those radios in the immediate PLP area will be able to communicate. Those of us In the Kruta River area and Lisangnipura will not be able to reach PLP. They do not have a second radio at PLP that they could dedicate to 40 meters for HF voice so this means all of the outlying teams will not be able to talk with IHS net control using voice except during the three daily scheduled nets. This is a bad situation should an emergency arise during the mission.

You simply cannot leave gear down here unattended and untested for most of the year and simply pop in to operate it. Needs some care and testing to insure it will operate. About the only recourse we have is trying to reach PLP using WinLink airmail message, alerting them that we need to talk, and asking them to come up RIGHT NOW on 40 meters voice. And 40 meter voice propagation right now is very bad.

Several of the operators rigged up a simple HF antenna here in La Ceiba atop the hotel and we tried to contact PLP using voice. Bad propagation and interference caused that to fail. We had no luck contacting PLP at the 5PM net they planned to conduct today. We did manage to connect to the Winlink node N5TW in Texas on Pactor III om 20 meters with no problems but we were not successful connecting to any other nodes in the US. This includes KC4TVO which we had briefly on 30 meters but lost him. This may be because of the poor antenna and local interference here in the hotel. Bad noise level, just as it was last year.

Monday, after all of the teams are deployed to the sites, and set up their gear and antennas, we will get a better feel for how 40m voice will work this year. Some of the mountain teams leave for their sites tomorrow (Sunday). They may be able to get set up and communicating by late Sunday PM. The rest of us will not go out until Monday. I will likely not be able to get antennas up and start communicating from my village until late Monday PM. So starting Sunday night, I will be unable to send emails until Monday PM. I have a feeling that we will have a challenging radio experience this year.

I went shopping at the supermarket today and bought some food items to take with us to the village. Fixings for a team curry meal and some of that good salsa they sell down here. Food prices here are expensive, especially for any goods produced in the U.S. Local food products are less expensive and my observation is that the local shoppers I saw were largely focusing on affordable food items. Probably better for their health and waistlines. OK, enough for now. I feel like I am developing a cold. So I will try to get some rest.
Steve, KI4ZUI
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Sunday 13 Feb:

Uneventful day. Just sitting and waiting to leave at 4:15 AM tomorrow.
Fly to Puerto Limpeira, weather permitting. Drizzled all day. Rain chances all week long.
The weather seems not to know it is supposed to be getting into the drier season. We are
sitting here at a patio table....a group of hams talking radio stuff.

The Parkers (husband/wife) from England are going to Rus-Rus and Mike Stapp is going to Kruta River team. I think my Toshiba laptop has convinced several more to purchase one. Everyone agrees it is perfect for radio work. The shipping container that came into La Ceiba this year was supposed to be broken down and shipped by smaller craft to PLP. But
the smaller craft did not show up so they` are having to charter a cargo aircraft. Big expense. About ready to go get some pizza and then go to bed early. From now on, all emails to me will have to come to me at

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Monday 14 Feb

 Overall not the best of days. We went to airport at 4:15 AM and went thru the slow
processes of flying out on a Honduran commuter hop. Arrived at Puerto Limpeira (PLP) at about 8AM. HO military were holding another one of their showcase "drug intervention searches" so we had to produce
our passports so they could review them. Our bags went in various directions and we had to track them down. Much of the gear that was to be flown in from La Ceiba had not even left there yet. Eventually showed up in the PM. We had to sit at the airport waiting to be flown into the village. Only two planes to fly in two teams plus gear so it took many shuttles. Fortunately the rain held off so we just got sunburned.

I reached village about 10:30 AM and as people and gear flowed in, we started setting up. Set up the Elk VHF antenna on 15 ft pole and got PLP on 2m simplex using 5 watt handheld. Set up 40 meter delta loop about 12 feet above ground. Able to make a few WinLink pactor connects to US nodes but there is a lot of noise and interference. Several times, just as I tried to connect to some open nodes, someone started interfering with me using RTTY or morse. If I quit trying and checked later, they had gone. I think there are some knucklehead hams out there who take great joy in interfering with WinLink traffic. My laptop started acting up and would not let me finish connections. I think the Airmail program had gotten corrupted. So I opened the backup program I had on my flash drive and was able to work off of that. I spent several hours updating that flash drive program with all of the latest data for this year's mission. I think I will have to depend on a small group of RMSs for connects...the ones where I get the strongest and most dependable connects and least deliberate interference. I won't ID them less one of the knuckleheads read this blog and deliberately target them.

Went to river for a bath, and we ate a quick supper as it got really dark by 6 PM. We had to run off a group of young men who decided to set up a large BS session right outside our kitchen door while we were eating. They were pretty dour and somewhat menacing. No overt threats but we have never had this happen before in the past two years. We told the village elders that if they wanted us to stay and provide medical care in the village, they needed to insure that our team and our gear was given a little "space". We will probably have to be a bit more cautious this year. Something seems to be different in this village. HEAVY rain at night and I actually got cold while sleeping. Had to get up, find my jacket and put on a pair of socks. We will get up early, probably 5:30 tomorrow.

Steve, KI4ZUI
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   Tuesday 15 Feb  

   Started clinic operations today in Lisanipura. People were
crowding the front door to get in. Weather is not cooperating. Windy
and raining almost constantly, with only a few breaks where it only
drizzled. Flat surrounding area is flooded in some spots. Wx prediction
is for more of the same all week.

