An email sent out to our mail list:
I have been horridly negligent in updates. Our days were long and if we weren't seeing patients, logistical issues were never ending. I made a decision this time to be in bed before midnight every night and letters home and posts suffered, as in I have not written a single word so I apologize.
We have finished our mission. We had 21 US-based team members along with Peruvians Monica, driver and crowd enforcer, Julio, a dentist, Karoline and Marie, two medical students, Susanna and Theresa, two medical residents and Anita, a psychologist joining us at different times. They provided insights into the health care and mental health systems that were previously lacking so their presence enriched our ability to understand the current health care system, a much needed education!
Our ultrasonographer was kept very busy and because of her presence, we were able to educate, treat and/or refer patients based on confirmed diagnoses instead of best-guesses. Diverticuli of the bladder (who knew?), gallstones, a breach baby at 8 months, placentia previa, ovarian cysts and an ovarian dermoid cyst are the findings that immediately come to mind. Gestational ages were documented as the program measured the length of the femur bone. Lots of moms got to see their babies in utero-the heartbeat, spine, the fists, legs; their faces registered nothing at first and as we pointed out different parts of the child, shy smiles appeared as they began to understand what they were looking at.
We saw several orthopedic issues and were able to provide hospital-quality splinting to those that needed it. We quickly dispensed our crutches, walkers and cane while being able to provide one patient who had major skin debridement with dressings that will last him quite a while.
There were conditions that some of us had never heard of and we never will again. Our bulk medications for high blood pressure, low dose aspirin, water retention, antibiotics, pain relief and cold/cough meds flew out the doors of the pharmacy. We also had a limited supply of medication for severe rheumatoid arthritis, seizures and even hypothyroidism that was quickly depleted. We gave breathing treatments with our donated nebulizer until it burned out, pollution induced asthma is a very real issue amongst the young and old. Ear wax removal was an ongoing challenge as rocks of wax and the occasional bug embedded themselves in the eardrums of little ones.
Vitamins were always in high demand as patients think of them as magic pills but education to prove otherwise will be an uphill battle. The misuse of medications is another issue that can have profound adverse affects on patient health. One woman told a practitioner she was taking "amoxicilina" (amoxicillin-an antibiotic) for pain but it wasn't working. Patients can purchase the medications of their choice over the counter but may not be educated on how to take it or even what it is for.
People wonder about us providing a 60 or 90 day supply of medications for chronic conditions. When a patient buys the blood pressure or diabetes medication at the pharmacy, it is purchased by the pill and they might be able to afford just a 10-day supply. Receiving a 90-day supply is a windfall in their eyes.
Lots of children don't have appetites according to the mothers, even as the child is eating candy during the visits. Teeth in the younger children are rotting and after seeing the decay of the little ones in Peru and the Philippines, I am convinced the CocaCola and Pepsi companies are out to destroy the teeth of the world. In some places, cola is cheaper than water and in a lot of places, cheaper than milk.
We handed out an estimated 200 reading glasses as well as all of the distance glasses with most of those going to children who could not see the chalkboards, if there was one.
Our "non-medical" people soon realized how vital they were to the team and kept busy without complaint. They have been redubbed "extraordinary medical ministers" as a reference to lay Eucharistic ministers ("Extraordinary Ministers") used at mass. They were often locked away into an obscure corner counting pills with little benefit of patient contact or a decent view and at one point, using a candle for lighting!
Because of the bigger issues we saw, we were not able to treat as many as we did two years ago. Our final count is not yet available but we estimate that 1600 people were seen and treated over the course of 11 days. Almost every single patient left with something, even if it was a toy for a healthy child
Our days started early and Las Hermanas del Perpetuo Socorro came out to our villa by cab on a daily basis with communion so that we, with our deacon, could celebrate communion, a wonderful way to start our day!
Our first year in Peru, we stayed in Lima and commuted to the district of Ate, a 1+ hour commute. This year we stayed in a beautiful villa in a district 20 minutes from Ate. Holding 20 people, it had large, lush expansive grounds that provided a respite from the brown air, the brown plants, the brown dirt outside of its walls. We hired a cook who kept us well fed with breakfast and dinner while the municipality of Ate provided our lunches when we worked in their neighborhood.
On our last day working with the sisters, the school at the sisters' convent put on a folkloric show as a sign of gratitude. Later we were taken out for lunch to a beautiful restaurant, the Granja Azul with the sisters, city volunteers and co-ordinators, all donated by the restaurant itself. Another surreal experience of comfort in a neighborhood of poverty. I cannot imagine that we did anything as grand as the thanks that we received so it was all a bit overwhelming.
Our last three days were spent in transit; first to Ancon, an oceanside village 2+ hours north of Lima then, after the clinic, a 3+hour trek to a village on the south side of Lima. It was a lot to ask of the team in a single day but was well worth the effort to spend two days in the little coastal village of Pucusana. We were hosted by Marcia Torres, the mother of one of our parishioners. Despite recent personal challenges, she insisted on providing housing and breakfast for 18 of us and arranged for a team dinner on our last day.
We know we did not do this alone: We can never forget the support of Las Hermanas del Perpetuo Socorro and Natalia who was our liaison with the sisters and the district, the support of the District of Ate and their transportation, the Knights of Columbus for donating the ultrasound probe, la Sra. Marcia Torres for so graciously hosting us in Pucusana and to VIDA USA and VIDA PERU for their time and energy to ensure that we and out supplies made it through customs.
Finally, and foremost in our thoughts and prayers, we give thanks to the Lord; for healing those team members that became sick, for bringing so many people together for a common vision of helping the poor in His name and for those of you at home that supported us in prayer, thoughts and donations, thank you!
And to the team, well done and thank you.