Written by Sarah Hinojosa
I arrived in Bolivia on Friday, in time to spend two days with our General Surgery team in Cochabamba, prior to their departure back to the US. On Saturday morning, we gathered with many of our patients and their families and with the Bolivian medical team for a Liturgy of Blessing and Thanksgiving. Patients and their families came forward to give thanks to God and to the U.S. and Bolivian medical teams through whom God came to their aid. Many were moved to tears, including our mission team.
Early Sunday morning, we all flew from Cochabamba to Santa Cruz and most of the team continued on back to the U.S. A few of us stayed in Santa Cruz to start a second week of general surgery, led by US surgeon Dr. Magued Khouzam and surgical assistant Al Marcinkevicius, who had arrived the day before. That afternoon, they examined the patients who were waiting for our arrival at Hospital San Juan de Dios.
Before beginning the surgery Monday morning, we were very pleased to learn that the hospital had set up closed circuit television to allow other surgeons to view the surgeries as they were being performed, while Magued explained each step of the procedure. Surgeons and residents came from many hospitals around the city to participate, excited for the opportunity to learn about the advanced surgical techniques that Magued demonstrated.
Meanwhile, I made the rounds in the surgical ward, visiting with patients who were on the surgical schedule for that afternoon or the next day. I wish that you, our friends and supporters who are reading this blog, could have been there to meet them. These are wonderful people that you are helping through Solidarity Bridge. There is a profound sincerity and directness among those who live in poverty in Bolivia, which we very rarely see in the U.S. I am sharing the photo of one of these patients, Rolando. Due to Chagas disease, he has been living for many, many years with severe restriction of his lower esophagus. He cannot swallow solid food and can drink only small amounts of liquids. Knowing that Magued had carefully explained to him that it would be a complicated surgery, I asked if he was feeling afraid. He said, “Fear? No, I trust in God. I am at peace, whatever the outcome.”
As I reflect on Rolando’s words, I realize that this is an attitude I would like to bring to all my life. Rolando’s is the kind of peace that the world cannot give.