One volunteers story
CardioStarts’ mission team brings volunteers from all countries and career specialties including a select few students who come for the infusion of education and experience of their life. This mission was no different for Emily Harper, premed student at the University of Oregon.
Emily was spending special time on the mission with her father, Dr. Richard Harper, Emergency Room Chief and Professor at the VA and Oregon Health & Sciences University. He, a seasoned mission veteran was part of the outreach team helping to meet medical needs of an aging population in the depths of Colca Canyon in a city known as Cabanaconde. Located three hours away by grueling bus ride from Arequipa (White City) is the canyon, twice as deep as the U.S. Grand Canyon. (3960 feet /1200 m) Known as The Lost Valley of the Incas, The Valley of Wonders, The Valley of Fire and the Territory of the Condor: it is visited annually for the grand show put on each evening and early morning as the Condors do their hunting in a wondrous display of flight making this place one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
Sharing this space is an indigenous people who maintain their old way of life as they have for hundreds of years. Like many distant small villages, very few of the young stay, most drawn to an easier way of life. Those that remain suffer the hardship of the environment, isolation and lack of infrastructure in the city.
Their medical care is a small clinic, which does everything from dental extractions to childbirth and emergencies. CardioStart Internationals’ outreach team was there to provide vital equipment, supplies and medical education to the clinic staff to help care for the remaining citizens. Students and other volunteers under the supervision of seasoned practitioners instructed in public health programs including dental hygiene. Each villager was provided the necessary supplies to care for their oral hygiene and those of their families. Cardiovascular science has established that good oral hygiene is necessary for cardiovascular health. With no real ability to treat cardiovascular disease, prevention is key here.
As the volunteers completed their days of work some wondered if teaching these basic skills were of any use. Would these people really “buy in” to this new program? Emily too, wondered. She said to her father as the bus was heading home, “Dad, I wonder if we did any good for these people?” And as they rounded the corner to head out of town for the long journey they see a mother hunched over brushing her son’s teeth beside a hut where they lived. It appears that helped at least this little one. Follow up visits and time will tell.