There are simply no words to describe the reality of the colorful world of emotion that the villages of Cusco, Peru provide. Every day and every patient has provided us with a new emotion ranging from sad, happy, angry, encouraged, frustrated, impressed, nervous, and the list goes on. The acuity of patients has ranged from minimal with simple symptoms to treat, all the way to serious conditions involving referrals to specialists. The patients have been nothing short of grateful and beyond loving for the services they have received. Today we provided care in Oropesa, the bread capital of Peru! This village is home to the majority of the factories that produce bread in this area.
Specifically today, we saw approximately 230 patients for care, with a good number of those patients being children. As we began our day it started as utter chaos. The patients hear about our coming to provide care and literally line the streets waiting for us. On top of that they had a loud speaker set up in the town square where our “clinic” was, which they used to announce over the intercom about our presence and their opportunity for free “Americano” care. Knowing this we knew we had to be strategic and quick on our feet. We had an interesting time figuring out placement of our station, but after processing a few patients and using PDSA, quickly revamped our set up and became much more efficient in our patient flow. Throughout the day patient flow remained a challenge as everyone volunteering is elbows deep in providing patient care and translating throughout the process. That being said, it was SO awesome to see that while the patients did not understand the flow and not all of us spoke fluent Spanish or Quecha, all hands were on deck to jump right in when needed and work together as a team to work through the bottlenecks. Aside from the patient flow, there were children running around everywhere and typically not in proximity to their parents.
Speaking of the kids, the comment was made today about the maturity of the kids. In a culture where parents work long and difficult hours, the older children quickly adapt to being parent figures by looking out for their siblings. Several times today we witnessed children holding the hands of their younger siblings and leading them to where they needed to be. However, when they learned of our instant photos and toys…they all became creative truth enhancers! I had one little boy INSIST he did not receive a toy and went so far as to show me his empty pockets. Of course I have SUCKER written on my forehead so I gave him another car and low and behold, 5 minutes later he was racing that car with the first one he was given! All I could do was smile because it’s likely those may be the only 2 toys he has to play with for a very long time. Aside from the toys though, these kids are like mini adults. Numerous kiddos helped their siblings take their shoes on and off as well as help them get from station to station and back to mom or dad when called. Unfortunately it is their reality to learn early on responsibility, but its amazingly beautiful to see their happiness and pride that they take in doing so, as to know no different.
One of the most emotional parts of the day came with a brave little girl that used every ounce of courage in her body to receive a flouride and dental care treatment with Suzanne. To que this up, one of the biggest challenges we faced today was keeping patients in line to go from station to station correctly. The care is done in tents on the street so it can be very difficult to understand the need for sequential stations. This little girl and her mother waited VERY patiently all morning to be seen. After lunch, they still waited patiently as to follow the stations in sequence despite the several patients pushing their way in front of them. Having watched her, we had one very special toy to give away today, a toy dog that sits and stands and barks. Seeing how patient and brave she was, we knew she was the one to receive this toy. Presenting this toy to this little girl who had perhaps never had anything of the sort in her life was hands down one of the most emotional moments of my life. The absolute shock and awe on her face was simply priceless. She repeatedly kept saying “gracias” and smiled from ear to ear, holding what appeared to be the best thing that had ever happened to her. All I could think at that moment was how incredibly blessed we are and how easy it is to take the most simple things in life for granted. If I could pick two words to describe this experience they would be Colorfully Incredible.
On that note…its been a long day! Buenos Noches from Cusco!