As I boarded the plane in Portland, OR, I was excited, yet slightly nervous. Was I prepared for this? Did I have enough medical training? Exactly who was Amazon Promise? Would I live up to expectations?
My excitement for this long awaited trip with AP was overwhelming. It seemed I had waited forever for this day to come and I couldn’t wait to get to Iquitos to begin my journey. Calmly, I remembered the words of the AP website: schedules can change – be prepared to change along with them. So I let go of my worries, smiled, relaxed, and just felt the excitement of anticipation for the wonderful adventure I was about to begin. Before I espouse on anything else, I want to say right up front that Amazon Promise is a top notch organization. From the beginning of the trip to the end, despite several changes that had to be made to our itinerary, the group functioned efficiently and without pause. This I credit to Patty Webster and her amazing commitment to Amazon Promise and the people of Peru. The Peruvian staff who worked with us was dedicated and exceptionally kind to all of us, and for that I am very grateful, and was honored to work along side them.
It felt like a fairy tale as we set out onto the Maranon River from Nauta. For the next 2 weeks we would travel the Maranon and Ucayali Rivers holding clinics in 10 villages along the way. The medical team consisted of an ER physician, a Peruvian physician and myself, a family Nurse Practitioner, along with 6 fantastic medical students from the US, England, and Ireland. We also were fortunate to have a dental team that included a dentist from Ohio, and 4 fun-loving and wonderful dental students from England and the US. Can you imagine how many supplies there were to carry along with us each day? The staff that managed the organization of our luggage and clinic supplies, and our wonderful interpreters, were as dedicated as any I have ever seen, and it is to their credit that everything flowed so smoothly each day. To Segundo, Jose, Juan Carlos, Luisa, Ricky, Rosa, and all the rest: I salute you!
The men and women, and oh so many children of the villages, will live in my heart forever. Their kindness and appreciation for what we often take for granted: medical care, knowledge of basic health teachings, and supplies, filled my heart with compassion for these wonderful people. They live through many hardships, and common illnesses become deadly due to lack of medical care. I celebrate their courage and hard work. During our trip, my hope was to simply help them in whatever way I could. To answer my own questions of preparedness, the answer was yes. I was ready. Considering the rudimentary conditions, we had all the supplies we needed for pharmacy, primary care, wound care, GYN exams, minor procedures and more. I learned valuable lessons about the treatment of dehydration, a common occurrence that is so devastating to the very young and old in this population.
On another note, I would just like to comment on how much FUN we actually had along the way. We had time for a hike into the jungle, soccer, mud baths at the beach, and resting in the hammocks at the Yakumama Lodge! And of course, there was time each evening after dinner to just sit around and get to know each other a little better. Our team had a great time! I have been involved in many volunteer projects and clinics before, but this was the most rewarding experience of my life. My hat is off to Patty Webster and the Board of Amazon Promise. Patty’s dedication and compassion are amazing. I have no doubt the other Board Members of Amazon Promise are just as committed and look forward to meeting them some day in the future. I am truly humbled to have been a part of such an incredible experience. As always, I learned a great deal about compassion, kindness, and the strength of the human spirit from all of those whose lives we touched and all those who worked alongside me. Thank you for this wonderful experience and I cannot wait to return for another trip to the jungle and visit with the amazing people of Peru.
The people of the Amazon need your help. Your donation helps provide medical and dental care to more than 5,000 people annually, purchases supplies, brings clean water and builds local healthcare capacity in this remote corner of the world, where the poor are too often forgotten.