The annual Multi-Specialty Mission Trip supports and complements our year-round programs. This is typically our largest US mission team of 25-30 diverse professionals and ancillary staff who work with Bolivian colleagues at host hospitals to serve the population while advancing local capacities to continue the work after we leave. Specialties may include general surgery, gynecology, pediatrics, dermatology, family practice, cardiology, neurology, and dentistry. (Non-medical missioners are encouraged to join this effort as helpers, photographers, and bloggers!)
On our first day at the Tiquipaya Hospital, the mission team was consulted on the case of a young woman in the emergency room with severe abdominal pain, nausea, and high fever. Gregoria, a 25-year-old student and single mother, was diagnosed with acute pancreatitis caused by gallstones. She was very weak, and was admitted for close observation while being treated with IV pain medications and fluids. By the following morning, her condition had stabilized sufficiently to be cleared for surgery. Following her laparoscopic gallbladder removal, Gregoria spent two more days in the hospital recovering her strength.
Her long hospital stay provided opportunities for several on the mission team to meet and share moments with Gregoria. Hailing from humble roots in a Quechua-speaking family, Gregoria is now studying gastronomy at a local university.
We later learned from our social worker that Gregoria, her mother, and young daughter live in an improvised, unfurnished room with no bathroom. Gregoria works as a part-time cook and her mother sells cheese and milk, through which the women scrape together around $150 dollars a month, hardly enough for food.
Their stark financial situation had kept Gregoria from seeking help when her pain first started. As she explained to our social worker: I put up with the pain for a long time because I knew we didn’t have the money to spend on this operation. I thought it would go away. But when I almost passed out, I decided to come to the hospital and they admitted me.
We learned all of this later, given that once her initial pain was controlled, Gregoria never complained. In fact, Gregoria was intent on focusing on others. While blessing her before surgery, Fr. Bob Oldershaw was moved by Gregoria’s request that he write down his name so that she could in turn pray for him. She extended her prayers to other team members as well as they stopped by on rounds. Gregoria also became close friends with her roommate and fellow surgery patient, Margarita, for whom Gregoria translated between Quechua and Spanish, thereby assisting the mission team in their work.
It was a gift to meet and care for Gregoria and to see her back on her feet.
2018 Multi-Specialty Medical Mission Trip
September 28 - October 7, Punata