   Managed to get two patients evacuated via small aircraft
today. Pilot got in and out between rain squalls. One 5 year old boy
had a broken leg (4-day-old break) and a 3-week old infant had a
serious bowel deficiency which was life threatening. They had to
quickly prepare them for medevac and get them out to the air strip.
Pilot flew from another site (Rus Rus) to get them and take them
to  Puerto Limpeira. We used combination of WinLink email messages
to lay out the general arrangements. Distances here are too far for
reliable VHF radio and HF propagation right now so 40 meters SSB voice
is hard to use. Then to coordinate final arrangements,I used a sort
range personal radio to communicate with the doctor & nurse while
they took the patients to the landing strip 1/2 mile away. I kept in
contact with Puerto Limpeira on the 50w VHF radio. Pilot coming in
(Wes) was a ham and had VHF radio in his aircraft. At PLP, their 50w
VHF radio was talking with the PLP hospital on a 5w VHF HT in the hands
of a ham on the IHS team working there. Using this arrangement,
we  communicated the details and kept everyone abreast of the
aircraft's progress, the weather (roving thunderstorms) and the details
of the transfer of the patients to hospital care. Worked well. The 50w
radios bridged the longer gap (22 miles) while the shorter range HTs
were adequate to coordinate with the closer elements. All of this got
thrown together pretty quickly but worked well. All patients got to

   We continued seeing patients until 5PM and then we cleaned
up the clinic and ourselves. We had to sweep out or mop up a lot of
water on the clinic floor. The building roof is leaking worse this
year. Water is working its' way thru the seams on the metal roof. We
brought down some roof caulking but we need a sunny day to apply it.

   We are still missing the roll of black tubing we brought
down to repair the wells. Someone at the docks in La Ceiba ripped us
off.....stole the tubing. It is hard to find and expensive down here.
We are looking locally but probably won't find it or can't afford it.
We have to pay for it out of our own pockets. So we may not be able to
fix the well pumps. They seem to have only one working in the village
in a so-so manner.

   The village also reports that for the second year in a
row, the HO government did not provide hybrid seed rice to the
villagers as they have done each year in previous years. People have a
tough time feeding themselves without some degree of assistance from
the government. If they had seed, they could plant it and feed
themselves. You cannot reliably use saved hybrid rice seed for a next
season; you need a fresh batch from a hybrid-producing nursery. Seems
to be an endless cycle to the poverty down here.

   Supper time......6PM and getting very dark. And mosquitoes
coming out. Hasta manana.

Steve, KI4ZUI
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      Wednesday16 Feb

   More rain during the night and lightning/thunder at times but lasted only a few hours so we managed to stay relatively dry. But clouds promise more rain this afternoon. Many, many people have shown up seeking treatment. We have a village leader at the door to maintain order. The local Honduran nurse is trying to manage triage outside so that patients with most serious needs are seen first. We have two medical clinics going, each with a doctor or PA and nurse and interpreter. Another station for checking vital signs, testing blood and urine, for handing our donated reading glasses.

They have a portable ultrasound fetal monitoring unit down here this year for examining pregnant women. Pharmacy is busy filling and handing our prescriptions. Dentist is constantly busy pulling teeth. No ability to do any restorative work. No xrays. Just try to identify bad teeth and pull them. And pass out donated toothbrushes and toothpaste.

We got an email alerting us that the missing coil of black plastic tubing that had gone missing has been located. It is supposedly on a small boat coming over from La Ceiba and hopefully will get here tomorrow. If we can get this coil flown out here, we will be able to make possibly three well pumps to replace the broken ones in the village. Seems to be only one working pump right now so if we can fix three more, it will be really great. If weather permits today, we will survey the existing wells and identify three good candidates for the new pumps.

Other good news is that the three-week old baby with the life-threatening birth defect that Dr. Tombers identified is supposed to be flown to Tegucigalpa, the capital, for surgery there. IHS had to come up with the money to pay for the baby and mother to fly to Teguc (cost about $300 US) so people from several teams are chipping in to pay. There are NO provisions for money for such things here in Honduras. Transportation costs to get people to medical facilities is one of the big obstacles, especially here in the isolated eastern coastal plains. If people needing treatment can get to a facility in a larger town, they can often receive help although probably not with the rapidity they might want/need. We were lucky to be able to get this far with the baby's case; hopefully the Teguc hospital will be able to operate on her in time.

Rained again off and on during the day. We hired some village women to wash our dirty clothes. But the lack of sun is going to make drying them a problem. Our 4PM radio nets are not very good this year; propagation is very bad. Usually only four of the six teams with HF radios are able to check in and it is hard to understand some of the teams that do check in. WinLink pactor 3 email is our lifeline. The emails sent thru the system to pactor nodes back in the US always get through, although you do have to shop around for an open, reachable node at times. I have been often getting good through-put speeds of 1400 and 2800 on some of my pactor connects, despite my very low (12 ft) 40 meter delta loop antenna.

Incidentally, this afternoon, my radio started acting screwy, could not tune antenna, so I went outside to check it. One corner of the antenna was down, laying on the ground. I had suspended this corner by cord to the rain gutter at the far end of the rear of the clinic and tied off the pull-up cord to the downspout. The cord was intact, not broken, and laying on the ground. There was a group of kids nearby watching me. I suspect they saw the white cord tied off on the downspout, untied it to see what would happen. I managed to use a long pole to get it back up again and tied some really serious knots. Hopefully they won't bother it again.

