The tightrope

26 June 2014

For most of the beginning of May, we’ve had over 20 patients hospitalized and a record number of emergencies and transfers to Iquitos. We’ve sent many patients home healthy, including a boy who got shot accidently in the side of his back/neck/face by an animal trap. All bullets are permanently embedded in his body, luckily having missed all vital organs. We also have watched many kids recover from asthma, pneumonia, diarrhea, tropical myositis, malaria, orbital cellulitis, and neonatal sepsis. Adults have stabilized with heart failure and heart attacks, liver failure, kidney stones and urine infections, dengue, HIV, and severe anemia. We have transferred patients to Iquitos with testicular cancer, stomach cancer in a pregnant women, tuberculosis coughing up lots of blood, a kid with bilateral arm fractures who fell from the top of a tree, a guy with a spinal cord injury and paralysis of his legs, and most recently, we sent a kid today by float plane to Iquitos who had sepsis, pneumonia, meningitis, osteomyolitis, and anemia. It’s 9pm and we’re waiting for two patients from 12 hours upriver, a young woman with severe anemia (a hematocrit of 3) with probably leukemia, and the other an older woman coughing up blood with probably tuberculosis. Brian and I have two young Peruvian doctors here working with us, doing their obligatory year of service. We’ve also had wonderful volunteers walk this journey with us. We’re tired, we give our all to Charlie and to our patients, and while it’s amazingly rewarding, we end up sitting at our dinner staring into space, being too caught up in the wave of patients to be able to even process the experience.  We do our best to support to each other, laugh together, ensure proper nutrition and attempt for good nights sleep.

Saint John Baptist de Lasalle

I grew up in a group called Lasallian Youth during my high school years, which was a service organization responsible for many of my life long friendships. It was a formative supplement to the great life example set by my parents, and no doubt part of the inspiration that lead me to Peru for three years.

Today is a big deal here, the feast of St. John “Juan.” Everyone celebrates by making “Juane’s,” which is a piece of chicken, egg, and olive in a ball of rice, all wrapped in a banana leaf and tied tight at the top to keep everything inside. It’s then boiled, which makes it also a “safe” food to eat on the street since it’s well sealed. It is supposed to be representative of John the Baptist’s head… post guillotine. It’s easy to forget that gruesome detail while eating this delicious meal!