Medical Mission Report
Rio Momón, Iquitos
April 1-7 &
August 20-22, 2017
Selva in Action (SIA) recently completed our most successful medical campaign to date. Working in the community of Centro Fuerte on the Rio Momón in the Peruvian Amazon jungle about 35 miles from Iquitos, our team of 41 volunteers and staff served 540 patients from roughly 20 different villages. Service specialties included acupuncture, cardiac, chiropractic, dental, family/genera/internal medicine, health education, infectious and tropical diseases, laboratory, minor surgical, pediatric, and pharmacy.
In addition to the 20 members of our coordination, logistics, medical, dental, lab, and pharmacy teams from Iquitos (Including SIA Administrative Coordinator Rosa Aranzabal, Logistics Coordinator Jack Bosantes, and PAMS member Dr. Stalin Vilcarromero), returning volunteers included:
- Dr. Raul Felipa (Internal Medicine, California), former SIA Medical Director, who became a pediatric surgeon during this mission.
- Dave Moretz (California), photographer extraordinaire, talented documentarian, and skilled EKG technician.
- Sandra Bernos (Lima), speech therapist, translator, and educator, who spent countless hours listening to patients describing their health concerns, and, with her comforting manner, putting the most anxious at ease.
Enhancements to this year’s medical team included:
- Two PAMS members: Dr. Luis Espinoza (Infectious Diseases, Forida) and Dr. Miguel Vasquez (Cardiology, California/Hawaii). The expertise they provided was invaluable.
- Three members of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Global Health Education project: Dr. Kelsie Avants, Dr. Justin Choi, and Dr. Michael Jendusa. SIA will be working with UIC for at least the next 5 years to develop programs to promote wellness and address issues endemic to the area.
- Returning for his 3rd mission, after a 5-year absence: Dr. Tom Chappell (Maryland). Welcome back, Dr. Chappell. We missed you!
- Retired US Army dentists Dr. Sammi Raez and Dr. Susan Raquet (Texas). Despite heat, humidity, and uncomfortable working conditions, their selfless participation allowed us to provide dental services to twice the number of people as usual.
- Retired US Army Nurse/Anesthetist Cynthia Eiring (Georgia), who worked tirelessly in triage, trained volunteers, and screened patients for vision problems.
- Chiropractic Acupuncturist Dr. Reya Lee (Tennessee). Reya’s participation broadened the horizons of patients and team members alike and brought healing to many back-pain sufferers.
Enhancements to this year’s “helping hands” team included:
- Three members of the Felipa family (Utah): Dr. Felipa’s daughter, Maria Pettit, and his granddaughters, Ellie and Paige Pettit, ages 17 and 14, respectively. While Maria assisted with logistics and triage, the teens divided their time between triage, observing and assisting the doctors and dentists, entertaining the children, and serving as runners.
- Ben and Krista Gimeno, and Theresa Weickum: With volunteer experience in Ayacucho, these family members arrived ready to work with love and dedication – registering, weighing and measuring patients in the rain, and working on data input to track patient demographics, test results, diagnoses, and treatments. They also provided valuable assistance before the mission, working on project documents and purchasing supplies.
- A month prior to the mission, two young patients flew to Lima for plastic surgery. Accompanied by their respective fathers, and SIA Coordinator, Rosa Aranzabal, they underwent plastic surgery for cleft palate and severe burn scar removal. We are thrilled to report that both are doing great.
- Volunteers who arrived early or stayed late had the opportunity to visit many historical and animal-related venues around Iquitos.
- The volunteers were treated to a welcome dinner at La Mishquina, the restaurant part of the most prominent culinary institute in Iquitos. The owner welcomed the group with a local fruit juice “brindis” and a description of the food. Pili Café, which offers a gourmet twist on local flavors, was the site for the volunteer appreciation dinner.
- The Felipa family brought 200 wooden, hand-painted toy cars that were distributed to local children.
- Volunteer Cynthia Eiring brought reading glasses that were desperately needed and greatly appreciated by the villagers.
- Sonogram provided by Dr. Vasquez proved invaluable in diagnosing “hidden” concerns.
- While in the village, volunteers had the opportunity to tour a medicinal plant garden and an “Insectarium” – both located just yards from the medical post.
- Of the 540 patients seen, over 300 visited the lab, close to 200 visited the dentists, and just about everyone visited the pharmacy.
Area of Concern
- Roughly 270 patients require some type of follow-up.
- Of those, about half presented with hemoglobin levels below or well below WHO standards. Since hemoglobin was not measured in all the patients, it’s likely that this number could be higher.
- The majority of the remaining follow-ups were divided almost equally between heart/blood pressure concerns and eye problems (cataracts, glaucoma, Pterygium, etc.)
In August, 8 SIA team members returned to the river to do hemoglobin follow-ups. Due to the lack of water in the river, we were only able to visit 10 villages. Over 150 patients were tested or re-tested, and roughly 40% of those tested had hemoglobin levels below the WHO standards. SIA and the University of Illinois team will be developing a research project to address this issue.
A Note of Thanks
Ten years ago, two friends visited the Peruvian Amazon, and the idea for this medical mission was born. With the patient assistance of Drs. Ralph Kuon, Cesar Aranguri, Raul Felipa, and Miguel Pro, and our gracious acceptance by PAMS, Selva in Action (SIA) began to take shape. With eight years of medical missions now under our belts, we continue to grow and improve our services for people who consider themselves “the forgotten ones.” This growth would not have been possible were it not for our current and former volunteers and contributors. Thank you, one and all, for what you have done, are doing, and will continue to do, to make a difference in the Peruvian Amazon.
Anita Soluna, M.S.
Project Director, Selva in Action