Bob Rodger's node (KC4TVO) back in N.C., about 1200 miles away, is usually as easy to hit on 20 meters during the day as the closer (800 miles) Texas nodes. Not having consistent success with the Florida sites. I am hitting Panama at times, but KC4TVO in NC and N5TW in Texas are my usual connecting nodes.

I prepared curry for the team's evening meal. Brought the makings in my suitcase from La Ceiba. We have hired a village woman to cook, so she prepared a big pot of mixed garbanzo peas and black beans, a big pot of rice, and a stack of fresh corn tortillas. I made a curry sauce with some fresh carrots, onions, a couple of packets of cream of chicken mix, some curry powder, a few dashes of salsa, and some flour and coffee creamer added in to thicken it. We had some raisins to throw on top but no banana slices, or fresh pineapple, or chutney. But it turned out to be pretty good. They ate it all. If the next door rooster keeps crowing right next to our clinic building at 5 AM, I may add him to the next batch.

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   Thursday, 17 Feb

Been off the air for a few hours. Heavy rains and lightning storms. Had to disconnect  antennas. Slacked off a bit although I still hear thunder in distance. Understand you both are away for day or so. I will send my blogs to Bob as well as Dave so maybe one of you can put them in place. They have repeater back "up" but it has same problems as before.
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     Friday, 18 Feb: 

   No rain last night, thankfully. Full moon.  Got cool during the night: 65 degrees F at sunrise this AM. My cold worse;  hacking & coughing. I am having to wear my wind breaker and a pair of socks to bed to keep warm.

    Last night we had good evening meal of vegetable stew using the remaining fresh vegetables we brought, cooked by Scott, one of our General Helpers (jack of all trades for the team), son of our team leader, Barb Hamilton. Our village cook produced a stack of freshly baked, puffy corn tortillas. Scott also unveiled two six packs of chilled beer which he procured from somewhere and cooled in the solar powered vaccine cooler in the clinic. So we ate well and each had a cold beer.
   Several of the younger ladies (young compared to us old guys) started an impromptu dance around our cooking hut to the music of an iPod. Jennifer Serie, Resa Tombers (our nurses) and Angela D'Angelo (our PA) started a sort of line dance and soon a crowd of village kids gathered. The dancing moved outside and soon a large crowd was dancing in the mud outside the hut to the songs of Michael Jackson, et al. We used LEDs as make-shift lighting. Such is the night life in Lisanipura.  Everyone wore themselves out by about 9 PM.

   Had pancakes & syrup for breakfast, cooked by Renee Wolters our interpreter. All in all, we are eating fairly well this trip, although we are largely meatless out here except for an occasional can of tuna or Spam. Partly cloudy this AM but towering cumulus clouds are getting darker and there is the likelihood of more rain this PM. The yard outside the clinic is several inches deep in water.

   Antenna sagged a bit during the night...probably the tie-off rope sliding on the pole. But it was still working. This loop antenna is very forgiving. Tightened it a bit so it is again 12 ft above ground. The Kruta River team is moving to a new village this AM so they are off  the air until they get set up in the new village; maybe they will be up for the noon net. I have been checking into the 14.300 mHz InterCon Traffic Net in the US each day, just to check 20 meters propagation and to insure I can reach someone via SSB voice in case of an emergency.

   10 AM: the rains just started again. Sky totally gray. Looks like another day of rain. 11:45 and almost time to take a lunch break. It is POURING rain. Extremely heavy. Pouring off the rooftops,  leaking thru our roof in many places. My radio desk is in what appears to be a dry corner. I have not had any problems. But the flat roof over the bathroom area leaks badly and you have to wade thru several inches of water to use the toilets. We can only sweep out the rain with a broom and use an old mop to try to soak up the rest. There is no floor drain in that bathroom. Basically a losing battle.  Only good thing about the rain is that to collect water for the toilets and bathing, all we have to do is to put our 5 gallon buckets outside under the roof eaves to catch the run-off. They fill quickly.

   For anyone trying to overhear our three radio nets (0830, 1200, 1600 CST), we are using 7.152. Our 7.252 freq has some ham nets in Florida (we think) who seem to stay on that freq just when we want to hold our nets. The kids are still messing with my antennas and coax cables. I was sitting at my radio desk by the window when the two coax cables snaking thru the window tightened and my gear started to slide towards the window. There was a kid outside reeling them in. I yelled at him and he ran off. I went outside to check my Elk antenna and someone had rotated the pole a bit so it was no longer pointed towards PLP. Antenna still functioned OK but I turned it back north again. The kids are poor, bored, and curious and we are like the three-ring circus come to town. 4 PM: Just finished PM net call. We finally heard from K9LOV (Brian) in Yocon. He was weak but understandable.

   The late PM weather here turned out to be pretty good compared to what we have been experiencing. Clouds but no rain. They managed to get up on the roof to seal some of the leaks. We will see when the next storm hits how well they did. I'm  shutting down. I am hoarse and barely able to talk...laryngitis. No fever but I feel tired and worn out. This cold has knocked me for a loop. Did not sleep much last night...congested and hard to breath. I'll take the one cold pill I have left and try to get some sleep.

