The smiles on the faces of patients and their families make the long days and hard work in Ecuador worth it. In Ecuador, there is a financial cost to medical care, one that many cannot afford. It is both rewarding and humbling to use their skills to help those people truly in need.
Edmonton (04 April 2018) — In February 2018, Mark Rintoul, Barb Furler, Dedra Scott, Anna Hebert, Erik Soriano, and Krystle Chilibecki — all members of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA/NUPGE) — ventured to Quito, Ecuador with the organization called Canadian Association of Medical Teams Abroad (CAMTA). CAMTA is a non-profit organization that annually sends a team of medical and non-medical volunteers to Quito to perform life-changing orthopedic surgeries for people in need.
While the highlight of volunteering with CAMTA is the 10 days during the mission, volunteers also assist preparing for the mission. Prior to leaving, volunteers pack medical equipment, prepare educational presentations and, of course, practice Spanish. Additionally, each member is responsible for raising a minimum of $3,000 to contribute to the mission. While volunteers do a variety of fund-raising events, the HSAA/NUPGE members were fortunate to have the union's Social Justice Committee donate $100 to each HSAA/NUPGE volunteer.
Long days, much preparation before, and work after, surgeries
Each day of the mission is a long, busy and happy day. Volunteers wake up early to be at the hospital for the first surgical patients at 8 a.m. While the patients are being prepared for surgery, the operating room (OR) team, including respiratory therapists, Mark and Dedra, are preparing in the OR.
For some of the children, bubbles, stickers or stuffies are used to help take their minds off the surgery. For adults, reassurance is provided through a translator. After the surgery, the patients are taken to the ward where the care is similar to the care in Alberta: Nurses monitor the patients and the physiotherapy team (Barb, Krystle, Anna and Erik) help them take their first steps.
While each patient has a story, one that has stood out for us is the story of Maria Rosa. She came to the clinic walking with a very simple stick. She walked with it in front of her and would step her legs on either side of it. While this walking worked for her, it was awkward and she was self-conscious, as other patients had nicer canes and crutches.
After surgery, Maria Rosa was able to retire her walking stick and use crutches with a normal walking pattern. In a few weeks, she will not need any device to aid her walking, but has kept her stick as a memory of her struggles and her life-changing surgery.
The smiles on the faces of patients and their families make the long days and hard work in Ecuador worth it. In Ecuador, there is a financial cost to medical care, one that many cannot afford. It is both rewarding and humbling for HSAA/NUPGE members volunteering with CAMTA to use their skills to help those people truly in need.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE