With no money and limited access to medical care, many villagers in Dipolog and Sindangan, Zamboanga del Norte, Philippines, simply live with uncomfortable — and sometimes serious — medical problems.
Often the villagers wait for medical missioners to arrive, such as Dr. Henry Echiverri, a neurologist with the Edward Neuroscience Institute.
Echiverri recently returned from a trip to the Philippines on which he took about 50 other medical volunteers from the University of the Philippines Medical Alumni Society in America.
While there for a week in late January, the group performed about 180 major operations — 51 of them were cleft lip surgeries — 250 minor surgeries, and saw more than 2,800 outpatients.
More than half of the outpatients were children, and the majority had infectious diseases and skin disorders, he said.
“It’s gratifying,” said Echiverri, who has participated in mission trips for more than five years. “Even if it’s just for a day, and we see a case of pneumonia and give them antibiotics … that day is an answer to their prayers.”
The group raises money and collects supplies throughout the year, then ships everything they need to do the work, which is provided free of charge.
The goal is to target a population that is underserved by medical services, Echiverri said. Each fall, he visits hospitals in Manila to provide training to doctors there, and surveys the area for a January mission location.
For more information about the missions or to donate to the cause, contact Echiverri at 630-836-9121.
Health Aware is a weekly column courtesy of Edward Hospital in Naperville.