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I carry you in my heart…

I carry you in my heart…

When Teté asked me to write this chronicle, all the images of my experiences with the Elena Barraquer Foundation quickly passed through my memory as in a film. I met Elena a little more than two years ago and I was immediately conquered by her personality as a born leader, confident, inspiring and that attracts you like a magnet to her project.

So without having anything to do with ophthalmology or medicine in general, I decided to be part of her expeditions as a field assistant. My first expedition was to Conakry in 2018 and I felt that the grain of sand that had left my “secondary” work had had such a positive impact on those people that I made a promise to repeat the expedition once a year.

As experience is a grade, this year I was able to see things with more perspective, less nerves because I already knew where my work could contribute more, so for the second time I took care of the sterilization of the instruments. It’s true that you never know what you’re going to find when you get off the plane, you just know that you’re an important piece of that puzzle that changes lives in its wake and that in itself is a big responsibility.

I would like to talk in particular about the case of Lidie, a 38 year old girl almost blinded by cataracts in both eyes. She came to the office full of fear, insecurities and above all mistrust… she had trouble communicating and making us understand (the language barrier… what a pity!!)…
When she had surgery on her first eye, the surgeons offered to operate on her second eye as well, but she categorically refused, we tried to convince her.
by all means at our disposal, (signs, smiles, etc.) but she was so frightened and anxious that there was no way to make her come to her senses and we gave up so as not to stress her any more. But the miracle that makes possible the FEB! happened the day after the
to remove the gauze from the operated eye and see the results, he immediately got in line to have the second eye operated on without anyone insisting. All you have to do is look at his face with joy
and his big smile to perceive to know no doubt from that day on his life changed for the better.
Even if it had only been to see a case like that of Lidie, for me it was already worth participating in this expedition… but in each trip we change the lives of many people like Lidie and that has no price.

I also want to mention all the team with whom I shared this great experience… Miriam, the Elena’s instrumentalist, patient, close and very professional, transmits calm and that is much appreciated when the assistants are inexperienced people like us. Jorge, the second surgeon and Sonia his instrumentalist, León’s couple… serious at work and very funny outside the operating room… you need people like that to go down in stress and work at ease, Melani, the Canarian, despite her fragile image and good girl, inside is the fighting person with guts, who dealt alone with more than a hundred patients without lowering their arms and knew how to keep calm when the situation seemed to overflow. Olatz, the anaesthetist, underneath this image of a tough girl from the north hides an affable personality that transmitted confidence to those of us who were by her side… Inés and Angels (the Catalans) and Gloria (the Cordovan), field helpers like me, from them I highlight their dedication, commitment, easy treatment and a lot of joy… essential characteristics to form a team without hardly knowing each other. I carry you in my heart team Gabon!

I will not deceive anyone, the work is hard, the conditions and facilities are not always the best, are many hours and sometimes situations arise to resolve without the resources we are accustomed to having here, but I think that’s exactly what lies the charm of this work, because in addition to changing lives there, you change yours, because when you return you value much more what you have, thank you for being born on this side of the world and having learned to get out of new situations and are totally outside your comfort zone.

I want to thank the Polish Sisters of Saint Joseph), who took care of us in every way, I’m sure they gave us much more than they have for themselves with the sole desire to make us feel at home. A special mention for Sister Elza, her constant smile gave us good morning and bid us farewell at the airport.

My last but not least important words to Teté and María, thank you for your excellent coordination and having everything under control.

Waiting for the 2020 expedition to get my master in Statin! 🙂

Montse Vivero