   All images sent via HF Pactor 3 as e-mail attachments.

Dr Joe Tombers at one, his daughter Resa Tombers (red) and Nurse Jennifer Serie at a second and out of sight, a third run by PA Angela D'Angelo. They treated 322 patients yesterday.
Oral surgeon Dennis O'Day and assistant Kelly Weil are really pulling the teeth. Using Kelly Khoenen's unique folding, portable dental chair (which works great).

Chris Knoff and Scott Hamilton (shown) atop roof trying to plug holes with caulking.

  For any antenna geeks out there:  Here is my 16 ft TV antenna mast with Elk on top, pointed towards Puerto Limpeira. Elk PVC tubing simply duct-taped to a length of sapling, jammed into open end of the top of the tubing. Provides a bit of insulated stand-off from the metal mast poles. Elk gives me 8.2 dB gain.  Delta loop 40m (@ 142 ft) runs along & parallel to the other end of the rear side of the clinic and then the other two legs run out to the 15 ft tree trunk (pole) planted in a shallow hole & guy-wired to the ground to the right in this photo. There is no convenient tree within reach of the rear of the clinic. Antenna about 12 ft off the ground. Using light  masonry cord at each point to pull up antenna corners thru a ring or snap link. Wire slides easily thru simple insulators made from  2 inch pieces of plastic tubing at each corner so it is easy to cinch it up into a tight triangle. I use #16 gauge plastic coated speaker hookup wire. Makes a light deploy-able antenna which travels rolled up in a cloth bag. If you had to, you could also cut this 142 ft or loop wire into two equal-length sections and make a 1/2 WL 80 meter center-fed dipole. I carry a spare small 1:1 balun in the bag in the event that I have to do this, to connect the coax to the wire.  2:1 balun at loop's pole corner with 50 ohm RG-8X coax lead-in. Could have used a quarter wave (32 ft) matching section of 75 ohm coax at the corner in place of the balun. Steps the impedance down from about 100 ohms at antenna corner to needed 50 ohms feed to radio. 40m loop won't tune 80m (would need double the wire length) but tuner handles all other ham bands easily. I have been getting good 5-7 to 5-9 signal reports on 20 meters out to maybe 800-1300 miles in daytime and Pactor connects with KC4TVO in NC at 1200+ NM are easy on 20 meters and sometimes 30 meters. Also lets me connect SSB voice on 40 meters even close-in here in Honduras.

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   Saturday, 19 Feb

   I know it is boring to repeat, but it rained again last night, off and on. Fortunately the roof repair effort they did yesterday seems to have helped. We still have some leaks but far fewer than before. They ran out of roof caulking and there is, of course, no Lowe's or Home Depot nearby. Today, they are building some handrails for the stairs to the church. Currently just the step treads by themselves and it is very tricky to walk up or down when wet. Third big improvement is they got some of the villagers to go down to the river and haul back rounded pebbles from the river bed to lay down around the entrance to the clinic. The ground around the clinic has been tromped into a muddy mess by all of the foot traffic. They enticed the rock haulers by promising them they would  be the first ones seen by the doctors/dentist this morning. That worked like a charm. Many willing hands hauling buckets and sacks of rocks. The pebbles they get from the river bed are very clean, well sorted by size, and perfectly rounded, just like the "river rock" you buy in bags at the home improvement stores.  The river itself is back  down after completely filling the banks two days ago. The water was so high and so fast that we could not go down there for bathing or to haul water for the day. The heavy rains created a bank full stage; dangerous to approach.

   My cold has settled down into my chest and I can barely talk. Throat not sore, I just feel worn out and have laryngitis. Fortunately I am sending most of my traffic via WinLink email using my laptop keyboard, so I do not have to strain my vocal cords trying to use the voice mike.

   I pulled out the sack of seeds I brought down, left over from my garden last fall. Green beans (pole beans) and an assortment of pumpkin seeds. I split them up and put them in small plastic bags to be given out as garden seed to the most needy villagers. I do not think they grow any pole beans or pumpkins (they refer to squash as calabash or "calabaza" in Spanish) down here. These should grow well with the sun, the heat and the moist conditions. Hopefully they won't get diseased too badly in the high humidity. They could keep them in continuous growth here by replanting at intervals. If they sprout & thrive, it will help out the food supply. I instructed them how to plant the beans so they could climb poles or a fence. And warned them to keep away the pigs and sheep. I wish I could find some commercial packets of seeds, maybe left over from seasonal sales in stores in the U.S., to be donated to bring down here. Applying the principle of "teach a man to fish....." 

   Speaking of pigs, we had either a big pig fight or a loud pig mating erupt nearby in the middle of the night. They were really going at it for several minutes. We did not find any blood or carcasses this morning, so I guess it was not a deadly encounter. There are a lot of cattle wandering back and forth, and this year, horses. No fencing, so all animals are free to roam wherever they want.

   Weather today cloudy & muggy but no rain, so far. We got a plane in about 1PM with some more supplies & two of our previously evacuated patients after treatment/surgery in Puerto Limpeira. Our missing black plastic tubing for the well pump repairs is supposedly at PLP but still not offloaded from the ship. May be Monday before we receive it which means we have little time to make the repairs on Monday PM or Tuesday AM.

