Codey Pedersen - EM Resident
As an EM resident starting my second year of residency it is sometimes easy to forget the amazing job we get to do and how lucky we are to be afforded the opportunity to help people and practice medicine. However, my trip to Peru only made possible by DOCARE had a recurring theme that was a simple word and reminded me how lucky I am to be given this opportunity as a physician. That theme word was Grateful...
That was the word that kept going through my mind and was the common theme throughout my two weeks in Peru and in the Amazon. Not only was I grateful for the healthcare and resources we have in the United States and the conveniences we have, but I was more in awe of how grateful the Peruvian people were even with their relative lack of resources and how grateful they were for us to be there, trying to help.
As someone who has not traveled much and on his first medical outreach trip what an amazing experience it was to fly to Iquitos, Peru, the largest city in the world that you can’t drive to; as it is only accessible by boat or plane, to help treat the local people. During our trip we were armed with only point of care glucose, hemoglobin, blood sugar, urinalysis and ultrasound and we saw over 1200 patients.
Our days started with thirty-minute bus rides to start seeing patients by 8AM. On the drive we passed countless “Tuk Tuks” the most common form of transportation in the city, and got a glimpse into their everyday commute.
The first few days of our outreach we set up in a local church where a Peruvian priest that trained in medicine in the US now serves his patients and parishioners. We spent each day seeing patients with multiple specialists available ranging from OMM to Neurology and Urology, and I worked as a general medicine doctor treating patients. Some were there for emergency care ranging from acutely dropping hemoglobin’s to ACS, which we triaged to the hospitals for further emergent care, and some were there to see a doctor for the first time in their lives for a full checkup.
Among the innumerable undiagnosed diabetes, cataracts and hypertension we also saw patients with untreated elphantitis, cleft palates, hypospadias, and parasitic infections. We were only able to prescribe antiparasitic, antibiotics, metformin, tylenol and ibuprofen and yet even with those minimal resources the patients were just happy to have people that cared for them and willing to listen to their health care needs. Many told us that they had woken up at 3AM to be in line by 3:30 just to see us, as they knew that we could help them.
The final two days we went to a local hospital and continued to see patients and help in whatever way possible. I spent hours speaking with patients about little lifestyle changes they could take to improve their health and chronic problems on top of the medications we could provide.
Outside of us seeing patients we also had the opportunity to visit local shaman on the amazon and learn their holistic ways and how they work with what the amazon has provided and create medicine ranging from anti-inflammatories, and antiseptics to antiemetics and antihypertensives, using nothing but mixtures of the plants and natural resources the amazon has to offer.
Beyond medicine, being immersed in the Peruvian culture was an amazing experience. From the food to the music, to the cities and piranha fishing it was amazing to learn of their history, learn how they live and the traditions they follow and be a little part of their lives.
The experience of traveling to Iquitos will stick with me for life and I cannot wait to get back to offer more help and to help treat the wonderful people that live on the amazon. I am so grateful I was given the opportunity and support of DOCARE in order to help make this trip a reality.