Traveling down the Amazon River, reaching out to help people in jungle areas, was how Joe Lamb, MD, family physician at ThedaCare Physicians-New London spent his time in Peru on a recent mission trip with Christ the Rock Community Church in Menasha.
Dr. Lamb is no stranger to remote areas, having traveled since 1990 on various mission trips from Haiti to the Sahara Desert. This is was the church’s first visit to Peru. “It was much more isolated as far as the setting,” he said.
The team that gathered to provide medical services were ready to tackle whatever came their way to help those in need, said Dr. Lamb. “We had all the people we needed at the right roles,” he said, noting the team, which included some from ThedaCare, consisted of five providers, two nurses, a pharmacist and plenty of ancillary help. “It was really good.”
The team spent five days starting in Tahuania, a district in Peru. They conducted four medical clinics in four communities: Bolognesi, the capital of Tahuania; Nuevo Italia, which became their center of operations; Tumbuya; and Tupac, an all Shipibo village.
Dr. Lamb said the group was well received from day one. Upon arrival, they were greeted by the governor of the area as well as treated to a celebration with a dinner, tribal dance and presentation of gifts. “It was one of the greatest welcomes ever,” he said.
The next day they experienced the local healthcare system in the hospital in the city. Then they traveled three hours by boat to Nuevo Italia. “That was our home base,” said Dr. Lamb.
They traveled daily along the Amazon River to reach various villages. “The river is used as a highway,” he said. “The roads are impassible. Everyone uses the river to go places.”
The group worked out of the health clinics in the villages, where there was a local doctor or a trained lay person. They saw about 800 people at the primary care clinics they ran and treated parasitic infections, hypertension, diabetes and more as well as did some minor surgery.
Dr. Lamb said the clinics were beneficial, noting that the villages were isolated. “In one place, if there was an emergency, the local doctor would have to send someone by boat for three hours to the local hospital and they would fly them out of there,” he said.
One village did not have access to healthcare. But word spread in the jungle about the medical team. “A few of those people walked all day to get to our clinic,” said Dr. Lamb.
Dr. Lamb said the patients and villagers were warm and welcoming. “They were very calm and respectful and grateful we were there,” he said.
Now that a connection has been made, the church will consider future trips. “This was a trip designed to assess needs were and to examine what our longer term role would be in the area,” said Dr. Lamb.