   Had to help dentist hold down a young girl who needed two teeth pulled. Her father had walked three+ hours to bring her here. She was terrified and kept yelling and kicking as dentist tried to give her Novocaine. We managed to get her calmed down enough to get the 4 injections in her gums. Three of us held her down while he gave her the shots. She was OK after the Novocaine numbed her gums. Her father was adamant that she get her teeth pulled since they were bad, they had traveled so far, and it was now or only next year as a possibility of getting anything done for the teeth. Fortunately, most of the patients accept the pain of the shots and the tooth pulling. We shut down about 5 PM. Will work half-day tomorrow, in the AM.

   Crowd wanting to be seen or to pick up medicines. Note our new apron of rounded pebbles to deal with the mud. We offered early show-up's the chance to be seen first if they went down to the river and carried back buckets, sacks of rocks.

   Photo of a typical village dog. Starved, likely have fleas & worms, not cared for. Seemingly not wanted by families. They seem to belong to a family but they are ignored and maltreated. Not sure why they stay around humans. We have a couple of dogs that come around our cooking hut to beg food. We give them a few scraps but it is not enough.
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      Sunday, 20 Feb

   Up at 6:15 after restless night. Cold still bad; could not breathe well last night. Fluid draining from sinuses into neck and chest. Finally took my rucksack and propped myself up  in an inclined position instead of laying prone. Able to sleep off and on, with a few coughing and spitting spells. Doctor checked my breathing and temp this AM and said my breathing was pretty ragged.  So they started me on Cipro tablets (antibiotic?) in hope that would help me recover.  Several others also coming down with colds.  It was chilly here last night; down into the 60's. Those who brought flannel sheets or blankets were thankful. The rest of us bundled up in whatever we had to keep warm.

   We are running clinics half day today (Sunday) then taking the PM off.  I suspect many on team will hike the 20 minute walk down to the waterfalls on the river for a swim. I may fore-go that with my cold. We may start looking for some suitable wells for our new pumps. Need to clean out brush around them and check to see if they have water and how deep it is.  No need really to check quality of the water. We already know the groundwater does have some bacterial contaminants but it is much cleaner than the river water, which is pretty contaminated with E.coli and other assorted bad things and not fit to drink, although we are risking bathing in the river provided you do not have any open wounds or sores . Clean water is probably at the top of their "needed" list out here. We STILL do not have our roll of black plastic tubing that we shipped down for the well pumps. It was sitting at the bottom of the hold on the ship in Puerto Limpeira as of Saturday.  They were taking their time unloading (manana, manana) [ Manana does not mean tomorrow; it means 'not today'.  Editor]  and they do not work on Sunday. We are begging them to try to send it out early Monday so we have time to build the three pumps. We have only the daylight hours of Monday and maybe Tuesday morning to make and install the three pumps. It will take a few hours for each. We may have to fore-go installing them in the distant villages, although several of these villages  need them the most...they have no water. It would take too long to walk to and from these villages carrying all of our gear in the limited time we had left.

   Someone really goofed up when they unpacked the IHS containers and allowed our gear to get scattered in La Ceiba. The dentist is still missing a bag of instruments he carried down as checked baggage. He got it as far as La Ceiba, but then Sousa Airlines managed to lose it on the short commuter flight to Puerto Limpeira. That could well have been the fate of my case with all of my radio gear since I had to "check it" at la Ceiba for the flight;  these small Czech-made turboprop planes do not have any provisions for storing hand-carried bags so you have to check all but purses or small back packs. My gear luckily made it. Otherwise I would not be writing and sending this.

   Took a nap this PM. Great breeze blowing thru the clinic so several of us laid down on the floor and slept for an hour. Then got up and walked 30 minutes to another village to let Dr Tombers check our translator's  (Hillario's) parents. His father is too feeble to travel to the clinic. Nothing life threatening  for  the father  but old age and a hard life. His mother seems to handle her age well; she is pretty spry. They have no water in their village. They have old 25 ft deep water wells with some water in them but old broken hand pumps. If we get the tubing tomorrow I may try to replace at least one of these pumps. We were all sweaty after walking back. Probably mid-80's F and 80% humidity. Had to wade the river to and from because the bridge is out. But the water felt good. Tempted to just sit down in it to cool off. But took a sun-bag shower when we got to the clinic and we are going to have spaghetti (just noodles & sauce - no meat). Too late & too tired to put radio back in operation after we returned so I will not check email until tomorrow.

Nurse Teresa (Resa) Tombers, Dr Joe Tombers' daughter, helping her father screen a family in Lisanipura clinic, 19 Feb 2011.

Several village boys jumping rope with a jump rope made by & donated by young daughters of one of Dr. Joe Tombers' medical practice partners. We gave out several of these jump ropes to kids. I tried to get the village girls to jump but not a single one would try. Boys were more willing to try. Chris our engineer later went out with some bubble soap and blew bubbles for them. They thought that was hilarious.

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     Monday, 21 Feb: 
   Hot & sunny today....more like the weather we would expect down here at this time of year. We all slept well last night despite some smoke and noise. One of the villagers decided to burn trash late yesterday PM, upwind of the clinic. So most of the night we had acrid smoke from burning trash drifting through the clinic. We all probably inhaled  the equivalent of smoking several packs of cigarettes. And then another hut decided this was the night to start weaning a calf from its' mother. So they tied the calf to the pilings beneath their hut so he could not get to his mother and she could not get to him/her. The calf bawled loudly most of the night until it apparently wore itself out. The mother came back after sunrise and they both started  mooing again. You feel like you are living in the midst of a cattle herd, at times.
   One of the tall skinny dogs has more or less adopted our cooking hut. He hangs out beneath it and drives off any other dogs who approach. We give him what scraps we generate. He eats anything. Loves peanut butter on crackers. Wish I could take him home with me. He is tan and about the size of my blue tick hound, "Tom", but thin and sickly. 

