Me and Sister P gettin' down at the howdown.
Poor photo of Tony's kids singing in Spanish to Western and American tunes. Try clicking on it to make it larger. Their favorite song was a rendition combining La Bamba and Twist and Shout. The one in the little green pants was frozen with stage fright the whole time.
Sister Patricia and Dr. Tony Lazzara, Sheriff.
I'm backtracking a bit here to bring the blog up-to-date.
Hogar San Francisco in Chaclacayo, just an hour north of Lima, is supported by the US-based non-profit, Villa la Paz Foundation. After hearing about this home from Ann Ellis who put me in touch with Sr. Patricia and Dr. Tony, I visited one morning when I first arrived in Lima. The Hogar SF is a transitional home for children with chronic illnesses who can't afford any medical care; Dr. Tony, with the foundation, arranges for and funds their care, and works with a number of children's hospitals in Lima. How do families from the provinces know about the house? Word of mouth. The foundation was started by Dr. Tony and his US-based family members.
The home is small, with three rooms for the children plus a nursery. Dr. Tony and a few other key personnel live upstairs in rooms on the roof next to lines of drying hand-washed cloth diapers and bedding. The home's capacity is 43. When I went, there were 52 children staying - and the place couldn't have been neater and cleaner. They clean the home 3 times a day plus a thorough Saturday cleaning. The children smelled like clean laundry. Not like any orphanage or children's home I've been to before!
The children have illnesses ranging from leukemia and malnutrition, to burns and complicated limb fractures. I spent the morning playing with Victoria, an extremely affectionate and gregarious three year old with a large benign tumor extending from her scapula.
Dr. Tony is a reserved and gentle man, who gave up a prominent position at Emory as a pediatrician mid-career to begin working as a medical missionary. That was 1984.
The place was fairly magical and hard to sum up - maybe it was just the sun that I hadn't seen since I'd come to Lima. (There are a variety of microclimates in Lima and around and Chaclacayo is known for being sunny year 'round.)
As Dr. Tony described the children's ailments: "This child has anal atresia; this one cleft lip" I could have easily been in any academic center in the US. When Dr. Tony asked in that didactic, slightly challenging way, "What do you know about amniotic band syndrome?" I thought, "Am I being pimped?!"* And like so many fantastic physicians, Dr. Tony very simply stated his patients seemingly insurmountable healthcare barriers - not the least of which in Peru involves paying for every fingerprick, xray and MRI before you have it done. The context and his modo de ser (I think I just had my first thought in Spanish) made the learning points. . . different.
It's not that I felt, "If I sleep at night, I'm not doing enough" - how a lot of people seem to feel after reading Mountains Beyond Mountains (the biography of amphetaminesforblood Paul Farmer), for example. I just, had a sharp realization of my personal... limits (I guess). I could not be happy if I tried to live this man's life (in which he seems happy)- a spiritual gringo MD living alone in the middle of nowhere Peru dedicating his life to poorest of the poor.
These kids are so lucky there are people like him.
I'm very excited about the research projects I'm working on (another posting.) I sought out a project that was practical hands-on public health oriented- improve health care here and now for underserved populations. The greatest innovations are worthless if they don't get to the people who need them. Often our interventions focus on the worthy poor. Blah Blah. I've been doing a lot of reading, some writing, setting meetings. And without any hint of irony, I feel very good and energized about what I'm doing.
The dollars for my raffle tickets at the fundraiser, however, also got a lot done and fast.
I'm synthesizing a lot here, but I think overall, my visit to Hogar San Francisco made me think again about the different levels of helping people and how maybe helping the person in directly in front of you - the drunk panhandler for example- is much more challenging.
Phew- this entry may need to be edited in the morning. Got a little deeper in than photos of the bar here!
Webpages to check out if yr interested and have nothing to do with that disposable income:www.villalapazfoundation.orgwww.limakids.org
- Foundation started by Fogarty Fellow Joe Donroe, who started a soccer league for orphan and street kids in Lima that has caught on like wildfire. Joe is in his second year living in Lima needs funding badly if the program is to be sustained.www.therafiki.org
-If you know Ann Ellis or if you've known me for any amount of time, or if you're one of the lucky folks on my parents' Christmas card list, you already know about this one. Nothing on the webpage yet, but more to come soon.
*Family member note: "Pimping" is the crass but seemingly universal medical school/residency slang for when you are drilled with questions.