A Women's Movement

Surgeries concluded on Wednesday, and our gynecologic surgery mission team spent all day Thursday at the II International Congress on Advances in Oncology. In today’s blog, guest blogger Gabriela Serratos, RN, reflects on her first Solidarity Bridge mission trip experience.

By Gaby Serratos, RN

In the US, there has been a renewed call for change. Women are coming together to demand respect, equality, and a change in our culture. We’ve seen this through recent large-scale marches across the country featuring pink knit hats, an increase in women running for political office, and increased voter turnout. Initially, I thought this was isolated to the United States, but through my mission trip experience, I see many similarities here in Bolivia.

I am joining Solidarity Bridge this week as a surgical nurse on my first mission trip. Our work has focused on gynecologic surgery. In the two months before our arrival, hundreds of women were screened as candidates for our mission surgeries and many were offered alternative treatment. In 72 hours this week, seven selected women underwent surgery and were given a new lease on life. That is what I witnessed on this mission trip. I confess I did not expect to see such fortitude, perseverance, and magic, specifically among women, during my first trip to South America. I’ve been particularly impressed with one of our partner doctors, Maribel Mármol. She is a woman on a mission. She became a physician, traveled to Spain to train in oncology and built a life for herself there. But then she returned home to Sucre and set out to help her people through the creation of the Instituto Chuquisaqueño de Oncología (ICO), a public hospital for all who seek treatment for cancer and related illness.

When you walk into the ICO, you quickly see that the majority of those who work here are women. From the physicians to the nurses, cleaning staff, lab techs, etc.—women run the show. Women appear to have moved from the dominant role in the home to dominance in the health care field. Two female US surgeons also headed our team. Dr. Janet Tomezsko, urogynecologist, had shown that women are knowledgeable and can both succeed and lead in a male driven profession. And, Dr. Gay Garrett, general surgeon, modeled grace under pressure and passion for patient safety in the OR.

Women are coming together to help not only each other, but the world. I joined Solidarity Bridge because I wanted to help people with my surgical nursing skills. I wanted to follow in the footsteps of the most kind, loving, giving person I have known, my grandmother, Mama Lola. She helped anyone who needed a hand, from the homeless to the next-door neighbors. She always had a blanket to give or a plate of food to hand out. She passed away two years ago. During my week here, I saw my grandma in the eyes of the seven women we did surgery on. Their calm and trusting demeanor in the face of the surgeries they were about to receive, and their gratitude at the chance for a new start at life, echoed the resilience and strength of women around the world.