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Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital nurse completes her third mission trip to Panama

May 2017

Michelle Arthur, RN, vowed to return to Curundu, Panama, after her first mission trip there in 2012. The Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital interventional radiology nurse kept that vow and recently returned from her third trip. 

Arthur and 25 other team members from St. Charles River Church, including her husband, Michael Arthur, brought 900 reading glasses, medicine, medical and other supplies to Panama Feb. 18-25. 

A medical team, construction team and an outreach team spent the week at a school/community center called Juntos Podemos that provides a safe haven and meals for children from the streets. “There is tremendous pressure there for teenagers to join gangs, and the school is a sanctuary for them in the midst of all this poverty,” Arthur says. “I was happy to see signs of progress from my last trip, including 
additional housing.” 

The medical team treated more than 350 people in three and a half days in a walk-up clinic, mainly for intestinal parasites, but also for high blood pressure and other medical problems. Arthur was responsible for dispensing medications and instructing patients in Spanish. “The people are phenomenal, so sweet and grateful,” she says. 

Arthur was featured here after her first trip to Panama in 2012. She was able to reconnect with José, the boy in the photograph that accompanied the article. He is now 18 and has a baby of his own. 

Phil Asaro, MD, Washington University School of Medicine, was with Arthur on this mission trip, as he had been during past trips. However, this was their first trip without Tom Donovan, RN, who worked for Barnes-Jewish Hospital and died in April 2015. “Tom really enjoyed these Panama trips,” Arthur says. “Tom and José really connected in 2012, and Tom was determined to make it back in 2014 to say goodbye. He did that and left an enduring impression on José. We all felt Tom’s absence this year — especially José and I.”

Arthur vows to return to Panama again in 2018. “I just love going, it’s so fulfilling,” she says. “It’s a life-changing event.” 

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