Thoughts from an Alumni – John Maxfield, PA
As we sat in the Denver International Airport waiting to depart for our “Amazon Promise” medical mission, I cycled through all the tropical diseases that I likely fell short of understanding and certainly had never seen. After all, a great deal of them look just about the same in each text book I referenced. I consider myself, and my travel companion and fellow AP volunteer, Eileen Greffard, intrepid travelers and always up for an adventure so we thought “Yup, this sounds just about perfect for us”.
When Eileen first discovered AP and contacted Patty Webster the trip was planned with a team of volunteers and scheduled to take place out of the AP Belen Clinic and other impoverished outskirt neighborhoods. Unfortunately, due to extenuating circumstances (yet very fortunate for us), a few people had backed out and that left only the two of us. Patty ever so graciously told us that the trip was likely off unless others signed up quickly to which we replied, “We are happy to come and provide whatever we can.” Eileen is a pharmacist from Canada and I a PA from the US. We were both willing to do whatever it took to make this trip happen. Patty contacted us, with music to our ears, and informed us they were planning to do a follow-up visit to several jungle villages to see patients needing on-going care, check on recently installed rainwater catchment systems and composting bathrooms, and do fecal laboratory testing for parasites. We would now be traveling by boat with the AP staff on the river in a village to village/hut to hut manner attending emergency and follow-up patients. Nights would be spent in our tent, food on the fly prepared by Chef Nancy, and who knows what we would be encountering in the environment or medically speaking. Jose Louis and Rosa would guide us and interpret. That is what we had to go on. Little did we know that this would be a trip of a lifetime with remarkable people as guides and patients, great food, village celebrations, machete wounds, shaman, beautiful children, raw nature, suffocating heat and humidity, and exotic animals. Those as well as stories that just can’t be told without profound disappointment in the lack of understanding from those that were not there. Reverse culture shock has taken a month to manage and I’m not sure it will completely resolve.
Suffice to say, Amazon Promise is a phenomenal mission, raised to maturity, affecting incredible change and access to medical care in a region with innumerable obstacles and needs. I was asked prior to this trip why I wouldn’t stay here in the US and offer help to indigent or other needy groups. The answer is two-fold. Selfishly speaking, who doesn’t want to be able to say, “So there I was on the porch of a hut in the Amazon Jungle tending to a man with a machete wound through his periosteum who was holding a monkey…..”. The other reason is that need is relative. Needing here in the US is not the same as needing in the Peruvian Amazon Jungle. I will leave it at that.
I truly hope that Eileen and I have the pleasure of working again with AP and the unique individuals that have been so perfectly hand selected by Patty. We just cannot say enough about this group. Everyone at Amazon Promise, from the US to Peru, was welcoming and always available to help.
We are forever changed.