Providing Free Medical Care

Amigos de Salud, which loosely translated means Friends of Health, provides  medical and surgical care and supplies to those with limited resources in South America. Under the direction of co-founders Nick Morrison, MD, FACS, FACPh, and his wife Terri Morrison, RN, a team of more than 40 volunteer physicians, nurses, other clinicians and support staff travel to Ecuador every summer.

During this week-long trip, the team will screen, evaluate and treat approximately 2,500 children and adults. “This is grassroots medical care,” explains Dr. Morrison “It is a remarkable experience for all concerned and embodies a unique one-on-one impact that is difficult to describe,” continues Dr. Morrison. “As medical professionals, we can give back in time and talent to individuals who desperately need our care.” The Morrison’s have made 21 trips to Ecuador and they have made similar trips to Peru, Nicaragua and Costa Rica . In both 2007 and 2008, they made two trips.

This humanitarian effort comprises a multi-specialty medical team of physicians specializing in general surgery, pediatrics, orthopedics, vein disease, gynecology, family practice, anesthesiology and colorectal surgery, as well as an audiologist, and nurses with experience in numerous fields. The team will treat a broad range of ailments including hernias,
hysterectomies, varicose veins, parasites and worms, diabetes, heart disease, fractures that haven’t healed properly, and uterine/ovarian fibroids.

All volunteers not only donate their time and skill, they also pay for their own airfare, trip expenses and some equipment. Sutures, operating room equipment, anesthesia machinery, gloves, gowns, drapes, antibiotics, dressings, IVs, etc. are all purchased, donated and corporate-sponsored under the auspices of Amigos de Salud. Numerous companies have stepped up over the years to help with supplies, which have to be purchased and
transported from the United States. The team will ship 120 trunks of medications, medical equipment and supplies, which the Ecuadorian army transports and guards.

The Morrisons purchase compression stockings to bring along for those in need of vein care. Explains Mrs. Morrison, “Our audiologist friend paid $10,000 of her own money for hearing aids and then the next year one of our wonderful patients donated $10,000 for hearing aids so she could take more!

Each year, the humanitarian medical effort attracts thousands of patients.  Children and adults in need will converge in Quito, a large city in Ecuador, for assessment, treatment, and care offered by the medical team at a local military hospital. “People sometimes travel for days to get treatment, often refusing to eat when they arrive because they’ve heard you have to fast before surgery, and they don’t want to risk their chances of being eligible,” comments Children’s Dental Village Owner Joyce Anne Ware Longfellow, a non-clinician volunteer who has handled arrangements on some of the trips. “I know that we answer a critical medical need in Ecuador, and I always return a better, more enriched person. But we all learn a great deal from the
people there, too and we always receive an incredibly warm welcome.”
“This is the type of care that gets to the heart of why most nurses and physicians initially chose their professions,” states Mrs. Morrison emphatically. “In Ecuador, we just take care of patients … no paperwork, just one-one-one care.”

The volunteers of Amigos work throughout the year to gather equipment and donations to go to South American countries so they can set up and perform complex operations in a matter of days. The “Amigos” group has no paid staff and no overhead, therefore 100% of donations go directly to the volunteer effort. As you might imagine, this is a huge endeavor only made possible by generous supporters. Donated medical services, equipment, supplies, medications, and money are essential to the continuing success of these all-volunteer trips.

Written By Steve Gilbert, Perfectify Magazine

Posted By Kelly Lorenzen

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