Friday – nos vemos

On Friday I got a birthday surprise—Luis Montalvan, Cheyrisse Boone, Helen and I were on TV and radio in Ica! Luis had arranged an interview with the “Cara a Cara” show (Face to Face) on Canal 35 “Somos Ica” (We are Ica).

We appeared with the male and female hosts, think Kathy Lee and Michael Strahan…mas o menos. They asked many questions about the mission, our motivations and rewards for going, how many children we had seen in the week, etc. Luis did most of the talking, being a native Peruvian, and translated for Cheyrisse and Helen. I spoke up in Spanish, mostly in response to a question about the causes of clefts. Some Peruvians believe clefts are caused by eclipses, lightning, demons, etc. and I have been trying to assess this via survey and also to dispel these myths, because they follow the child and the parent even after the clefts are repaired. If the little silver scar on your lip tells your neighbor that God has punished your parents, how do you get past that? The fact that the host asked about this without prompting shows me that I must continue this line of research and also produce outreach materials about what does and does not cause cleft. The answer is: part genetics, part environment, and part we have not figured it out quite yet. But parents need to know it is a medical condition and not anything they did.

Luis always says that Peruvians find Americans speaking Spanish to be quite appealing…does he mean humorous? I don’t know, but he also says that when they hear it, it catches the ear. So maybe my message will be heard. Or maybe it will be picked up by a Spanish blooper show, who knows. I have the CD of the show, graciously provided by the channel as a parting gift on Sunday; I will have to figure out how to extract just our clip after our semester simmers down and you can see (and hear) for yourself.

To top off our trip to the radio station, we rode back in an ambulette, and when the traffic at an intersection snarled, our driver flipped on the lights and sirens! My birthday “limo” ride was complete.

The surgical schedule was light on Friday, because the team was so efficient on Monday thru Thursday. The team packed up the medicines and materials to bring back to New York and Texas, prepped a few suitcases to leave with a colleague in Lima for next time, and gave away the last of the toys, scrubs, soccer shirts, trucker hats, stuffed animals, etc. We made sure the nurses on the floor where our patients stayed (and where we had our speech office) received some of the bounty. They were gracious hosts in every way.

Lastly, we had a ceremony in the auditorium, where the giant ad for the mission, with Dr. Ryan Brown’s face two stories tall, loomed over us. The medical students received certificates, and apparently every ceremony here ends in my favorite way: with a little glass of sweet wine and loads of kisses and hugs. The highlight of the ceremony was traditional dancing provided by a boy and girl pair who were highly trained in the art of Peruvian dance and who were mesmerizing with their stage presence, costumes, postures, facial expressions and moves. They were about six years old!

We said our goodbyes and left Hospital Regional de Ica and all our newfound friends and colleagues, but not before taking endless photos, exchanging business cards, phone numbers, etc. The point of these missions is not just to do surgery and leave, but build something longstanding, leading eventually to no more need for missions. We are well on our way here, with our colleagues, medical students, concerned local leaders of industry, media outlets, school teachers…I can’t wait to return to Ica, to work with them all again.

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About Shari Salzhauer Berkowitz

Shari is a speech language pathologist and assistant professor of communication disorders at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, NY.
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