Reflections from Charles Brod, traveler and educator.
Charles and his daughter Anne joined FACES during the 2018 patient screenings in Lambayeque, Peru.
“Dr. Albert has said more than once that surgery is the ‘easy’ part of the effort here, a comment that belies his humility and passion while underscoring very real obstacles and challenges. In January he will return with 35 medical professionals who will perform more than 50 surgeries in the space of 7 days. All this done in a place with the sparest of resources.
What Anne and I have discovered is that these challenges are met by an incredibly talented and committed group of individuals. They work with a passion and commitment that enables these life-changing surgeries to happen.
Some observations I can share:
This past week has been taken up with a large amount of preparatory work to provide access to the hospitals where the medical care will be given. That means meeting with hospital officials who are not necessarily inclined to give over facilities for a week to outside medical professionals. In a pointed reminder that some things have remained the same since I was last here nearly 30 years ago, medical workers went on indefinite strike as we arrived. Fortunately, the strike did not impede last Sunday’s screening.
While details of January’s work were of immediate concern, longer range relationships were initiated. Our delegation met with the newly elected governor of the region and his health minister, a woman doctor who breaks the mold of an older male bureaucrat, a hopeful sign of a potential opening for more ministerial support.
Then there are the relationships that are already firmly in place so evident at Sunday’s screening. One hundred families came to Hospital Belen in Lambayeque. Many had traveled long hours from remote communities. A line had formed by early morning. The Women Lions of Lambayeque welcomed them, providing meals in the course of the day and keeping order. The social service staff was present filling out with mothers and fathers the necessary paperwork for intake and pre-surgery. The Oregon Lions continued their eye exams, testing the families along with hospital staff.
The FACES team itself is a remarkable group of people. Delia Delgado Maldonado, an English professor at the local university, acts as the in-country liaison and among other tasks conducted interviews with families on Sunday. Then there is the dynamic father-daughter team of Kelly and Angela Jensen, who with a range of talents act as interpreters, diplomats, consultants and organizers. Pam Jensen, ESL educator and long-time FACES supporter, was present at every meeting, activity and gathering to engage and uplift. Doris and John Platt, the founders of Andina Restaurant, were also with us supporting the work with tremendous grace and kindness.
By the end of the day, nearly 100 examinations had been done by the two doctors. Over 60 surgeries had been scheduled for January. Interviews had been done to better understand patient and family experiences and provide baseline data to improve the program.
Anne was a trooper throughout, engaging with children with games and activities.
Again, thank you for being part of these worthy efforts.