“No patient left behind” is our credo. When a patient needs more than we can provide in the field, we will go the extra mile for them, even if this means sailing 70 miles in an open boat on a dark moonless night to provide life-saving treatment. As part of our regular services, we coordinate transport and accompany patients to existing health services, connect them with partner organizations, microfinance the costs of surgeries, procedures, or examinations, and provide aftercare and follow-up to patients.
Every year, we support more than 150 patients accessing advanced specialist care and at least once every few weeks, we encounter an emergency case that requires immediate transport. For our patients, we form partnerships with health care personnel in the public and private sectors to receive pro bono or discounted services, and we work with specialist groups such as Operation Smile and the Fundacion Obsequio de Vida.
Some of the many tough cases we have managed include:
- Cleft lip/palate repair
- Congenital heart defect surgeries
- Eye tumor removal
- Obstetric emergencies
- Metastatic cervical cancer
- Breast cancer
- Children with HIV
- Job’s Syndrome
- Failure to Thrive
The optimization of medical aid is traditionally based on the greatest return on investment for the investment of resources, but this is too often measured by the total number of people helped. Individuals often fall through the cracks as a result of this ethos. Every person is special to someone, and the phrase ‘just one person’ suddenly seems unfair when that person is us, or someone we care about. Turning people into numbers simplifies the process of ignoring them.
A primary care clinician’s job is to help patients understand and access what care is available to them. Our patients face significant disadvantages compared to their more developed counterparts – distance, social disenfranchisement, poor access to medical care, and high costs all prevent our patients from receiving care. To preserve our humanity, we decided before starting our first mission that we would never ignore one person in need because we were on our way to help many, even if it handicapped the number of patients we could claim to have helped.
Investing heavily in individuals has almost always resulted in us being able to help many more people than we had originally anticipated. An individual’s story might inspire a supporter to fund a health initiative that helps hundreds. Our commitment to a community is exhibited in the massive effort we make on behalf of ‘just one person’ in their village, which gives us a level of credibility and trust that is impossible to attain any other way. A patient for whom we obtain specialized care creates the pathway through which future patients can access that care more easily.