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Returning to Peru | 2019 Mission Trip

By Pharmacy Director, Luke Herbert

As then President of KSB’s Board of Directors, Doug Lee had a couple of goals, one of which was for KSB to organize a medical mission trip as another way to give back to people in need.   After some work to find the right fit, Dr. Pratip Nag became involved and found international partners in International Volunteer HQ and Maximo Nivel and soon after, the first team of nine volunteers were on their way to Cusco, Peru in April 2018. Fast forward to April 5, 2019, and the second team of nine were en route to Cusco for the 2.0 version of our international medical mission endeavor.

Cusco is a city of 428,000 people situated at 11,200 feet of elevation in the Peruvian Andes and was the center of the Inca empire from the 13th century until it’s conquest by Spanish conquistadors in the 16th Century.  Inca and Spanish influence are easily found in the culture, architecture and elsewhere in the beautiful city of Cusco and the surrounding communities.

Besides our own clothing and gear, we carried 12 extra suitcases of medical equipment, donated vitamins, toothbrushes, toys, clothing, and other items to share with the Peruvian people.  We visited three communities outside of the City of Cusco where we set up medical clinics which were supported and advertised by local community leaders.  Daily we arrived to find patients awaiting our services.

Our team included Doctors Greg Reckamp, Pratip Nag, and Deb Dregenberg, as well as nurses Wendy Sofolo and Teresa Shroyer.  Also supporting the effort were Lynn Knodle (Board Chairperson), Suzanne Ravlin, Kate Ryczek and Luke Herbert (Pharmacist).  We sometimes had to practice outside of our normal scope as witnessed by Suzanne’s newly learned dental skills (fluoride treatments), and through the week we employed everyone’s skills and talents in countless ways.

The care we provided was primarily general health assessments, patient education and the dispensing of some medications and vitamins along with referrals to follow-up care when appropriate.  We employed translators to assist with Spanish and also Quechua, which was the primary language of the Inca Empire and is still spoken in many Andean towns and villages.

We learned a lot during our first trip of 2018 and this year we worked to use what we learned to improve on our ability to educate and treat our patients.  Some improvements included a better understanding of the language and cultural barriers to health care as well as a better understanding of how our patients would follow up to obtain recommended referred care and maintenance medications.  We encountered some barriers to diagnosing and treating without radiology and laboratory services, but as Dr. Tim Appenheimer noted during last year’s adventure, it was clear to our group that “this was a good thing to be doing.”   We made some very important diagnosis and referrals for needed care and we worked hard to educate the local people on dietary, medicinal and other needed interventions.

While in Cusco, Dr. Nag met with the directors of the local healthcare resources and the leadership of the local volunteer organization that we partnered with to find out how we can up our game in the years to come and how can we best impact the health and well-being of the people of Peru.

KSB works hard to promote wellness in the Sauk Valley community as witnessed by our free flu clinics, and the Fighting Hunger/Feeding Wellness campaigns and we are proud to set an example of how community hospitals can promote wellness on an international level via our Peru Mission Trip. We are looking forward to sharing our experience with our colleagues at an upcoming Illinois Hospital Association event in the hope that other hospitals and health systems may join in our efforts to create something on a larger more sustainable scale.

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