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《2016 Kia Dental Mission in Peru_I & II》__ Vincent Lee (65)

                                                                                   
 
I
After a gruelling flight Edmonton-Toronto-Lima-Cusco with >12-hour layover total in between flights, our group of 20 dental volunteers finally arrived Cusco in the early afternoon of March 19. A bus ride of about 2-hour through the most incredibly beautiful but steep and curvy mountainous countryside road took us to our lodging place called "The Sacred Dream Lodge" run by a family of Spanish descent from San Francisco, at a town in the Sacred Valley called Urebamba, an absolute out of this world place hidden in the midst of very high mountains, with lush green trees and flowers.
 
To allow us time to acclimatize to the high altitude >10,000-ft, we are taking things easy today and tomorrow. After supper at 7:30, the young crowd went to town to roam around, accompanied by a few hotel staff. Tomorrow we go to the school to set up our work site. The school principal and superintendent had phoned our team leader a few times lining up helpers and interpreters for us, to help us unload the boxes of supplies we brought over from Canada (drugs, anaesthetics, instruments and portable dental units ...). It will be a busy morning, but no heavy physical exertion.
 
I feel fine, no light headedness, no headache, heart rate slightly on the high side, but no shortness of breath. A few people have mild symptoms.
The school principal told us there will be lots and lots of school children coming from all over the surrounding villages, registered to be seen by us, so we will be busy, as none of these kids had regular dental care due to the remoteness of this region of Peru.
 
We have 5 dentists, 2 dental hygienists (1 from my clinic), 2 University of Alberta 3rd-year students I am teaching in pedodontics clinics, who will be following me, each for at least one full day, to get their very first serious exposure to surgery without the benefit of dental X-rays and a drill. Normally at school, they do not start independent hands-on oral surgery till their 4th dental year. After this mission, when they get to their 4th-year surgery rotation, it will be a piece of cake, while their classmates will struggle with where or how to make their first cut to release the gum, or how to loosen up the tooth to be extracted ..., so I was told repeatedly by previous students who had gone to these mission trips in their 3rd-year. It is excellent learning experience, on top of learning to do humanitarian work for those far less fortunate than us. Remaining team members are mostly dental assistants including my own. Our team leader is not a dentist. He is a retired school principal and speaks Spanish, leading our team with his wife as administrator. I am helping him with some dental part of his administrative work. He is experienced and had been to many KIA missions.
 
I should stop now and get some good rest. Tomorrow don't need to be up too early. Breakfast at 8:30, nice!
 
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II
 
Glad to report that health wise, I suffer no ill effects whatsoever after being here for 4 full days, other than tiring a little easier on long walks uphill.  I noticed that on Sunday, March 20, when the group visited one of the ruins in the mountains.  I simply dropped behind with the other older members of the team to enjoy the scenery; PO2 (oxygen saturation) was >92%, pulse rate also ~92, slightly up, but no shortness of breath or headache.
 
By today, I think most of us are well adapted to the thinner oxygenated air.
 
Our lodging is located near Urebamba, a gem of a place hidden inside a steep valley with high rocky mountains on all four sides.  The name of our work site is an elementary school called "La Merced pall cara qui".  Instead of going every day to different villages and schools, we are stationed in this school for the entire mission, saving us a lot of time carrying all the equipment and supplies, to set up and dismantle at different sites every day like in previous missions in Cambodia and Guatemala.
 
Our lodging is called "The Sacred Dream Lodge", a beautiful place.
 
The owner provides us with very good food.  The clean water is from the glacier, lots of it, like parts of Yunnan, with wild and farmed trout in the streams.
 
We have 2 portable dental operating units (tie up 2 dentists and assistants) for fillings. One dentist and a dental assistant (DA) do triage to decide what needs to be done on a particular patient. Myself and one other dentist will do surgery for un-savable teeth, infections and abscesses - lots of them!  I am also teaching and supervising my 2 U of A 3rd-year dental students, who had no hands-on surgical experience whatsoever at school up to this point of their training. (They start their surgical clinic with life patients in their 4th-year, September 2016).  The surgical room ties up 3 DAs, the 2 dental hygienists work on their own (1 from my own office), sharing the same classroom where oral surgery is done (where I work).  A lot of kids get their fillings done next door, and then get ushered to our room to see the hygienists.  This keeps the two ladies very busy.
 
The rest of the team look after instrument supplies, washing, cleaning, sterilization, redistribution to the operating classrooms, and helping the kids in and out of treatment rooms.   Meanwhile, classes go on as normal.  Students not being seen are not allowed to peek in through the windows, a rule very strictly enforced by the principal.
 
No formal lunch-break time, between 1 and 2:30. Whenever you can take a break, you go to the designated lunch room and take a nicely prepared lunch, often with exotic local fruits.  Today we had cactus (fruit?), sweet and tasty!
 
Work was very BUSY!  Yesterday was mostly kids from the school.  Today we had kids from other schools and many of their parents.  Tomorrow on, we will see patients from town and from surrounding villages.  It is easy to work up a sweat under the high altitude sun, not terribly hot like Central America, but still hot towards closing time.
 
Ready for bed for another busy day ahead, we had been warned.
 
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