“If you build it, they will come.”

“If you build it, they will come.”  This familiar phrase captured the scene in Tarija as our last patient was stitched up and we packed our bags to conclude our mission on Friday. We´re glad to know that long after our farewell the Instituto will continue serving the many, many Chagas patients living in the Chaco area of Bolivia. This is because our year-round pacemaker program is indeed viable and Solidarity Bridge, through the goodwill and generosity of our corporate and individual donors, will continue providing the medical supplies, funding, and administrative oversight.

In addition to pacemaker patients, we will be able to serve more angioplasty patients like Roye Campero who arrived with chest pain and other concerning symptoms. Dr. Mark Ottolin recommended he be admitted for an angiogram which revealed a 99% narrowing of a very large and important artery. The angioplasty/stent placement that followed was particularly harrowing due to limited equipment at the Instituto. Nonetheless, Roye's surgery was successful and our mission concluded on this celebratory note. Roye was ever grateful to return to his family and his work as a farmer. (The expensive cardiac stent that Roye needed was one of 11 recently donated by Northwest Community Hospital, in Arlington Heights, IL.  We will leave these in the hands of Dr. Donoso along with numerous Medtronic pacemaker supplies, all to be used for patients who could not otherwise afford these life-saving medical devices.)

Departing from our mission site provoked the usual mix of feelings. Our closing reception was well attended by our pacemaker patients and their families. We expressed our gratitude for this unique encounter of solidarity and extended God’s blessings on each other as we further integrate this experience into our lives.

As for me, I’ll stay in Bolivia through Tuesday to spend time with our office staff in both Cochabamba and Santa Cruz.  They are well managed by Carlos Laserna, the Executive Director of our sister organization, Puente de Solidaridad.  Our many other activities beyond our pacemaker program continue to thrive thanks to the leadership and dedication of this team.  If you’re ever in Bolivia, stop by to see them!

Thanks for bloggin’ along and for your ongoing support of our work!