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Adventist Journal Online | From Rwanda to Peru, U.S. health officials are helping hospitals and schools

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COVID-19 has not interrupted leaders’ relationships with the institutions they support.

APart of the AdventHealth system in the United States, AdventHealth Shawnee Mission in Kansas and Centura Health Adventist Hospitals in Colorado participate in mission opportunities in countries around the world through the organization’s Global Missions program. AdventHealth Shawnee Mission organizes mission trips to Peru, and Centura Health leaders sponsor sites in Peru, Nepal, and Rwanda.

AdventHealth Global Missions fosters long-term relationships with select hospitals around the world with senior leaders who volunteer their time and expertise to facilitate long-term strategic planning. Global Missions is a reflection of AdventHealth’s mission Extending Christ’s Healing Ministry. This mission inspired healthcare teams across the system to volunteer on medical missions to 10 sites and participate through philanthropic assistance. This mission work continued even in the midst of a pandemic, when hospitals had to remain nimble while taking care of their communities.

Extending healing in Rwanda

According to the Global Clubfoot Initiative, around 500 babies are born with clubfoot in Rwanda each year. Faustin, a young Rwandan, struggled with clubfoot for much of his life. This painful condition is characterized by walking on the ankles and can be a source of discomfort. If left untreated, it can reduce a person’s quality of life and inhibit their ability to provide for their family.

About 90 percent of the Rwandan population depends on subsistence agriculture, which provides food for the family, but little beyond. Because farmers rarely use mechanized labor, a child with clubfoot is unable to participate in the required manual labor, which decreases the productivity of the whole family.

Faustin’s condition created a difficult situation for his family to make ends meet until a member of the Centura Health team sponsored Faustin for surgery, which cost around $ 4,000. US.

Mike Goebel, CEO of Parker Adventist Hospital in Colorado, and a member of the Centura Health team visited Faustin and his family on their last missionary trip to Rwanda, just before COVID-19 became mainstream .

The family invited the group to their home to thank the mission team for their work at the hospital and the donor’s contribution to Faustin’s health.

“Faustin had clubfoot surgery and now has a future,” Goebel said. “He is studying and can support his family, whereas before this operation he was not able to help with agriculture. Her father told our group, “I have nothing to offer you except prayer. Can I pray for you? ‘ It was incredibly touching that one of our team members contributed to Faustin’s future.

Faustin is now 21 and is studying for a degree at a local university. The team member who donated to his surgery is now sponsoring his education.

Mugonero Adventist Hospital is located in a rural area, about a three and a half hour drive from the capital Kigali. It is a challenge for families living in rural areas, who depend on walking or motorcycles to get around. While patients are looking for more specialized surgeries such as orthopedic surgery, these are more accessible in Kigali.

In 2020, a team of orthopedic and general surgeons traveled to Mugonero Adventist Hospital, where they operated for one day, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Centura Health also helped health workers at the hospital receive additional training in orthopedic and general surgery. In addition, one of Centura’s head nurses provided leadership training to improve hospital operations in Mugonero.

Centura has donated resources for several projects to Mugonero in the past, including a new laundromat, a family waiting room, surgical supplies and equipment, and a new water distribution system. Goebel and Greg Hodgson, director of global health initiatives at Centura Health, continued to facilitate this relationship. The group plans to move forward by hiring a local contractor in Rwanda to renovate the main hospital building. This will expand the range of services to provide obstetric services such as a new maternity ward.

Greg Hodgson and the Centura Health team continued their involvement during the pandemic through virtual Zoom meetings and email to facilitate the process of moving these special projects forward.

Extending healing in Peru

In 2016, AdventHealth Shawnee Mission began sponsoring mission trips to Peru with the help of Douglas Cusick, a plastic surgeon in Leawood, Kansas. Cusick, who had taken missionary trips around the world with his wife, Barbara, donated US $ 1 million to the AdventHealth Shawnee Mission Foundation to establish the medical mission endowment of Dr. J. Douglas Cusick. Proceeds help cover mission travel costs, including equipment, supplies, and a portion of team members’ travel costs.

In 2016 and 2017, approximately 20 members of the AdventHealth team traveled to Iquitos, Peru, to provide care. On the second trip, Cusick operated on a burn victim who was a mother of four. She had lost mobility in her arm after being badly burned and bandaged in such a way that the wounds did not heal properly. Because she lost the mobility of that arm, she was unable to find work, as most of the available jobs involved manual labor.

After Cusick and his team performed the operation, the woman regained 80 to 90 percent of her arm’s mobility. The team also made arrangements for her to receive post-operative care, including wound care and physiotherapy, close to her place of residence.

“The operation really changed her life,” said Jimmy Bolanos, regional director of strategy and business development for AdventHealth Shawnee Mission, who participated in the mission trip. “It not only allowed her to have a job, but also to help around the house and even get dressed. She was so grateful for everything.

Cusick and a team from AdventHealth Shawnee Mission have been on mission trips to Iquitos every year since 2016. In 2018, they began partnering with a hospital in Juliaca, Peru. In 2019, they performed over 50 surgeries in Juliaca, including general surgery, reconstructive burn surgery, and surgery to repair congenital disabilities like cleft palate and cleft lip.

In 2020, AdventHealth Shawnee Mission sent personal protective equipment (PPE), including protective clothing, masks and other equipment for healthcare workers to Peru. In partnership with AdventHealth Orlando, they also provided Juliaca Hospital with ventilators to help treat COVID-19 patients.

This year, AdventHealth Shawnee Mission is sending US $ 20,000 to help build oxygen plants in Peru to provide medical grade oxygen.

“This will give Clínica Adventista Ana Stahl [a hospital in Iquitos] the ability to produce their own oxygen for respiratory problems because oxygen was so scarce during the pandemic, ”said Dave Kennedy, executive director of the mission and ministry at AdventHealth Shawnee Mission. “It will definitely save lives. ”

The next mission trip to deliver surgeries and clinics is scheduled for 2022, Bolanos said. In November 2021, members of the AdventHealth Shawnee Mission leadership team will also visit Peru. “We want to let our partners in Peru know that we are still supporting them,” Bolanos said. “We also want to give our management team a chance to see the great work that is being done there and how we can continue to help.”

The original version of this story was published by the Mid-America Union Conference Outlook.


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