What we had hoped for in the way of collaboration between government, church, medical professionals, Medtronic and ourselves has come to pass. We have begun by initiating our Pacemaker program here in Asuncion, which serves all of Paraguay. Eight pacemaker operations were performed, as well as one electrophysiology procedure. The program will continue with Dr. Javier Galeano championing the effort. He is not only an expert electrophysiologist, but also the president elect of the national cardiology association. We also have the Archdiocesan Caritas office as a partner, with Ricardo Gonzalez at the head. They have proved invaluable in preparing for and supporting this mission and they will be the locus of the ongoing pacemaker program through their social worker/administrator who will screen patients, work with Dr. Galeano and handle the inventory - all complex tasks. In addition, we have Miriam Ritter (head of DIBEN, the partner government agency) who helped us obtain the authorizations we needed from the medical community here in Paraguay. They also provided a vehicle and driver for our time here. And finally, there is the help from the Catholic Action group that made important links for us and was there for us along the way. All great helps!
How else might our efforts impact those most in need? For some years, I have been wanting to make contact with Doctors Without Borders - they have worked in Bolivia in the area of Chagas disease through education, prevention and treatment. Chagas is the devastating parasitic disease so prevalent in many parts of Bolivia and in some parts of Paraguay. With our pacemaker implants, we help those who now suffer from the results of the disease. It turns out that Doctors Without Borders recently opened an effort here in Paraguay and we were able to meet with the head of both the Bolivia and Paraguay outreach. She spoke of the meeting as one that "dropped from heaven." And indeed it was, for in the future Solidarity Bridge may well have some significant partnering in both Bolivia and Paraguay.
The final item that might have a deep impact on the future work of Solidarity Bridge in Paraguay was a meeting with Dr. Hugo Roy, the Minister of Planning for the national government. He offered to facilitate a conversation with any government entity that might be a partner in any future project. Although none is currently planned, with enough financial support and personnel there are large scale efforts that we might undertake in the future. Will we? Only God knows.
And so, we end this communication series on our significant new effort in Paraguay. Our programs now reach people living in poverty in TWO countries. I stand in awe of God´s outreach to the poor through us and of the generosity expressed by our many volunteers and donors of funds and material that make all of this possible. On a closing note, it looks like we might have dodged getting dengue fever. We will not know for another few days since there is an incubation period of about 3 or 4 days. Thanks for taking this journey with me and Solidarity Bridge.