Mary McCann Sanchez, Senior Director of Programs at Solidarity Bridge, shares final impressions of a successful General Surgery Mission Trip (GSMT). 

Recovering patient, Teresa, Dr. Gay Garrett, Dr. Andy Guiao, and Dr. Lucho.

Recovering patient, Teresa, Dr. Gay Garrett, Dr. Andy Guiao, and Dr. Lucho.

Today is the final day of our General Surgery Mission Trip, and we will begin the morning with a closing ritual at the Viedma Hospital in Cochabamba. Staff at that large public hospital, as well as patients and their families, will join our mission team of 16 individuals to celebrate what has truly been a powerful experience of healing, teaching and learning.

This is now my third Solidarity Bridge trip. Each mission has been unique, yet each missioner shares the passion for alleviating suffering and contributing to a better quality of life. With more than 40 surgeries and additional procedures completed at Viedma and Tiquipaya, we are grateful for the trust and hospitality extended to us on a daily basis by Bolivian medical professionals and their patients.

There is a line in the Song of Songs that encapsulates the spirit of this particular mission.  “Set me like a seal on your heart” has become, for me, an image of a supportive group of medical professionals, interpreters, pastoral workers and coordinators, and colleagues at our Bolivian office Puente de Solidaridad.  GSMT surgeons -- Gay, John and Malcolm -- brought unsurpassed medical expertise and a willingness to share their knowledge with colleagues and residents, with surgical and physician assistants --- Maria, Stephanie and Marci -- at their side. Anesthesiologists -- Dan, Andy, Pat and Marco -- ensured pain control and safety for each patient, and took a step further by training Bolivian colleagues how to use a Sonosite ultrasound, generously donated by Marco.  Chaplain Jim Manzardo brought wisdom, music, compassion and the gift of gentle humor to our team as well as to patients and families.  Interpreters Vivian, Matilde and Natalie facilitated communication across cultures, enriched by their professional work in medical settings. Importantly, mission coordinators Dan and Jodi confidently guided each of us through thoughtful case analysis, medical meetings and logistical turns with quality patient care always in mind.

Dr. Marco Fernandez training students on the sonosite ultrasound, SB missioners who worked at Viedma Hospital this week, and Bolivian medical students and residents observing surgical procedures.

Dr. Marco Fernandez training students on the sonosite ultrasound, SB missioners who worked at Viedma Hospital this week, and Bolivian medical students and residents observing surgical procedures.

And there are many others who are permanently engraved in our hearts. Who could name all the Bolivian doctors, nurses and support staff who facilitated this mission and worked at our side? We are grateful for the staff of Puente de Solidaridad, our sister organization here in Cochabamba -- Patricia, Maria Ines, Marisol, Jose, Alfonso, Marcela, Veronica and Pablo -- who laid the foundation for this mission, participated in patient selection, ensured equipment, managed logistics and met us each day with a smile.

Sealed on our hearts, the hard work, difficulties and laughter of this mission are now a part of each of us, as are the handshakes, smiles and tears of the Bolivian patients we were blessed to work with.  Today my colleague Jodi and I say a grateful goodbye to this GSMT mission team, we will happily receive the next mission -- our Gynecologic Mission that will serve women in need of specialized treatment in Tiquipaya.

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