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Strong friendship emerges from medical mission

Branam, Reece team up to bring healing in Dominican Republic


Grant Branam and Jacqueline Reece are both 23 years old, grew up in Lake Oswego, played sports and chose to pursue careers in the medical field. by: CLIFF NEWELL - Jacqueline Reece and Grant Branam not only formed a friendship during their medical mission to the Dominican Republic, they discovered a purpose for their lives.

But it took a long trip to the Dominican Republic for them to become friends, and now this friendship could be the start of something big. They will be bringing healing to people who badly need it.

“Going to the Dominican Republic gave me an insurmountable satisfaction,” Branam said. “The way they appreciated us and trusted us is pretty neat. I think we had a real impact. Those people wouldn’t have gotten care unless we had gone there.”

“It was absolutely satisfying and rewarding,” Reece said. “It instilled in me a strong desire to serve others. Going to the Dominican Republic was a huge step toward achieving my goal as a nurse.”

Out of the hundreds of patients they treated over their nine days in the Dominican Republic, there were many memorable moments. But perhaps the most memorable was helping a woman who had a broken leg. She had been waiting two years for treatment.

“These people don’t ask for much,” Branam said. “Just things that everyone should be entitled to. That woman was smiling and uncomplaining. She was so happy to be there.”

Before their trip in January, Branam and Reece were aware of each other’s existence, but only slightly. Branam was happy to be a jock at Lakeridge High School, and he was a very successful one. He was a member of the Pacers’ state champion soccer team and qualified for the state tennis tournament. He was interested enough in academics to keep him eligible for sports. Life was good. But going to Oregon State University expanded his horizons.

“I changed my focus once I went to college,” Branam said. “I turned academic. In my sophomore year I decided I wanted to become a doctor.”

Reece was a jockette and a great one. She made first team all-state in lacrosse playing for the powerhouse Lake Oswego High School Lakers. But she also knew early that she wanted a career in the medical field.

“Ever since I took science education at Lake Oswego High School I thought of becoming a doctor,” Reece said. “Then I decided that nursing was more for me.”

After earning her degree at the University of Portland, Reece is becoming established as a specialty surgery nurse for Providence Center in the Orthopedic & Fracture Clinic. But she wanted to do even more. She wanted to go on a medical mission trip for the Institute for Latin American Concern Summer Health Care Program.

“Dr. Paul Duwelius (a physician with OFC) had been a friend of my family for years,” Reece said. “He had been going on ILAC trips for years, and he said that when I was a nurse I could go with him. I was able to wiggle my way into a trip.”

Meanwhile, Branam — who hopes to be admitted to medical school — was doing some wiggling on his own. The doctor he was doing research for at Providence Orthopedic Institute in Portland set him up for the ILAC mission in Jaanuary. Branam is a clinical research assistant at the institute

“I always wanted to serve the underprivileged community,” Branam said. “It allowed me to care for the most vulnerable.”

Branam joined 30 health care professors and volunteers to make the trip last March, and one of them was Reece. Once only acquaintances, the two Lake Oswego natives quickly formed a bond of friendship.

It also really helped to have someone to share the culture shock with upon their arrival.

“Their medical equipment was so outdated,” Branam said. “It was like we had gone back 20 years in time.”

“It was awkward at the start of the trip,” Reece said. “Even though we were in a new place, people assumed that we knew what we were doing, and we didn’t. We had no idea. But in a couple of hours we jumped right in.”

For the next nine days, Branam and Reece served others and became inspired themselves. Branam prepared surgical instruments for doctors, while Reece performed any duty necessary during surgeries and also made sure anesthetics were safe for patients to use. It was long and hard work, but Reece and Branam had time to hug happy Dominican children.

“Being there helped validate me wanting to be a physician,” Branam said. “It let me know that providing care for others is something I definitely value.”

“It made me feel I was truly making a difference,” Reece said. “I was adding value to their lives. To heal their bodies is a huge thing.”

“They make their livings with their bodies,” Branam said. “Now they were able to get back to work.”

A woman who had received a hip replacement by Duwelius invited the entire ILAC team over to her house near Santiago for a dinner. The menu was stew on rice, served with love.

“That woman was so grateful,” Reece said. “That dinner really brought home why we were there. What we received far exceeded our own generosity.”

For Branam and Reece, their first ILAC trip was only the beginning of their commitment to the people of the Dominican Republic. Recently, Branam has been securing a huge pallet of medical supplies to send back there, and his new friend Reece has been helping him.

“We more than want to go again. We have to go again,” Reece said. “Something was left undone there, and until we make a dent in the health problem there, we have to keep going back. Grant and I have every intention of helping.”

For more information about ILAC, visit creighton.edu/ministry/ilac/index.php.



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