Written by Natalie Rodriguez, Interpreter and Surgical circulator

Although it was not intended, we had scheduled three gastrectomies for Wednesday. In preparation of what we thought would be our busiest day, we gathered our supplies the night before. We made sure we had the right sutures, enough clips, but, most importantly, sufficient time so that these patients could be treated with excellent care. To do so, we arrived at the hospital early to round on our previous patients while prepping the OR for our first case of the day. Fortunately, our previous patients were doing well; they were walking, drinking, and excited to go home soon. After meeting with them, we were motivated to start.

Our partner Bolivian doctors and nurses also arrived early for our jump start. Dr. Marco Fernandez (US) and Dr. Marcela Cespedes (Bolivia), our anesthesia power team, were setting up their equipment while our talented surgeons, Dr. Malcolm Bilimoria (US) and Dr. Vania Lozada (Bolivia), were discussing how to approach the patients’ procedures, but our first patient was nowhere to be found in the OR. Everyone was on time and ready to go, but we were delayed by the lack of sheets. Despite this setback, with teamwork and patience, we found ways to work quickly and somehow our potentially “longest day” became our efficient and shortest day. Here’s how it unfolded…

Dr. Bilimoria and Dr. Pereyra with Jose’s brother after his surgery.

Dr. Bilimoria and Dr. Pereyra with Jose’s brother after his surgery.

We began our day with Justino (76), who came in underweight, but we hope that after this surgery, he will be able to gain the nutrients and eat the foods he wants. Following him, Jose (54) came in to undergo the same procedure due to gastric cancer; luckily for him, the cancer had not spread, and we removed the tumor in sight. Our final patient, Angela (56), was similar to our previous patients; she was drastically underweight with a tumor sitting on her ovary caused by the spread of her gastric cancer. We were able to remove the protruding tumor and her gastrectomy went well. Soon she will be able to uptake food and nutrients!

Turns out that our efficient and shortest day, was also a rewarding day. All the surgeries went so well that these patients were not moved into ICU, our patients’ families were grateful for our deeds, and we all were able to work as a team, even with a language barrier.  Whew!


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