Monday, May 28, 2012

Bolivia Journal, Part II, The Journey

How One Woman's Vision Touched So Many Lives

Sunrise in the Andes as seen flying out of La Paz toward Santa Cruz.

It is like a story out of Charles Dickens' England. For the lack of $75, little Marcelo lost his leg. At the age of eleven, Marcelo developed a severe infection. His Mother took him to the local hospital only to learn that she could not afford the needed antibiotics. Marcelo's leg had to be amputated.

Charlottesville Nurse Cindy Thacker, who always had a passion for bringing healing for the suffering of those in difficult places, was moved to action when she learned of Marcelo's plight. She became Marcelo's foster Mother and enabled him to recieve much needed care and therapy.

But Cindy thought about the ones left behind. She started Mission of Hope, Bolivia [click to read] in 1996, initially hoping to improve conditions in Santa Cruz Childrens' Hospital. The group collected money, supplies and medical equipment to give to Childrens' Hospital. Sadly, when Cindy later visited Childrens' Hospital she learned that many of her donations had simply dissapeared. "One day, I made a search of every room of the hospital. A lot of the equipment I had donated was not there. I asked where these things were, and nobody could tell me."

Not only that, but Cindy learned that patients were being charged for medications she had donated. Those who's families couldn't afford medications were operated on without pain medication!

Now seeing that only the establishment of a free hospital for the poor would make any difference, Ms. Thacker expanded her vision. When a hospital facility came up for sale in Santa Cruz, she raised over a half million dollars to buy it! Members of the University of Virginia Hospital community are regular supporters of the ministry and surgery teams from UVA regularly visit Santa Cruz to make life-saving and life-changing surgery available to the poorest of the poor.

Cindy writes: "The people we serve live in extreme poverty. Many of them have been turned away from public hospitals because they did not have money to pay. Many of them have suffered for years with their medical problems. Most of them have been treated badly by other people simply because they were poor.

Our desire is to be a blessing to these people by not only taking care of their medical needs, but also by treating them with dignity and respect. We want to be a blessing to them by showing them the love and kindness they have not experienced in their own society. We also want to share with them the hope that we have in Jesus Christ."

We're on our way to see firsthand what G-d can do through the persistence of one RN in a situation that would overwhelm most ordinary people. Our team will help build a house for one of the staff members to live in and take in orphans as well. The plane flies out of Miami, levelling off for supper over the waters where Santiago struggled in Hemingway's tale. It is dark when we make landfall on Venezualia and a row of thunderstorms put on a powerful light show.

We nap fitfully before landing in La Paz and watch the sunrise bring the Andes Mountains alive as we fly out toward Santa Cruz.

Clearing customs, we make our way into the bustling metropolis of Santa Cruz. It is a city of contrasts. Gleaming corporate headquarters stand next to simple brick buildings. The concrete skeleton of a stadium stands weathering as funds ran out to complete it. Busses and taxis crowd the boulevard entering town, making three lanes out of the intended two. An accident has brought the traffic to a standstill.

This Summer will mark ten years that the Mission of Hope clinic has been serving the people of Santa Cruz. We arrive at the clinic and take a quick tour. The staff seem cheerful and the facility itself is amazing. Cindy brings surgical teams in from the US to perform a wide range of needed procedures. We're talking about specialists here. The clinic's operating rooms are stretched to provide the maximum benefit to as many people as possible. Surgeons wanting to volunteer are sent the actual schedule and asked straight-up: "Can you perform this many operations in a single day?" Many, working in state-of-the-art facilities in the US, have never done anything close.

A friendly greeting from a member of the church in Santa Cruz's poorest neighborhood.

The clinic in Santa Cruz. People line up early in the morning to receive compassionate medical care.

No comments: