“To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.”
Our credo is “No patient left behind.” When our patients need more than we can provide in the field, we go the extra mile for them, even if this means going 70 extra miles in a small open boat on a dark moonless night to bring a patient to life-saving care. We regularly 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 for patients after treatment.
Every year we support more than 150 patients accessing advanced specialist
care and at least every few weeks we encounter an emergency case requiring immediate transport to advanced care. We create partnerships with medical personnel in the public and private health sectors to receive pro bono or discounted services for our patients, and work with other specialist groups like Operation Smile or the Fundacion Obsequio de Vida to arrange specialist surgeries.
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
Optimization of medical aid traditionally focuses on the greatest benefit for the investment of resources, but this is too frequently assessed by the total number of people helped. The reality of this ethos is that individual people fall through the cracks. We believe that there is no such thing as “just one person.” Everyone is the world 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 means they are easier to ignore.
We believe that an important job of primary care clinicians is to help patients understand and to access what care is available. In more developed nations, this may require only a few minutes of explanation, but our patients operate at significant disadvantages—distance, social disenfranchisement, poor availability or quality of care, and expense all separate our patients from successfully receiving care. Before our first mission, we decided that in order to preserve our humanity, we would never pass by one person in need because we were on your way to help many, even if that handicapped the total number of patients we could claim to have assisted.
To our surprise, investing heavily in individuals has almost always led to us being able to ultimately help many more people than we initially hoped. For example, a particular patient’s story might inspire a supporter to fund a health initiative that helps hundreds. A community sees our commitment to them through the massive effort we make on behalf of ‘just one person’ in their village, giving us a level of credibility and trust that is impossible to obtain any other way. Or one patient for whom we obtain specialized care creates the pathway through which we more easily connect future patients with that care.