Meet Our Patients from the 2016 Pacemaker Trip

Written by: Jodi Grahl, Director of Gyecology, General Surgery, and Pacemaker Programs

As 2016 draws to a close, we at Solidarity Bridge are reflecting on the gifts of our final mission trip of the year. This year’s seven missions took us from the Andean mountains in La Paz to the eastern lowlands of Santa Cruz and many places in between, including Cochabamba, Punata, and Tiquipaya. These missions brought opportunities to expand local training, equipping and empowerment in each of our year-round programs. But, most importantly, they offered us the chance to meet some of the individuals whose lives are touched and even saved along our journey. Our most recent Pacemaker Program trip to Santa Cruz offered just such an opportunity, which I’m delighted to share with you!

Our 2016 Pacemaker Program Trip brought U.S. missioner Dr. Joseph Wu, an electrophysiologist (specialist in heart rhythm diseases) from UCLA Medical Center, to Santa Cruz to work alongside Bolivian partners at the San Juan de Dios Hospital. The trip was part of the process of integrating St. Jude Medical, a new corporate donor, into our Pacemaker Program. Implants were limited to morning hours, so Dr. Wu and I spent afternoons accompanying our local social worker, Carmen Salses, on home visits to meet our patients and their families. Here are just a few of their stories:

Dr. Wu and our local colleagues, Dr. Gomez and Dr. Cuellar, took advantage of every spare moment between cases to “talk shop,” especially around opportunities and needs in Bolivia in the electrophysiology field. The San Juan de Dios Hospital is in the midst of important capital investments in its cardiology center, and the doctors are eager to expand training to take optimal advantage of the new equipment.

Dr. Wu was especially grateful for the opportunity offered by the home visits. As he expressed to me in one of our long taxi rides back to town, helping people in need it is why he became a doctor, but he rarely has the opportunity to see up-close how his work impacts lives, not just of patients but entire families. We are also grateful to you, Dr. Wu, for giving so much of yourself this week for these and so many more families!

Over the past 15 years, more than 2000 pacemakers have been implanted through our pacemaker program. The vast majority are implanted by our Bolivian partner cardiologists. We occasionally organize small mission teams to advance training in a specific procedure or simply to expand relationships among U.S. and Bolivian surgical peers and with in-kind donors. 

Our Pacemaker program is one of five areas in which Solidarity Bridge helps to provide advanced and life-saving care to Bolivians living in poverty. In a spirit of mutuality, we are working hand-in-hand with Bolivians to create a healthier future. Please join us in this work by making a donation today.