Mission Reflections

Thursday, October 18th, 2018

I was fortunate to be a member of the OLMC team that went to Peru September 28, 2018 for a week. I retired 2 years ago after working as a pediatric nurse practitioner for several nonprofits organizations serving the poor of New York City and New Jersey. I worked in hotels for the homeless, made inner city home visits, and did primary care for the undeserved, but nothing prepared me for the living conditions that I witnessed on this mission to Peru.

Marianne Reilly at the Mission.

Each morning after mass and breakfast we would take a bus ride to a prearranged site in the region of Jose Galvez in Lima Peru. We would service the people living in “the hills.” A huge socioeconomic contrast exists in Lima marked by a wall dividing Lima’s population. Political violence caused by the guerrilla movement (Shining Path) resulted in a mass migration to Lima in the 1980s.

The hill people live in wooden shacks constructed from scrap materials of wood and iron. Several homes share electricity, toilets are non-existent, and only cold water is available. Despite these hardships, people came to our make shift clinic on foot or traveling in small cabs. We went to three different sites: a chapel of the local Carmelite parish staffed by Carmelite Sisters, a men’s drug and alcohol rehab center, and a primary school. At each site the staff were welcoming and helpful.

As we arrived at each venue, the people were already waiting to register. After a quick registration, the nurses were the first line screeners, taking vital signs and a glucose reading. The nurse practitioners took comprehensive histories deciding who needed to be seen first and which doctor was most appropriate. Nurses also gave nebulizer treatments, administered medication, screened for pregnancy, assisted in pharmacy, and did discharge teaching. My role was to

The living conditions for many in Jose Galvez, Peru.

coordinate this group and fill in wherever needed. I got to see a broad view of the clinic in action. The team of doctors, nurses, translators and logistic staff were a cohesive goal oriented group of Christians living out the gospel message “Love one another as I have loved you”. Everyone who came on the trip worked tirelessly to make this mission a success, including long days preparing individual packets of medication as our cargo was delayed in customs till midweek. The absolute best part of this experience was meeting the people who came to be seen by the American doctors. Despite the fact that we told all those seen on the first two days that they would have to return to get their medicine either at this site or perhaps another site further away, they simply shook your hand, kissed you, or gave you a hug and thanked you for coming. Jesus said “you will always have the poor with you…” and St Paul tells us “to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, and bearing with one another through love”. This is exactly what I witnessed in Peru.

Marianne W. Reilly DNP, RN, CPNP

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