   I slept a bit better last night. Have been taking the antibiotic for almost two days. Still have bouts of coughing. My ears are also infected but they say the antibiotic will help that also.

   Today is our last full day of clinics. We will work half a day tomorrow and spend tomorrow PM cleaning up and repacking. Weather permitting, we will start to shuttle gear and people back to Puerto Limpeira early Wednesday morning. Half the team will fly back to La Ceiba on Wednesday afternoon and the rest of us on Thursday morning. By Friday, everyone will hopefully be back in La Ceiba. I am scheduled to fly back to the U.S. on Saturday.  At least that's the plan. Weather and aircraft issues could change all of this. In Puerto Limpeira we will have to pool our money to help pay for the air transport for the 3-week old we sent to Tegucigalpa for the operation. Honduran government won't cover that so we have to pay. We think several of us have enough extra cash (dollars) to cover it. I  have to keep enough cash to pay for two nights in hotel, plus pay the Honduran exit tax, plus pay for long-term parking for my truck in Charlotte. Will be close.

   Handling email traffic this weekend was rough. The ham bands were packed with CW and RTTY traffic on seemingly every frequency. The frequencies for the two WinLink nodes I have been using most, N5TW in Texas and KC4TVO in NC, were covered up with people all trying to use those frequencies on 20 meters. Impossible to effectively use 40 meters right now and 30 meters is out and in, depending on the time of day. 20 meters is pretty good all day.I tried to find other nodes and other frequencies to use, but everything was clogged up, so I said the heck with it, turned my radio up to max 100 watts, and managed to "burn" my way through the CW and RTTY crowds to reach my two preferred nodes in NC and TX. It worked, most of the time, although my transmit/receive times increased with all of the competition. Would really be nice if there was some recognized segregation of the amateur radio bands to accommodate WinLink and the other digital modes.  I was able to connect over 2000 miles this past week to a WinLink node in Nova Scotia. Not the best of signal quality but I did connect and check my email. Best range is 800-1300 miles for 20 meters.

   2 PM: we received our missing roll of black plastic tubing. Meanwhile, we tried to repair one of the old village pumps. We pulled it and saw that it had a break in the tubing. They made these things from what was probably schedule 20 PVC pipe; looks more like schedule 10..very thin walled and brittle. We laid it out on the ground and took part of the pump mechanism down to the clinic for repair. While we were gone, a coconut fell from a tree, hit the laid out pump tubing and really shattered it. We were flabbergasted. Busted by a free-falling coconut. The damage was so bad that we abandoned the repair and set about making a brand new pump using the new tubing. I had a design for third world sites I found on the internet.    With the receipt of the tubing today, we took about 2 hrs to build a brand new pump using quality materials we shipped from the states.   I taught several of the village men how to build it and maintain it. This first one was a 20 ft pump in a 21 ft deep 3" dia. well. I had the villagers do most of the work. We put it in place and tried it out. Worked great. Pumps up water with a few strokes from 20 ft down. They are going to make a strong wooden bracket to support it. I will leave them some repair parts so they can maintain it. This is a design I found on the internet and takes maybe $60 dollars worth of materials per pump if bought in the US. Chris Knoff and I pooled our money and brought down enough materials for three. I built a prototype at home last Fall and installed it in my second well;   it worked and was easily pumping up water from 20+ ft.  I plan to get up early tomorrow AM to make two more pumps. and will try to get them in place before we have to shut down operations at noon. This makes my mission...their need for fresh water is their major need.
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    Tuesday, 22 Feb

    Shutting down at 2 PM. We closed clinic at noon. Saw a last flurry of patients. We clean up, pack up this afternoon. Start shuttling people and gear out via aircraft at 0730 tomorrow AM. Some going quickly on to La Ceiba, a few of us sleeping over at Catholic Compound in PLP then to La Ceiba the next morning.

   We made one more well pump this morning and it was sent to an outlying village to be installed. We simply do not have the time to make and install the third. It is very hot (84F)and humid and sunny but with a nice breeze. Hopefully the good weather will hold until we get out of here. I will leave my Elk antenna up and connected to my 5 watt hand held until tomorrow morning. The hand held is not able to send to the repeater (it is still malfunctioning and immediately drops me when I try to connect) but I told PLP that if they had any last minute or emergency traffic to send it to me "blind". I can hear traffic on their repeater net, I just cannot transmit unless I use 50 watts. Out from beautiful downtown Lisangnipura.

