Lo­cal doc­tors treat kids at clinic in Peru

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - - MILWAUKEE WISCONSIN - Jim St­ingl Colum­nist Mil­wau­kee Journal Sen­tinel USA TODAY NET­WORK – WIS.

A doc­tor in train­ing at Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal of Wis­con­sin had a chance en­counter with a re­tired car­di­ol­o­gist who dreamed of build­ing a much­needed hos­pi­tal in his na­tive Peru.

That meet­ing at a photo ex­hibit wound up giv­ing sur­geons at Chil­dren’s a front-row seat for the plan­ning and con­struc­tion of that hos­pi­tal in the Ama­zon jun­gle vil­lage of Yan­talo, and an op­por­tu­nity to treat chil­dren who lacked ac­cess to health care.

“I think all of us in medicine en­tered the field be­cause of a sense of al­tru­is­tic hope. So when the op­por­tu­nity came to part­ner and do this in a part of the world where there’s re­ally a need, we’ve gone there and done that,” said Keith Old­ham, sur­geon in chief at Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal and a nine-time vol­un­teer in Peru.

That part­ner­ship be­gan a decade ago af­ter C. Luis Vasquez, and his La Crosse-born wife, Mary, formed the Yan­talo Peru Foun­da­tion with an eye to­ward im­prov­ing the agri­cul­tural vil­lage where his mother had grown up, about 400 miles north of Lima.

“When I first stepped foot here, I was filled with rage be­cause I thought in 100 years noth­ing has changed, and it can’t go on like this,” Vasquez says in a re­cently com­pleted doc­u­men­tary about the hos­pi­tal project. The film was screened at Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal last month.

It took seven years longer than he hoped, but the mod­ern clinic named for his mother, Adelina So­plin, for­mally opened last year. It is staffed by ro­tat­ing teams of doc­tors and other med­i­cal per­son­nel from Chil­dren’s, which was the first hos­pi­tal on board, as well as physi­cians from the Univer­sity of Michi­gan, Johns Hop­kins, and other med­i­cal cen­ters in the United States and around the world.

Word spread quickly in the vil­lage and beyond. Pa­tients are not re­quired to pay.

“Peo­ple know that we’re com­ing. So now when we go, peo­ple come from all over the coun­try, some­times driv­ing up and over the An­des, some­times in ca­noes and on bi­cy­cles and on foot,” Old­ham said.

Doc­tors per­form a va­ri­ety of surg­eries, though noth­ing too com­pli­cated be­cause the fa­cil­ity lacks an in­ten­sive care unit. This is surgery on a

shoe­string com­pared to the facilities at Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal. Doc­tors from here take their turn in Yan­talo ev­ery Septem­ber for 10 to 14 days.

An­other vet­eran sur­geon at Chil­dren’s who has been in it from the start is Tom Sato. He’ll never for­get the vil­lage child whose esoph­a­gus never fully de­vel­oped. For 12 years, the boy was fed through a tube into his stom­ach.

“A num­ber of col­leagues from around the world were with us, and none of us had ac­tu­ally ever seen a child that age sur­vive and thrive for 12 years with­out hav­ing the esoph­a­gus re­con­structed,” Sato said.

He and an­other Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal doc­tor, Casey Calkins, per­formed the surgery six years ago and have checked on the pa­tient, now a young man, three times since then.

Old­ham and the oth­ers are work­ing on a suc­ces­sion plan to as­sure that younger doc­tors will step up and con­tinue trav­el­ing from Wis­con­sin to serve the clinic.

“No one per­son is go­ing to trans­form ev­ery­thing on the planet,” Old­ham said. “But we have tried con­sis­tently to go to one place and ed­u­cate peo­ple and pro­vide care to the chil­dren in this com­mu­nity.”

Con­tact Jim St­ingl at (414) 224-2017 or jst­ingl@jrn.com. Con­nect with my pub­lic page at Facebook.com/Jour­nal­ist.Jim.St­ingl


C. Luis Vasquez (left), who had a dream of build­ing a hos­pi­tal in the vil­lage in Peru where his mother was from, shows the site to sur­geon Keith Old­ham and other vol­un­teers from Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal of Wis­con­sin.


Con­struc­tion went slower than ex­pected, but fi­nally a hos­pi­tal opened in the vil­lage of Yan­talo in the Ama­zon jun­gle of Peru. It is staffed by doc­tors from Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal of Wis­con­sin and other vol­un­teers from med­i­cal cen­ters world­wide.


This child looks happy with the treat­ment she re­ceived at the new hos­pi­tal in ru­ral Peru that is served by vol­un­teer doc­tors and trainees from Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal of Wis­con­sin and other med­i­cal per­son­nel from around the world.

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