The below is a translated transcript of an article published in Somos by El Comercio on October 31, 2015.
BY JUANA AVELLANEDA
Rufina Mesa Andia (79) does not remember how old she is and much less how to spell her name. But what she does not forget this woman wearing a pollera (wide skirt) and braided hair, is that every year a caravan of Doctors arrive to their village on a health campaign, for which they do not charge even a penny. “ I am illiterate and medicine I don’t know”, she says when we asked herif she had ever been to the Doctor. Rufina , as 450 inhabitants of the Esmeralda Annex, located in the Province of Castrovirreyna, State of Huancavelica, has never set foot in a Hospital. They also do not know what is like to have a molar removed without anesthesia. Because where they live they only have a medical post staffed with a Doctor who finished medical school and is doing his practice on a one year assignment, plus aNurse and a Nurse technician, that do not understand them when they speak in Quechua, their mother language. “No doctor assigned to this region will come to work because they are located at about 4,500 meters above sea level. The conditions are extreme” , says Mamerto Peña Andia (64), president of the community.
But it will be different today: a group of Doctors of various specialties have arrived in vans to provide free care for five days. And not only will they be in Esmeralda, but also in the annexes of Ticrapo, Mollepampa, Cocas, Cocha and Chiris.
IN GOOD HANDS
One of the most enthusiastic is surgeon Luis Basaldua (50), who four years ago joined the ranks of Soul of the Peruvian Andes (SoPA), a non- profit Organization who for the last nine years bring medical aid to one of the poorest States of the Country. “Good morning Mamita, come in”, greets the first patient of the day. As he takes Rufina’s blood pressure he explains that his wife, an Obstetrician Patricia OjedaUrquizo (49) performs Papanicolautests in the next office to hundred rural woman who had never in their lives visited a gynecologist. “It is terrible to live in a country where there are still patients that must wait six months to see if they have cervical cancer. “The precarious condition that exist in the Andes is very sad”, said Basaldua who annually takes off from his job as the chief of general surgery of the Military Hospital, to participate in this social project, that works because of the volunteer doctors. “We startedthis adventure with six colleagues; today we are around 50. For few days we leave the comforts of Lima to meet men and woman of the country side, who unfortunately have to walk long distances to access the health care system. It is not fair”. He adds, while he dispenses some pain killers and vitamin supplements to Rufina, who happily just exitedthe door.
NEXT PERSON COME IN
But it is not always like this. At the health Center in the Province of Castrovirreyna, Janet Martinez Altamirano (24) is about to find out that her daughterZulma (6), she took her to see the Doctor for a cold, has a heart murmur. Since in Castrovirreyna there are no Cardiologist , the Pediatrician Martha del Rosario Donayre has asked her to travel immediatelyto Lima. The problem is that this single mother has no money for the bus fare and does not know any one that can help her during the treatment of her little one. “This baby is a time bomb. A simple cold can kill her”, says the specialist that refersthe patient to the President of SoPA, Luis Rebatta (73), who immediately made some calls to various Hospitals in Lima to streamline the process. “The mission of SoPA is not limited to bringing health care professionals to Huancavelica. When we find cases like this, we take the responsibility to follow up . This undoubtedly, is one of them”, says the Doctor. Born in Huancavelica, Rebatta, decidedto establish this organizationafter settling in the United States. “Like all immigrants, I was looking for a better future. He was 19, “he narrates. And it is good thing he found it. Rebatta studied economics in College and becameDirector of a Bank and got his US Citizenship. But when he returned to the place where he was born to visit his relatives, realized that things had not changed. On the contrary, the situation had worsened. “It was then that I knew that I had to do something. I could not stand with my arms crossed”, he says with arms crossed”, he says with moist eyes. Suddenly he excuses himself for a minute to go to the area of Internal Medicine. A 99 year old mom has come from Chiris and needs a translator. Rebatta is the only one in the group that can speak Quechua.
AT THE END OF THE HALL THERE IS A ROOM
At the end of the office we find a sea of people asking more expeditious service. “Doctor, we are waitingsince six in the morning”. We are sleepy and hungry!” they scold the nutritionists. But the person who receives more complaints is the Optometrist. Roberto Monge Rivero (67) is the most soughtafter by the population. In Huancavelica, due to high solar radiation there are frequent problems with the peoples vision. “One of the most common is queratocono, which is a disease causing deformation of the cornea”, explains Monge while still examining patient number 281. This is Marco (7) who minute later comes out of the office bouncing and happy with his new glasses. “That is what makes it all worthwhile”, says a sailing aficionado, who year after year misses the regatta race to come to Huancavelica. “I feel more rewarded doing social work than winning a race. I have the rest of the year to sail”, he says before calling the next in line. Outside his office there is human snake that demands service. And even though he feels cold, hungry and has a headache that is killing him, he knows that the show must go on. “Next!” He says.
42% of children under 5 years old living in Huancavelica have chronic malnutrition. Three yearsago the figure was 63%.
2,481 was the total number of patients attended during the campaign October 8 to the 14th.
Dental and ophthalmological services were the most in demand.
45 health professionals participated in the campaign
7 surgeons, 2 obstetricians, 12 dentists, 11 psychologists, 7 nurses and 3 optometrists.
400 people visited the ophthalmologistsfor the first time.
The patients received 375 prescription glasses and 50 sunglasses.
WANT TO HELP?
ALL PAID. The organization Soul of the Peruvian Andes bears the costof lodging, food and transportation during the campaign. Requirements needed, are health professionals in all specialties; preferable: gynecologists, pediatricians, ophthalmologists, nutritionist, anesthesiologists, dentists and dermatologists. They also need translators of Quechua.
CONTACT US: If you wish to participate in volunteering or you know an altruistic friend who can join the cause, call in Lima- Peru 997 581 300 in the USA 718-779-7715 or email its Director: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information please visit our Website: www.sopacares.org