Photo of patient's daughter This adorable little girl is Maira Nicole, and she is 17 months old. We met Maira this past February in the town of Cliza, Bolivia. Maira is one of those who has benefited this year from our General Surgery program! In fact, she has benefited from some exciting new developments in the program. And I can’t wait to share the news with you!

As many of you know, through the General Surgery Mission Trips, our General Surgery Program provides highly-specialized training for select Bolivian surgeons. One of these surgeons is Dr. Jaime Vallejos. Over the course of several mission trips, he was partnered with Dr. Gay Garrett of Washington D.C. to perform open and laparoscopic gall bladder and hernia surgeries. Dr. Jaime is now doing these procedures on his own, serving patients identified by our partner office in Cochabamba, PuenteSol (for Puente de Solidaridad).

What’s the big news? Now Dr. Jaime is taking his skills on the road, and “paying it forward” by training others! This past February, together with PuenteSol, he organized a week-long campaign in the Municipal Hospital of Cliza, 40 minutes outside of Cochabamba. Dr. Jaime worked with Cliza Hospital’s surgeon, Dr. Valdivia, to do 5 gall bladder and 2 hernia surgeries for low-income patients. PuenteSol’s Medical Supplies Coordinator, José Choque, supplied suture, surgical mesh, and other materials, and loaned the surgeons specialized instruments. The PuenteSol Social Worker, María Inés Uriona, screened the patients in order to identify those most in need of support.

Photo of guided tour

So you are probably thinking – that little girl didn’t have hernia or gall bladder surgery! You’re right, she didn’t. But her Mom, Nora, did. We met 34-year-old Nora when we visited the Cliza hospital on February 28th. She had come in, with Maira in tow, for a post-op check-up. She told me how she suffered terrible discomfort in her belly for over a year. She tried massaging the area and drinking herbal teas, but the pain only got worse, preventing her from lifting her daughter or doing housework. Maira and her 8-year-old brother suffered the consequences of Nora’s hernia along with her. She was told she needed surgery, but she couldn’t cover even the minimal costs at the Municipal Hospital. Her husband’s income as a construction laborer barely covers the family’s basic needs, and they have no savings. So when Nora saw the announcement on Cliza’s local television station about the services being offered through our general surgery program, she rushed to the hospital to see if she qualified.

Photo at Cliza Hospital

Nora was too shy to have her picture taken, but she was very happy to watch Maira pose for the camera. She did want to say thank you, to all those who helped give her back her health. She looks forward to the day soon when she is fully recovered and can again carry little Maira in her arms when she is sleepy, or just needs an extra hug.

I also want to say to all of you who support us, on behalf of Maira and Nora, and the 6 other Cliza patients and their families as well: THANK YOU Dr. Gay for coming to train for us! THANK YOU Dr. Jaime for sharing your skills! THANK YOU PuenteSol for your boots-on-the-ground role all year round in Bolivia! And THANK YOU to all of our supporters! It takes all of you – all of us – to help raise children like Maira Nicole! GOD BLESS YOU!

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