2013 Ecuador Mission Summary
Richard Silverman, M.D.
We have just returned from another productive surgical mission to Ecuador, which involved more than forty of our own volunteers, along with assistance from many local individuals in Coca and Latacunga. Our two-week mission began with a flight from Quito to Coca, provided by the Ecuadorian army, followed by a week of work in the Military Hospital of the 4th Division in Coca. There, we evaluated over 200 patients, and provided surgical care to 112 over five days of operating. In spite of 5 to 8 power-outages each day, the cases proceeded uneventfully, with team members quickly donning battery-powered LED headlights and springing to assistance with flashlights each time the hospital went dark. The week ended with a surprise, when we were informed that our flight back to Quito had somehow been arranged for Sunday, rather than Saturday. Volunteers returning to the States made a mad dash for the airport to catch the last commercial flight of the day, while additional volunteers found themselves on a bus to Quito. Luckily, that group made their connections, while the group heading for a second week of work in Latacunga opted for a guaranteed bus-ride to Latacunga in lieu of less than certain air transport the following day. What was billed as a 6-hour trip lasted 9 hours, and our arrival in Latacunga at 4 AM wasn’t the best way to start the second week. All agreed, however, that we were happy to have arrived in time to meet our patients, as scheduled, on Sunday morning.
During our second week, we evaluated over 150 patients, and provided 85 surgical procedures and scar treatments, as well as speech therapy for our cleft lip and palate patients. One of the highlights of the second week was a “pollicization,” in which the index finger of a young boy born without a normal thumb, was repositioned and re-purposed to function as his thumb. Additionally, through the two weeks, we operated on numerous cleft lip and palate patients, a number of patients with absent or abnormal ears, a variety of other hand issues, both congenital and traumatic, and many patients with scars from burns and other injuries.
The work that we’re able to do is dependent on the efforts and generosity of many individuals, including members of the social service organization, Fundacion Solidaria de Orellana in Coca, and members of the Latacunga Rotary Club. The local support that we receive in Ecuador is invaluable, and it is, in part, one of the reasons our program has had such success for over 20 years. Additionally, many friends and family provide gifts of money, supplies, as well as toys and clothing, that we share with our patients. It is due to this sort of generosity that we are able to continue this work, and for that, we thank you.
In looking forward to next year, we plan to work in Coca from February 2 to 8, returning to a one-week mission to give some of our volunteers a little rest from the longer missions. Undoubtedly, however, we will be able to accomplish a great deal in that week. Please check our website, www.handsacrossworld.com, to see updates, to view the trailer to a documentary, which is still in production, and to make a donation. Your donations are invaluable in supporting our missions, allowing us to provide what we consider routine care that otherwise might not be available to people in Ecuador. Our gratitude for your support is immeasurable.