This blog post is written by Pallavi Tatapudy, MS4 at Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University who served as co-leader of the 2017 medical and surgical mission to Sacred Valley, Perú organized by A Promise to Peru.

“Leadership is not about control but service. It’s not about power but empowerment.” - Myles Munroe

With full stomachs from a hearty breakfast at Hotel Zeus, our team left the hotel by 7:25 am. When we reached the clinic, we noticed that the entrance was crowded with family members who were eager for their loved ones to receive care. On the second floor of the clinic, there were lines of patients awaiting pupil dilations and post-operative follow-up visits.

Surgeries began at the clinic by 8:15 am. One of our first patients was Señor José, a 47-year-old teacher of social sciences and Spanish in a middle school for 10 years. He described that it is important to have patience and befriend the students who range from ages twelve to fourteen. Being a good teacher to kids of this age involves talking to and playing with them at a level that aligns with their maturity and mentality. The school is located two hours away from Riobamba in a community called Guarguallá. His career is an integral part of his identity and has been affected by his vision problems. For three years, Señor José had one cataract in the left eye and another in the right eye. He used glasses in an attempt to manage, but when his vision worsened to a point that made him have to work less, he decided he needed to seek out opportunities for surgery. His left eye vision was worse, so he was operated on in February. He had been nervous about potential post-operative complications, but the recovery period was smooth. With a good first experience, Señor José started to enthusiastically seek out an opportunity for another surgery for his right eye. That is when he heard about Sights on Health coming to Ecuador in September over the radio and from his close friends. Señor José expressed that this whole journey has proved to him that God exists and has a plan to take care of him. He also described the role of FIBUSPAM in uplifting those living in poverty in Ecuador. As we talked more, he shared that his diabetes has been difficult to manage because he has had a hard time paying for daily medication. This adds significant stress to his life. My goal was to empower this patient through education and thus, I discussed the non-pharmacologic ways he can control his diabetes to a certain extent through regular exercise and changes in diet. I also emphasized the precautions he can take after today’s surgery in order to decrease the risk of complications and hopefully reduce some stress. Señor José shared that this opportunity for eye surgery at no cost has lifted a weight off of his shoulders and given him and his family a little space to breathe.

Around lunchtime, there was a wonderful experience with another Señor José who was about 18 years older. Dr. David Krebs was thrilled with this patient who had stayed still during surgery and precisely followed instructions which made the surgery finish efficiently and safely. The patient expressed his gratitude to the doctor and expressed that he wants to gift the clinic with a basket of bread tomorrow when he comes for his post-operative follow-up appointment. The faces of both Dr. David Krebs and Señor José were beaming!

Lunch was delicious today, consisting of cabbage soup with potatoes, rice, eggs, tomato and avocado salad, fish fillet, blackberry juice, and plantain chips.

After lunch, we continued working into the evening. That is when we had the pleasure of meeting Señor Juan Cruz, a 63-year-old male in need of cataract surgery on his left eye. I learned that faith is very important to him. I observed him praying continuously while awaiting surgery and even after, to thank God for this opportunity.

We also met a jolly 69-year-old male named Señor Luis whose joy was infectious – the good kind of infectious! He repeatedly thanked our team and stated that he felt extremely happy in our care. Señor Luis was enthusiastic to take photos with several members of the team to commemorate this important moment in his life.

By 5:45 pm, our team completed 26 surgeries. We finished in good time and shared several meaningful moments with patients and their family members today.

In addition, today was special because it was Ginger Thanasoulis’ birthday. We surprised her at 6:10 pm with a chocolate cake and passion fruit cake on the third floor of the clinic with FIBUSPAM, Partners for Andean Community Health, and Sights on Health staff there to celebrate together. She blew out her “question mark candle” and enjoyed the desserts after a day of hard work. Even though it looks like I caught Lucy Miller-Suchet in the middle of a sneaky act, she clarified that she was in fact bringing cake to others. ¡Feliz cumpleaños a Ginger!

We left the clinic around 6:35 pm and boarded the bus for the hotel. On the bus, Dr. Debra Messina shared some impressive statistics with us regarding the work we have been doing so far. From Sunday to Wednesday, our team has performed 85 procedures on 82 patients. What a joy! We are greatly looking forward to another clinic day tomorrow. ¡Ciao!