The Catholic Messenger
During a medical mission to Arequipa, Peru, parishioners of Our Lady of Lourdes in Bettendorf learned about the “great strides” made by the parish’s sister chapel Nuestra Senora de la Reconciliacion (Our Lady of Reconciliation).
Physician Joe Lohmuller and fellow Lourdes parishioners Frank Becker and Becker’s grandson James, went to Peru June 14-17 as part of the Medical Ministry International mission team.
Lohmuller said the medical volunteers made the annual trip to continue with surgical missions. “It was a very successful project again this year,” Lohmuller said.
Approximately 36 volunteers from across North America, along with an additional Peruvian staff, worked exclusively in surgery as a medical/dental team had already conducted a project there in May. This is the first year the medical and surgical teams were divided to make the team size more manageable.
Eleven volunteers from the Quad-City area were on the 36-member team which consisted of two gynecologists, three general surgeons, two anesthesiologists and a nurse anesthetist, four registered nurses, a nurse practitioner, four surgical technicians, two translators, 11 general helpers and a group of teens who worked on service projects in the community.
The team worked out of Centro Medico Universitario Pedro P. Diaz, a much smaller hospital than utilized in previous years.
The first Monday of the mission was a full day of set-up, processing surgical equipment and consulting on patients needing operations, Lohmuller said. Surgeries started the second day. Many team members adapted to new roles on the mission, especially the nurses. Their jobs at home are in oncology, ICU, outpatient care or other nursing specialties. In Peru they served as perioperative nurses.
The team had two operating rooms and completed 67 operations over seven days, including 35 laparoscopic gallbladder surgeries. Only one patient had a minor wound infection that was easily treated. Other operations included hysterectomies, a variety of other gynecologic procedures, hernia repairs and tumor excisions. Team members also provided educational lectures to local physicians and nurses.
The team conducted a post-operative clinic on the final day as well as an inventory of the equipment that will remain in storage for the team that follows in 2015. “Unique friendships form among the team members who work closely together, live as a team, eat as a team, and pray as a team daily. The opportunity to serve God’s people was appreciated by all, even though this ecumenical group consisted of many Christian denominations as well as members of the Jewish and Buddhist faiths,” Lohmuller said.
The mission wouldn’t be as successful without the prayers and financial support of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish. The people served are gracious and grateful and their lives changed forever as a result of this effort, he noted.
Aside from the medical work, team members also attended Mass at the chapel. Padre Alberto Rios presided at the special Mass on the eve of Fathers’ Day, which is a special holiday in Peru. All fathers in attendance received special recognition, a blessing by Fr. Rios, and a fiesta held in their honor with dancing, food, drink and music.
“The chapel has made great strides in the last three years with a new roof, ceiling, vestments and several other new features,” Lohmuller said.
A letter from Father Tim Sheedy, pastor of the Bettendorf parish when the mission took place, was read at the Mass. It included an announcement that Lourdes had raised $15,000 of the necessary $24,000 for the addition of a meeting room, restrooms and kitchen. The Pennies for Peru program of Lourdes Catholic School also donated funds to be used for the addition. Lohmuller said the Peru congregation was enthusiastic about having the support of the children.
He reported the neighborhood in Peru has more struggles because of drug trafficking in the street. It is hoped that strengthening the presence of the chapel will help alleviate this problem and improve the environment for the families living there.
The team’s greatest hope is for the continuation of prayers for the chapel and the congregation.