Volunteer Andree Louvierre: First Impressions
Meet Andree Louvierre, one of our international volunteers! She is serving as a nurse in Trujillo, Peru. After spending over four months bringing healthcare directly to the homes of community members, she reflects on her experience with the International Surgical Health Initiative (ISHI) team.
Andree’s story highlights the importance of working together and the value of jumping head first into new experiences and challenges.
A Change of Pace
A couple months ago, Sister Gladys, the clinic director of Madre de Cristo, asked Jessica Pikul (fellow volunteer) and I for our help. She wanted us to bring our nursing skills to one of the local hospitals, where we would support a team of surgeons from the US. After months of serving in homes as a community nurse, I was extremely excited to put my stethoscope back on to serve at the Madre de Cristo Hospital in La Esperanza alongside the International Surgical Health Initiative (ISHI) team.
Coming Together to Serve
Brilliant minds and beautiful hearts from across the United States came together to serve the most vulnerable in the community. I watched and participated in the care of the patients. An outsider would have never imagined that the team had just met days before. Their teamwork was incomparable and their unity was a site to see.
ISHI completed 64 free surgeries in just five days! Their work began on Sunday where they set up the space for the following five days and consulted with every one of their patients.
Throughout the week, I was moved by the incredible selfless work this team provided to patients. With mornings starting before 7:30 and most days ending after 6 pm, the team returned again each morning with hearts ready to serve and hands ready to work.
Each and every patient was treated with dignity, value, and respect. Their families were also welcomed into the process and it was a joyful experience for all! Jessica and I were able to help translate and treat patients on the floor, in addition to working with the local hospital staff and speaking with families. It was one of the first times I was a translator and it was such a fulfilling experience!
As I read through their charts, I was amazed that some patients were finally being treated for problems that had been affecting them for the past two to five years. In the States, we take access to healthcare for granted so often, but this week allowed me to grow in gratitude and hope for the families we serve here in Peru.
Normally in the hospital where I work in the U.S., before patients go into surgery they often tell me they are afraid and have anxiety. Throughout our time of pre-opping patients, I often asked the patients how they felt and almost all would respond “tranquillo,” “listo,” and “bien.” Meaning, calm, ready, and good.
Jessica and I also had the privilege of entering surgeries with the team. One of my favorite surgeries to watch was for a man who was having a hernia repaired. It was an awesome surgery, but what was even more awesome about it was that the whole time the team was operating he was bobbing his head and jamming along to the music playing in the background. He told us happily, “music good!” Later on he told me, in Spanish, that I had the hands of an angel, which I had to tell him was not the truth, but passed the kind words along to the surgeon who was hard at work!
But, that was not all! The ISHI team did not only come for surgeries they also came to build capacity! Natalia, an incredibly warm nurse, and I taught a CPR course to the Madre de Cristo Clinic workers. It was extremely fun, especially to see the young men who have little ones of their own take the course so seriously! They wanted to learn and make sure they were using best practice. One of the nurses even came in for the course on her birthday.
A team of us also gave Stop the Bleed Courses to police and security officers. There is one moment from our trainings with police officers that struck me a lot. After the course was complete, a national police officer who had attended the course urgently requested another course to be given in the afternoon to 34 more National Police.
She shared that when her fellow police officers encounter bleeding from gunshot wounds or stabbing for example, they often refrain from touching the victim because they fear they might cause more harm. We were able to rearrange the schedule and four of us went to teach another course on our last afternoon, right before our closing ceremony at the clinic.
At the closing ceremony Dr. Ziad Sifiri emphasized the unity that had occurred throughout the week, that it was not about “we” versus “you,” but that every persons’ work was needed for the completion of the week. He thanked the hospital team from Madre de Cristo for all of their efforts.
Hermana Gladys the clinic director also sang the praises of the ISHI team. One of the surgeons stated, “This was the best thing I have ever done in my whole life.” Another surgeon stated, “I smiled more in this week on mission than I did the last six months.”
Going up the Mountain
After all was said and done at the clinic, Jessica and I piled into two taxis with different members of the ISHI team to, “Go up to the mountain.” Members of the team had longed to visit “the mountain” where Jessica and I work with CMMB during their trip last year, but were not given this opportunity. This year, it was a goal of ours to get them up there because many of their patient’s live, “Up the mountain.”
During our visit to up the mountain, we visited the home of one of our community health workers. She explained her work to the team of surgeons. One comment she made struck me in particular. She said, “Just as you feel a high from completing surgeries for these patients, I also feel that same high when I serve the women and children in my community.”
She spoke about how CMMB had transformed her community, her family, and ultimately her life. Jessica and I were extremely proud of her as she shared her testimony, her home, and her heart with our American friends. Later that night, one of the surgeons stated, “It was truly humbling going up to the mountain today.”