Feature by Chloe Allen-Maycock, MD
In February 2010, I went to Coya, Peru as the Wendell Stevens Scholar. I traveled with Jerry Tanner, MD, and Berklee Robins, MD, from APOM and a facial plastics team from OHSU. By the end of the week, we had provided anesthesia for over 50 procedures, including cleft lip and palate repairs, facial scar revisions, microtia repairs and even one orthopedic procedure. Though we mainly provided anesthesia care at the Kausay Wasi Clinic, we also helped throughout their general medicine clinic and provided assistance with cardiac ultrasonography when needed. The Kausay Wasi Clinic has been serving the indigenous population in the Coya area since 2003. Many of the people served by the clinic are unable to obtain medical services elsewhere.
The city of Coya is nestled against the Andes Mountains in the Sacred Valley of Peru. This is the area of the ancient Incas, and we were near many Incan ruins including Macchu Picchu, Pisac and Ollantaytambo. Two weeks before our scheduled trip, massive flooding hit the Sacred Valley closing Macchu Picchu and rendering many of the local people homeless, roads impassable and bridges destroyed. Fortunately, patients were still able to make it to the Kausay Wasi Clinic for their procedures, often because they traveled to the clinic by foot or manual cart.
It is no surprise that providing anesthesia care in this remote area and setting was much different than my previous experiences in medicine and anesthesia. Throughout the week, I had to plan for and respond to common anesthesia issues but in very different ways and with limited resources. For example, when the patients left the clinic only hours aft er their cleft lip or palate repair, they oft en were placed in a push cart or swaddled in a sling for the journey on foot back to their remote village. Learning to provide the same level of anesthesia care in this new environment was challenging but fun.
The best part of the experience for me was being part of a team that made a huge impact on the health of each patient we cared for. The surgeries were life-changing for the patients and weren’t possible without charity medical care. One such patient was a woman in her forties who had a large burn scar on her face and neck with a contracture that severely flexed her neck down and to one side. The burn had been caused by oil lamp kerosene that spilled on her during a seizure in her teens. Almost thirty years later, she was finally able to regain neck mobility. She, like all of the other patients at the Kausay Wasi Clinic, expressed profuse gratitude for her surgery and anesthesia care.
I would not have been able to have this experience without the Wendell Stevens Scholar Program. I am grateful for the support of the Wendell Stevens Program, which has facilitated my participation in the first of many medical missions.
Pictured: (Top) Drs. Berklee Robins, Chloe Allen-Maycock, and Jerry Tanner; (Bottom) Dr. Allen-Maycock with a patient after surgery. Photos courtesy of Dr. Allen-Maycock.
Read this article and more: Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine newsletter