Dr. Deanne Long and I, along with eight other assorted folks headed to Cusco Peru in March of 2009 to organize and teach a trauma conference to local Peruvian doctors and nurses. Dr Long has been organizing these trips for the past several years. This year, the two day conference drew an audience of forty-five Peruvian doctors and nurses. Lectures were focused around trauma care of acute injuries including chest and abdominal injuries, spine injuries, emergency airway, shock, cold and burn injuries, as well as a review of ultrasound in emergency care. Hands on procedure sessions were done including practice on ultrasound fast exams, emergency airways and chest tubes. The participants really seemed to enjoy the hands on sessions, but were also very attentive during the lectures asking many questions. We were honored when physicians from the surrounding hospitals invited us on tours of their facilities. It was interesting to tour a hospital for the poorest people of Cusco. It was a mix of old and new. Their ICU had a rather current ventilator, but the facility felt more like a cold concrete asylum. The doctors there were very interested in learning more.
The next day we were able to travel out to a remote mountain village at approximately 14,000 feet. The people of this village spoke Quechua (an Indian dialect instead of Spanish) making communication a little tough as multiple translations needed to be done. We held a single day clinic teaming up with Ascend Alliance Humanitarian Organization. Although Dr Long and I examined many in the community, most problems were chronic and related to their lifestyle at altitude (chronic back pain from potato farming, skin and vision problems from the altitude, lung problems from inside cooking areas, GI problems from poor water and sanitation). We were able to give worming medication as well as vitamins, NSAIDS and antibiotics. Some of our group gave the children haircuts and a police group came with to teach the children safety. It was an amazing experience to see how these people live.
The next two days we headed out to visit the surrounding communities of Pisco, Aquas Calientes, and Machu Picchu. Travel was by van, train, and foot. We all were able to "summit" Huayna Picchu and enjoyed a day visiting the ruins in the area. The diversity of our group led to fabulous company and travel companions. A great time was had by all. Plans are already underway for next year. Mark your calendars and come along for an unforgettable experience! -By Marion McDevitt, DO