When Bryan Buchanan, founder and operator of Jungle Medic Missions, realized that he needed a mobile hospital for his medical missionary work in the jungles of Guatemala, he had high demands.
Buchanan didn’t know if he could find a vehicle that could maneuver the treacherous Guatemalan mountains, turn a tight radius through the jungle’s sub-standard roads, carry large loads of medical supplies and, most importantly, function as a hospital on wheels.
The answer to his tough list of requirements turned out to be a Blue Bird school bus.
To prepare the bus for Guatemala, Buchanan enlisted help from fellow church members. The team converted the bus’ interior to replicate a mini-hospital, and they added a fresh coat of white paint to the exterior. The vehicle was equipped with several treatment tables with surgical capabilities and a medical lab in the back.
In April 2006, Buchanan and his wife, Riechelle, took delivery of the bus in Guatemala. The method of transport? A U.S. Air Force cargo plane. Buchanan had served in the Air Force as an oral surgery technician.
The ministry relies on visiting church groups and medical professionals to staff its many clinics and mobile missions. Buchanan said that volunteers are always surprised to see how efficiently and effectively a school bus works as a medical clinic.
The Mobile Medical Clinic, as the bus is known, has traveled up mountains and into remote areas of the jungle where most vehicles would not be able to maneuver. It has allowed the ministry to bring medical and dental care to Guatemalan villagers who had never seen a doctor before. Volunteer medical teams can treat up to 500 people a day in the bus.
Buchanan contacted Blue Bird to express his appreciation for the quality and durability of the bus.
“This is one tough bus,” Buchanan said. “Locals say this is the only bus to come up these mountains.”
Contacted recently via e-mail, Buchanan had just returned from taking the bus “deep, deep into the jungle” for a medical clinic and noted that the vehicle was covered in mud. He was planning to get up at 4 a.m. the following morning to prepare for a clinic in the mountains.
“I honestly think if you saw where I take this bus, you would not believe it,” Buchanan said. “I have a team of med students from Vanderbilt University, and they are still in shock.”
For more information on Buchanan’s ministry, visit www.junglemedicmissions.org.