"Hello, my name is Elsa." "I am a doctor." That is how it started.
Those opening words introduced me to a lady with a huge heart, a commitment to helping children and with friends in medicine characterized by caring personalities. Elsa, a Cuban-American, was leaving her family at home in Kentucky to spend a couple weeks with a medical team delivering free surgery to needy children on the coast of Ecuador.
Her spirit was infectious and, as the flight passed over the Caribbean and the Andes Mountains, the desire to support her cause grew within me. To her, I was just another passenger with whom chatting was merely a way of passing the time. She did not know that she had kindled instincts last manifested when I was raising two children as a single parent. At heart, I am a nurturer, whose greatest joy comes from helping others achieve their potential.
Elsa spoke to me about her associations with Healing the Children and Supplies Overseas, USA-based foundations that provided medical aid and assisted in the establishment of medical clinics in impoverished areas around the world. She also told of her particular interest in building a clinic for the needy children of Ecuador.
How could I help to establish a medical clinic in Ecuador? Given Elsa’s USA-based support, I would need land, a suitable building, and a community with the will and financial resources to sustain the operation, once established. It took me a year of telling this story before I had all of the commitments needed.
I am a believer that if you tell your story with sincerity to enough people, eventually your listeners will surface opportunities and resources to meet your needs. There was no better audience that I could imagine than members of Ecuador Rotary clubs. They listened. They advised. They sought. They delivered commitments which, if budgets continue to allow, a new children's medical clinic will open in the city of Guayaquil in 2013.
Getting back to Elsa’s trip, her team worked for almost 2 weeks, delivering their specialized medical services, free. My friends in the Rotary club and I were fortunate to be able to provide some of them are hospitality and tour as they passed through Quito. This year we were ready and eager to assist.
Hospitals in Manta and PortoViejo were selected by the American doctors as sites for the operations and the Manabi provincial government committed to publicizing the opportunity for children.
Local help was critical. The doctors visiting in 2012 did not speak Spanish, so translators were required. Some children needed assistance to facilitate their presence for initial screening and subsequent operations. In addition, some families would have to be helped to obtain follow-up medical care after the doctors had returned to the USA. Rotary clubs in Quito, Manta and PortoViejo stepped forward to meet the challenges.
Translators traveled from Quito to the coast to augment those mobilized by the Rotary club of PortoViejo. The latter, put their hearts into each of these tasks as well as ensured translator housing, meals and miscellaneous support. Translators and other Rotary members worked with the surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses during a day of screening and four, 12 to 14 hour, days of surgery.
169 children were operated on.
The following slide show was produced by Dr Julie McWhorter. It is an excellent tribute to those dedicated humanitarians who worked on this project.
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