Volunteers Help Treat 9,200 in Ecuador
“The patients are just so grateful. The first thing they say when they wake up from surgery isn't 'Where am I?' It's 'Thank you. Thank you.'”
Project HOPE volunteers wrapped up work in Ecuador after 10 days on shore and aboard the USNS Comfort. The team worked out of three medical sites located in Montecristi, Jaramijo, and Bosco, totaling over 9200 patients seen. If it seems like a large number, it was. At least 2 of those days broke daily records for numbers of people seen during this year’s mission.
Not all the work happened off the ship, however. The Operating Room saw 137 surgeries in the 10 days. The majority of those surgeries were for ophthalmology and general surgeries including hernia repairs.
“Things that we consider basic surgeries are a big deal to the people we’ve seen,” Anesthesiologist Deb Atwood said.
Atwood remembered a mother who brought her 12-year-old son to the Jaramijo medical screening site hoping to have a urological procedure done for recurrent infections. Later, onboard in the Pre-Op room, Atwood spoke to the mother.
“She told me that she would have waited forever at her local medical facility just to be seen,” Atwood said.
PACU nurse Wendy LaFargue, who often sees patients after they come out of surgery, echoed the sentiment:
“The patients are just so grateful. The first thing they say when they wake up isn’t ‘Where am I?’ It’s ‘Thank you. Thank you.’”
We witnessed firsthand this gratitude on a recent trip out during liberty. A woman approached our group and asked if we were from the medical ship. Her daughter had been treated 4 years earlier for a hernia repair aboard the USNS Comfort. Through an interpreter, the mother explained how the girl still sleeps with the little toy she’d received from her time aboard the ship. HOPE volunteer Tracy Kunkel worked on that mission handing out the toys to every patient in the operating room.
Photos were taken and hugs were exchanged. It was a reminder of how the work we’ve been doing during Continuing Promise 2011 is life-changing for many people.
After a small Memorial Day ceremony on Monday, the USNS Comfort heads just up the coast across the border to Colombia for the next ten days.