It was September 1, 2016 when the three teams deployed: medical, education and disaster relief. Part three of this series covers the Healthy Communities medical mission volunteers.
The best way to understand the volunteer medical team’s achievements over 15 days is to watch them in action starting at 6:30 a.m. From the time they eat a rushed breakfast of coffee and oatmeal until the time they return late at night after a long day of travel over rough roads, they literally do not stop.
But before we join with them on their hard day’s work, we need to hark back to the previous three months when Stephanie Cooke and Dr. Rhonda Deschner spent their days gathering albendazole doses, anemia test strips, fluoride treatments, and blood testing equipment (not to mention the visit Stephanie and Dwight Bailey took to help Dr. Rosado and Alejandro prepare the existing Peruvian Health Outposts and volunteer nurses).
Before our clinics could begin, Dr. Rosado needed to visit all 10 schools with Peru Country Director, Alejandro Tejada to obtain permission for each class in each school. Preparatory data for every child was entered into a database by Quechua Benefit’s executive secretary, Carla Villanueva.
Steve Johnson, Quechua Benefit’s manager in the USA, scheduled travel, prepared a budget, allocated medicine, and obtained permission for people to carry the medicine and supplies onto the plane and bring it through Peruvian customs.
This particular day, the Quechua Benefit team headed to Callilli, a town of several thousand, where we visited the first primary school of several hundred. Dr. Rosado and Dr. Mosquera organized the children into one group and the parents into another, and began a public health presentation that included the benefits of washing hands, the dangers of parasites, an explanation of anemia, and the reasons for their children’s fluoride treatments.
People became still and soon were raising their hands eagerly asking questions about symptoms such as diarrhea, low energy, and stunted growth. As the meeting adjourned, dozens of people crowded around the doctors and voiced their concerns as the children kicked soccer balls, played jacks and were delighted at the freedom from the classroom that this occasion seemed to bestow on them.
When it was time to rein in the kids, Stephanie and the teachers organized the children into unruly lines, and desks were lined with medicine and computers. The children’s glee faded as they were weighed and measured by Claudia. It seemed that no one had prepared them for the needles and blood draw. Dr. Charles Gulotta alternated between the triage station, drawing blood, and recording data. Richard Miller kept his cool as he translated for two doctors while keeping the anemia test results organized.
After testing the children, they returned to class and were given a demonstration on proper dental care and the dangers of tooth decay. The mood lightened when Alejandro used oversized brushes to brush a giant mouth bearing huge white teeth stuck in bright pink gums.
As the day wore on, hundreds of children and their parents were administered albendazole to kill the 5-inch long parasites that were causing intestinal bleeding and stealing 25% of the nutritional value of everything they ate. The blood work results were analyzed, and iron supplements were given as needed in hopes that the children will recover from anemia, which plagues almost half of them.
Quechua Benefit’s goal is to expand the Healthy Communities initiative to serve the entire population of 40,000 in the Colca Valley over the next three years. One child, and one volunteer at a time.
Don’t miss the final installment of A Peek Behind the Curtain next week, when we cover our earthquake relief efforts in Ichupampa.