The 23-member Multi-Specialty Mission Trip team working at Univalle Hospital in Cochabamba, Bolivia, includes three gynecologists: Dr. Bob LaPata, Dr. Carrie Giordano, and Dr. Katie Gualandri. Today's guest blogger, Dr. Katie, shares the powerful experiences that awaited them on their very first day in Cochabamba.
When we arrived at Univalle Hospital for the first time on Thursday afternoon, multiple patients were already there to find out if they were candidates for surgery. A particularly special patient arrived by herself by bus. Erika was in severe pain, so we quickly evaluated her with the local doctors. We discovered Erika had an enlarged ovarian mass. Given her condition, she needed emergency surgery. Within moments, a broad team of people pulled together and Erika was wheeled in and prepped in the operating room. Thanks to the advanced equipment available at this facility, we were able to remove the mass and save the ovary through minimally invasive surgery (laparoscopy), leaving her with just three small incisions.
As a medical professional, when we are first presented with an emergent case, there are many things to consider, evaluate, and prepare. But most importantly, we have to remember how frightening this situation is for the patient. Erika was alone, in extreme pain, and strangers from a foreign country were telling her she needed emergency surgery.
I pray for strength for these patients, not only to heal from physical ailments but also for peace of mind to trust that they are being cared for in mind, body, and spirit. We hold each patient's hands as she goes to sleep for surgery and we are there when she wakes up. We sit at her hospital bed and make sure she is feeling well. We discuss her home situation to make sure she can be cared for when she leaves the hospital. We arrange follow-up with the local medical team. And we give the patient a hug goodbye, sending more prayers as we part.
Erika was sent home the next day with her family. She in now good health, and continues to be in the thoughts and prayers of the Solidarity Bridge team. Erika was the first patient on this trip, and she gave us a quick reminder of why we are here!