We Leave Peru With the Hope We Have Helped Many People, by Deb Drengenberg, M.D.

My day started by driving on a cliff with a magical view of the village below. As we arrived in Pillpinto, much like the second day, there were tents set up in the street with indigenous people lining up for care. As we set up shop and began the craze of providing care, I had an extremely interesting first encounter with 3 elderly ladies. The 3 beautiful, indigenous, elderly ladies gave my day an interesting start by calling me a “Gringo,” patting me on the butt and offering to feed me and come live with them. Next, interesting patient care began…

First up was Clara. Clara was an 82-year-old lady who lived alone. The nurses presented her to me in a hurry as her blood pressure was 190/124. She said she felt fine and had taken her blood pressure medication this morning. I gave her another blood pressure pill from our supply and had her wait an hour to check it again. An hour later it was minimally lower at 170/117. Knowing this is dangerously high and she could suffer a heart attack or a stroke, I advised her to seek care in a hospital. Through the translator, she assured me she had suffered from high blood pressure for a long time and was fine. Knowing what I know, I tried to explain to her how dangerous this could be for health if she didn’t seek care in a hospital. It was then that the entourage descended. It seemed half the village showed up to explain to me that Clara had suffered from this for a long time and insisted she was fine. I surrendered to the entourage and made sure she was supplied with blood pressure medication and vitamins, and a good supply of Tylenol for the many aches and pains she and much of the other villagers complained about. She hugged me, gave me a kiss on my left cheek and was on her way. I had so many kisses that day.

The most prominent complaint from the patients were aches and pains, understandably as they aren’t the tallest in stature and carry heavy loads on their backs, working in fields for many hours a day. A simple prescription for pain relievers such as Tylenol was immeasurably appreciated. In between the aches and pains, I saw one very memorable and heartbreaking case. His name was Alucio. Alucio was an elderly man who lived by himself and suffered from a very deep ulcer on his heel. Due to the conditions of living, it was very unlikely this ulcer would heal. We did our best working under a hot tent to clean his ulcer out and bandage his foot, providing him with a referral to see a podiatrist. I will never know if he actually made it to his referral as time, distance and finances are common barriers.

We leave Peru with the hope that we have helped many people and knowing that they have definitely helped us. Although they are a third world country, there is much we can learn from the people of Peru. I think about things such as breastfeeding success, school uniforms, family values, work ethics, free college and appreciating nature’s beauty as things we can learn from the Peruvian people. Don’t take for granted continued food supply, heat, running clean and hot water, toilet seats and plumbing. It takes a village, and we had the privilege of working in three.


Hasta Luego, Peru!

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