Podiatrist travels to Mexico to care for patients
Vallejo, Calif., July 22, 2009 - The village woman had no idea why her 7-year-old grandson had difficulty walking and spent four years in kindergarten. With nowhere else to turn, she brought the boy to the LIGA International Clinic in Sinaloa, Mexico in June in hopes that the American doctors volunteering there could provide some answers. One of those doctors was Nancy Kaplan.
Mexico has become an annual destination for Kaplan, a podiatrist who practices at Sutter Regional Medical Foundation’s Fairfield care center. She traveled several times to the country when her father worked in Mexico, knows her way around and speaks fluent Spanish.
Given all that, Kaplan did all she could do for the boy before asking a pediatrician to examine him. That led to the discovery that the youngster has cerebral palsy. The diagnosis was a modicum of relief for an anxious grandmother.
She now knows her grandson will receive treatment at the clinic that will make his already difficult life much easier.
For Kaplan, episodes such as these make the seven-hour flight aboard a Cessna to Sinaloa, Mexico, worth every minute. She first did volunteer work in Mexico as a fourth-year podiatry student in 1992.
It was love at first sight.
“I’ve always wanted to do charity work in Mexico—that was one of my things going into medicine,” Kaplan says. “I have spent a lot of time there, so I have a connection with Mexico. The people are real appreciative to have health care.”
Kaplan did not make the trip alone. She was joined by her medical assistant, Tegan Agustin. For Agustin, whose only previous visit to Mexico was aboard a cruise ship, the experience was eye-opening. “The people are grateful for every little thing you can do for them,” Agustin says. “It makes you thankful for what you have at home.”
LIGA International, also known as the Flying Doctors of Mercy, has provided medical assistance in Sinaloa since 1934. Doctors volunteer at the clinic from October to June each year and travel on private planes donated for the journey.
The pilots also volunteer their time.
“Doctors are going there every month and they rotate. Every specialty is available at the clinic, and there are three beds in the operating room,” Kaplan says. “These people have no resources. The government doesn’t take care of them.”
Despite all that, Kaplan says she has never heard visitors to the clinic complain. They appreciate whatever the doctors provide.
For Kaplan, the trip means leaving her 8-year-old son, Rapheal, for a few days. That is never easy to do. There will come a day, Kaplan points out, when he will join her on the annual journey. “He’s taking Spanish and he’ll go once he understands it 100 percent,” she says. Rapheal has little choice but to learn the language. His mother would love nothing more than to turn the trips to Mexico into a family affair.
There is at least one family in a village near Sinaloa rooting for him.
Make an Appointment
Dr. Kaplan's office is located at Sutter Regional Medical Foundation’s Fairfield care center at 2702 Low Court. Patients may request an appointment online or call 707-427-4900.
Dr. Kaplan performs foot surgery at the LIGA International Clinic in Sinaloa, Mexico. Like many other clinicians that work at the clinic, she volunteers to care for patients that would otherwise have nowhere else to turn for care.