Nearly a year after a patient's death, chaplain Dexter Lambert visited the man's native country of Costa Rica.
Little did he know his vacation would turn into a mission after he caught up with the family of the patient he had gotten close to during treatment.
"While his (the patient's) son was showing me around, he mentioned that there was a rehab hospital there, so I wanted to tour it," said Mr. Lambert, a chaplain for Trinity Hospice and Walton Rehabilitation Hospital. "During the tour of the hospital, I spoke with the hospital's president, who described to me some of their needs."
The one-room hospital in Upala, Costa Rica, isn't capable of holding all the equipment it requires, he said.
Many of those who need the hospital can't even get there, because of a lack of basic items such as wheelchairs, walkers and crutches.
"I got to thinking, I work at Walton, and surely, there's something that we can do to help them," the chaplain said.
After his return, Mr. Lambert discussed the hospital's needs with the president of Walton Rehabilitation Hospital and they created the Adopt-the-Hospital project.
The original plan was to send supplies to the hospital, but as plans were made, another idea was born: a mission trip.
A 12-member team, including translators, nurses and a doctor, will leave today for six days in Upala.
"We now call it the Upala Project. We are going to go to the hospital, set up a medical clinic, do some construction on a public school down there, in addition to presenting the supplies donated by area businesses and community members," Mr. Lambert said.
The Upala hospital is finding ways to expand its building to better serve people, the chaplain said. He will meet with its board of directors Tuesday to discuss the relationship between the two hospitals.
During the team's stay, members will give clothing to communities in neighboring Nicaragua.
"I've never done anything like this, and when it was presented to me, I wasn't sure how it was going to turn out," he said. "It started out very small but has mushroomed into something really big. I can't wait to see the positive impact we will have on this community."
Reach Nikasha Dicks at (706) 823-3336 or firstname.lastname@example.org.