Here is village kid using our 1st new pump. 21 ft deep well, pump installed  with foot valve 1 ft higher than that depth. Pumps strongly. Villagers built the wooden frame to support it. I had them make it with me supervising. Also taught them a class on how-to maintain and to sanitize water with clorox. Not sure how long that will last. We built a second pump and that is en route with a trained man to install it. He will report back to me this PM to let me know if it works. Lisagni Pura Team  2011

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     Wednesday  23 Feb: 

   As I write this, we are back in PLP, flown out of the village by plane this AM. Villagers helped to haul all of our gear to the airstrip. Back here in PLP, we all walked down to the waterfront café for some cold beer and lunch. We all were still sweaty but we were thirsty and hungry, so we chose cold beer/food over a shower to start. Nice breeze blowing off the sound. We will go back there for supper tonight. Then we all walked back to the Catholic compound where we are staying tonight. Laid out my sun shower to heat up water and took a nice shower and changed clothes. Feel half human again.

    Most of our team will fly out to La Ceiba this PM and the rest of us will sleep over here at PLP and fly out tomorrow AM. Back to the Hotel Paris for a night and fly back to the US on Friday. We are all tired and a little sun burned from waiting out at the airstrip for the planes. Back here in PLP, a young girl came by with some baked sweetbread rolls filled with a honey mix for 5 limpeiras (about 25 cents) which many of us bought. Delicious. The nuns here are asking if any of us have mosquito netting to donate or sell; there are many people who need simple netting to ward off the mosquitoes.

   Here are our statistics for @7 full days of 8-hour clinics at Lisanipura by  1 x doctor, 1 x PA, 2 x nurses, 2 x pharmacists,
1 x dentist with a dental assistant, 1 x paramedic/EMT. They clearly worked their you-know-what's off. Backed up by 2 x general helpers, 1 x team engineer, 1 x radio operator, 1 x US translator, several local translators, local Honduran nurse, several crowd-control people, and numerous villagers who helped in varying capacities.
@1348 patients seen & examined for medical reasons: 710 adults & 638 children.
      They evacuated to Puerto Limpeira approximately 8 patients for operations or further treatment by Honduran doctors
 and also by the IHS surgical team that was doing many surgeries at the PLP hospital.  They had one infant evacuated
to the hospital in Tegucigalpa for major surgery for a life-threatening condition.

@239 dental patients seen, @595 teeth pulled. Issued many toothbrushes and much toothpaste.
@473 pairs of eye glasses issued (sun and vision)
@1300 vitamin packets issued;   @3100 prescriptions issued (pain meds, worm meds, etc.)

They did not turn anyone away who really need help, but I suspect they could have seen more patients from out-lying areas had we been here longer.

   As radio operator I handled approximately 270 out-going email messages (via WinLink Pactor 3) and probably 300+ incoming email messages, Most of the traffic was personal emails for team members;  approximately 15% of the traffic was mission or patient related traffic. I principally used the Winlink nodes of N5TW in Texas and KC4TVO in NC.  Average "speed" of connections to both was 1400, sometimes dropping to 600 when propagation was poor. I typically might hit max transmit speeds of 3,000+ bytes/min and receive speeds of 1800+ bytes/min. This is data taken off AirMail displays during connections. All using Pactor 3 connections. We had three x 40m SSB voice nets per day inside Honduras and numerous contacts with PLP 22 miles away using VHF 2 meter repeater and 2 meter simplex.  Used about 6 gallons of gasoline running the Honda 2000 generator for about 8 hrs per day at low speed with surges during transmits. Dentist also depended on AC power for some of his gear. Flawless generator.

   Team engineer & general helper  repaired clinic roof leaks, built better shower facilities, added rails to church steps, repaired clinic door locks, cut grass, hauled much water,  repaired other things.    Radio operator & engineer built two new water well pumps and installed them; they now have an additional functional well in Lisanipura and another in an outlying village which no water previously. We could have installed a third had we had a little more time. Taught classes in water treatment and hygiene.
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     Thursday 24 Feb:

    Last night eight of us on the Lisangnipura team still remaining in PLP went down to the waterfront café for a meal.  We had either chicken or lobster or fish….all cooked on the spot and delicious.  First decent full meal we had in over a week.

    Up at 5:15 on Thursday, 24th after a restless night of sleep in the men's dorm at the PLP catholic compound. Too many men crammed into a small room, with a lot of snoring and people wandering in and out all night.  We had a heavy rain shower during the night.  Then after we got up and packed and dragged our gear out for the trip to the airport. Then another heavy rain shower hit and we all got soaked. A lot of confusion as we tried to sort people into three flights from PLP to LaCeiba. I ended up on the last flight out, and we did not get back to La Ceiba until noon. Spent most of the morning sitting at the PLP airport waiting.

   Honduran military had a Huey helicopter sitting there and about 10AM a Honduran military team showed up, they installed and loaded two door guns, and a team of 6 men in field gear locked & loaded their M16s, boarded the  'copter, took off and headed south into the interior.  Based on their actions and the fact that some of them wore full-face ski masks, I suspect we witnessed a drug raid being launched. 

   Our plane came in and we left soon after they flew off.  Back to the hotel in La Ceiba for a meal (we missed breakfast), a shower, and some quick shopping to stock up on the Lisano-brand salsa I have not been able to find in the US.  Delicious stuff, so I will bring home several bottles.  Laid out my gear and repacked my suitcase.  I have a lot of dirty, damp laundry which will need hot water and bleach to remove the dirt and smells.  I again have email access here at the hotel and was able to send out the 23 Feb blog.  Also sitting here listening to CNN to catch up on the news.

