Written by Mary McCann Sanchez, Senior Director of Programs

The stark reality of under-resourced hospitals in Bolivia and beyond triggers a series of urgent questions. Will tired patients in the crowded waiting room see a doctor today? Will medical professionals have the right tools to successfully complete a surgery? Will patients and families trust the advice they receive and willingly walk the road to recovery?

Neurosurgeon Dr. John Weaver in surgery.

Neurosurgeon Dr. John Weaver in surgery.

Alfredo Mamani’s long but routine journey from Chuquisaca to Tarija, Bolivia, was abruptly interrupted when the vehicle in which he was riding flipped over, injuring his spine. Alfredo, the oldest of eight siblings, had embarked on the 12-hour trip to visit family. Although he was rushed to Tarija’s San Juan de Dios Hospital where free care is available, his doctors could not operate without the right instrumentation.

Two weeks after the accident, the Solidarity Bridge neurosurgery mission arrived in Tarija. Soon after the team’s arrival and equipped with instruments and grafting material generously donated by Globus, US neurosurgeon Dr. John Weaver and his Bolivian peer Dr. Marco Antonio Fernandez performed delicate spinal surgery. Zack Kaufman, a skilled bilingual rep from Globus who had made a deep personal commitment to accompany this mission, was at their side. The spinal fusion was successful.

Image from group prayer during mission.

Image from group prayer during mission.

When I visited Alfredo in his cramped, shared room in the post-op wing, I saw a prayer card in his hand, a visible sign that Patricia Vargas, Director of our partner organization Puente de Solidaridad, had stopped by to pray with him the evening before. Alfredo’s aunt and sister were at his side with news that his elderly parents had embarked on the long journey to visit their son. Dr. Weaver commented on the 30-year-old’s strong bone structure, which Dr. Fernandez attributed to a healthy life full of exercise in rural Bolivia. A hospital social worker soon greeted Alfredo’s aunt in the hallway, ready to discuss other health concerns the family had shared with Solidarity Bridge.

As I observe the scene, I am struck by the many similarities between our human family and God’s wonderful gift of our spinal column. We must be conscious of our need to work together, to align resources and energy. Solidarity allows us to meet even unforeseen needs that emerge, to respond to tragedies with the remarkable resilience of Alfredo, and to take up the journey home.

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