Our guest blogger is Mary McCann Sanchez, Senior Director of Programs at Solidarity Bridge, who co-leads Solidarity Bridge’s first gynecologic mission of 2016 together with Gyne Program Director, Jodi Grahl.
A long line of women formed in the entrance of the Tiquipaya Hospital, located about a half hour from Cochabamba. It was Saturday afternoon, just when most medical Bolivian professionals take a well-deserved break from their private practice and public service. Yet the hospital’s director, gynecologist Dr. Jose Luis Choque, stood in the doorway of a consultation room, ready to greet Solidarity Bridge missioners, Dr. Ron Miller (ob-gyn) and Dr. Janet Tomezsko (urogynecologist), with whom he and his colleagues will perform surgeries this week.
“I requested a mission visit so that our patients could benefit from the expertise of doctors who have generously shared their skills with us in the past,” Dr. Choque stated. “Due to resource limitations, our patients cannot often access interventions like endometrial ablation and bladder repair. The combined experience of these two doctors will make a huge difference in the lives of hard-working women and mothers in our communities who have endured extreme levels of pain and discomfort.”
The patients echoed Dr. Choque’s words. “I am here with my mother,” one of the women in the row of seats shared with me. “She has put up with so much discomfort for years but until now has been too ashamed to talk to anyone.” Common gynecologic problems are not easily discussed by patients in or out of hospitals. In this shadow of silence, the foregone conclusion for many women is often a complete hysterectomy with prolonged processes of recovery.
Clinical consultations…organization of supplies…and now the medical interventions. Equipped with state-of-the-art instruments donated by Solidarity Bridge’s individual and corporate partners, the mission will provide needed treatment and simultaneously train Bolivian gynecologists and interns. Among others, specific procedures include the use of a midurethral sling to reduce stress incontinence, and endometrial ablations using the Novasure procedure to reduce excessive menstrual flow.
And, of course, none of this happens by accident! Communication is, as always, a key to the success of a mission. Social workers at Solidarity Bridge’s partner organization in Bolivia, Puente de Solidaridad, have spread the word about the opportunity, not only to women in need of restoring their health but also to medical professionals. We expect to be joined by a gynecologist from as far away as Santa Cruz who has found in Solidarity Bridge an effective source of professional development.
The first day of mission was highly satisfying. “I see this mission as an opportunity to provide a service that positively changes the quality of life of many women,” commented Janet. “This is my third mission to Bolivia– and it has become home.” Ron expressed similar sentiments. “I taught these techniques to our staff at my hospital back home and now it’s my time to teach here. It is gratifying to know that women can resume their lives and enter back into their daily lives relatively quickly.”
We expect a ripple effect…as I walked to the van to head back to Cochabamba, a woman touched my sleeve. Clearly relieved that she would receive the treatment she needs, she said, “I am going to tell my sister about the care – and I know that she will tell her neighbors. It is time we find the help we need for our problems."