    Last night,  we learned a bit more about the 3-week old we sent to the hospital in Tegucigalpa.  She will have to remain there for awhile while they do probably several operations.  The costs will mount. Several  of us cleaned out our wallets to collect as much as could spare to send to her.  The Honduran government will apparently cover many things but not others.  For example, they want the mother to pay to hire a translator (Spanish to Mosquit) because she does not speak Spanish and the hospital claims they cannot find a Mosquit speaker who will work for free so they want the mother to pay.  That cost alone could drain what we have managed to collect.  As I have said, there is effectively no good health care system or health care insurance here.  You pay yourself or do without.   We had, last week, one of our evacuated patients turned away from the hospital because he could not pay a $2 fee they have apparently imposed on anyone walking in the door.  We did not know about the fee requirement, otherwise we would have given him some money.  Frustrating.  It is one obstacle after another.  

   One other project we are going to try to launch later this year is collecting enough money to buy materials so the Lisanipura villagers can rebuild their bridge which was washed out by a flood.  They are cut off from the outside world.  One effect of this is that for the second year in a row, they have been unable to receive seed rice so they can plant their crops….essential for food.  The Honduran government has told them they won't help to rebuild the bridge and the costs are way beyond the village's capability.  So we have a plan to have a trusted man in the village try to organize and plan a replacement bridge and we think we have a way for him to contact us via email to let us know what supplies and tools will be needed.  Then we will try to collect some money and try to find a way to wire the money to them to purchase the needed supplies.  Hopefully the wired money will not disappear in the Honduran banking system.

   I also plan to help our village translator with his attempt to attend nursing school.  He is a really smart young man, a devout Catholic and desperately wants to become a nurse.  He has been studying and has completed high school and plans to take the entrance exam in a few months. If  he passes that, he hopes to be accepted to the school in Puerto Limpeira.  He has arranged for a room and meals and tuition if accepted is paid for. So he mainly needs money for supplies and books. I think a couple of us will be able to carry him for that for the two year course. If he succeeds, I am certain he will go back to the Lisanipura area where his mother, father and extended family live. 

   I think I will end this blog and take a nap. Tired and  have a headache.  We have an end-of-mission meal tonight and then up early tomorrow to travel to La Ceiba to catch a Delta flight back to Atlanta and then on to Charlotte.  I checked the weather back in the US and it looks like I will encounter some rain but no snow or cold  weather.  If all goes well, I should be able to reach home in NC by early AM on Saturday.

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    Friday, 25 Feb:

   Last blog entry. Left hotel at 7:30 AM via bus for San Pedro Sula to start journey back home. Lengthy delays at San Pedro airport as both the Delta airline computer and the exit-tax booth computer went "down". They managed to get them back up and we rushed through security and made the flight to Atlanta. Good thing I had a 2+ hour layover in Atlanta. Took a long time to get through customs, get hold baggage, recheck it, go through security and travel between gate E1 (original departure) to E32 (last minute change). TSA people again noted all of my radio gear and I had to take each major item out of my case and send it through the x-ray. 

   Atlanta air port packed with soldiers (mostly Army) en route to or coming back from Afghanistan. Patches from many different infantry units. I talked with a few of them from my old Vietnam unit, the 101st Airborne Division. As I did that, I realized I was old enough to be their grandfather; it was 44 years ago that I was first in Vietnam.

  We were delayed a bit flying to Charlotte but I managed to get back to my truck in long-term parking about 10:45 PM.  Truck started up with no problem and I got home about 1:30 AM Saturday. Amazingly dark and quiet as I drove up into the mountains. You could see the stars.  Charlotte was bright and noisy, in comparison. 

   Tom the hound started howling a greeting as I unlocked the door.  He howled a bit more as I came inside and then promptly bolted out the door and took off up the mountain chasing something. About 1/2 hour later he came back, probably because it was cold. The other dogs gave me a brief hello and then promptly went back to sleep. I had no problem falling asleep. End of the Feb 2011 trip.
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     Radio Station description

Image sent via Winlink HF e-mail attachment:

For those interested, here is my Feb 2011 radio setup:
Icom-7000, usually running 60-80 watts for voice and Pactor connects.
Yaesu VX-7 5 watt hand-talky radio
Antenna switch for VHF switching
SCS PTC-IIusb modem, Pactor 3, using TNC-to-radio control cable
LDG Z-100 auto tuner
Toshiba NB305 netbook, XP home, AirMail software
MFJ-4125 25 amp switching power supply, all linked to this via PowerPoles
AC Multi-outlet linked to Honda 2000 generator
Two antennas: Elk 5 element log periodic VHF/UHF antenna atop 16 ft poles:
four x 4 ft TV mast tubes = 16 ft; also serves as one anchor for 40 meter full
wave delta loop, other legs at far end of bldg (cord anchoring it to rain gutter).
Third point at tall (15 ft) wooden post we staked/guyed out behind clinic. About 142 ft total wire, about 12 ft above ground, has at least 2 ft stand-off from any metal (gutters, poles). 2:1 balun at loop corner, 50 ohm coaxes feeding in from each antenna.
I am keeping the 5 watt hand held on the Elk antenna and constantly monitoring the
Puerto Limpeira 146.520 Mhz simplex freq via the Elk; could switch to connect the 50 watt radio to Elk but so far I have been solid using 5 watts and the Elk for 22 mile connection. Keeping the Icom on HF freqs for Pactor connects and for 40m SSB voice nets for IHS...on either 7.252 or 7.152 mHz.

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