A grateful Peru welcomes back Esperança Volunteer Surgeons

How your support is bringing hope to mothers and children across Peru

By Mark Austerlitz, M.D.

Many of you are aware of my medical mission last year to Abancay, Peru, with Dr. Ray Sachs and the rest of our team, where we identified what we felt was a neglected area of pediatric orthopedic care, namely congenital hip dislocations and hip dysplasia, along with other pediatric orthopedic conditions like club feet. Consequently, Dr. Sachs and I came up with a plan to teach the nursing staff at the Abancay Hospital and the surrounding community clinics to identify hip dislocations in newborns and those in the first few months of life. Here at home, newborns are checked numerous times for hip problems beginning in the newborn nursery and subsequently by their pediatricians during well baby visits for the first several months. Sadly, this is not a common practice in this very poor region where many children are born at home in remote communities and are subsequently swaddled with their hips extended and adducted, which increases the rate of dislocations and dysplasia.

Since last year’s visit, we purchased 4 latex pediatric mannequins that had dislocatable hips and more than 20 special braces to be placed on infants noted to have unstable hips. We taught a local nurse to supplement our planned teaching program by visiting the many small regional clinics that we couldn’t hope to visit during our brief stay in Abancay. In addition we purchased pediatric hip plates to be used as needed for surgical corrections and brought a pediatric orthopedic surgeon with us on this mission.

Well, we just completed this year’s mission, which Imust admit was a resounding success. The patients this year had been prescreened for the pediatric problems we were trying to address in addition to other problems that might need surgical treatment, or at least tertiary orthopedic consultation. There were still some children and young adults with orthopedic conditions resulting from polio and severe cerebral palsy that were beyond our help. We were kept busy in the operating room for three days and conducted accredited teaching sessions each afternoon that were attended voluntarily by the nursing staff and some of the Orthopedic attending staff. Their enthusiasm for what we were trying to accomplish was contagious and word spread quite rapidly. Our translator’s sister heard about our program and asked us to teach a class at her hospital outside of Cusco upon our return from Abancay.

On our last day at Abancay, a local film crew came to the hospital to report on our stay, the hospital administrators gave us departing gifts in addition to their sincere gratitude, and the OR staff all wanted to have their pictures taken with us. Last year we were a novelty in Abancay, but our return this year showed that we were committed to helping them improve the orthopedic care of their children, and their response was overwhelming.

After last year’s mission, many of you asked how you could help and generously donated funds for this year’s visit. In addition, my Bridge partner, Mimi, donated the funds to purchase a portable fluoroscopy machine to be used in the operating room, where items such as paper shoe covers, masks, and gowns are in short supply. The thought of a portable C-arm wasn’t even an imagination on their Christmas wish list.

Each of our missions costs about $11,500, which pays for supplies which I alluded to above, plus all of our surgical supplies and subsequent replacements that are used during the mission. The doctors and volunteer staff pay 100% of their own expenses, including transportation, housing, and meals. This means that whatever is donated is completely used for the benefit of the people we treat.

So at this time of the year, when many of you are deciding which charities and civic organizations you are going to support, I hope that you keep Esperança in mind. You can donate online by visiting I wish all of you and your loved ones a happy and healthy holiday season. – Mark Austerlitz

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