I’ve always been fascinated by what my dad does for a living. He’s an orthopedic surgeon — fixes all manner of bones. My younger brother and I used to go with him on some Saturdays when he would make rounds at the hospital, checking on casts, sometimes even cutting them off RIGHT IN FRONT OF US! Ohhhhh that was exciting. I think the patients got a kick out of having us around, and it was fun to see part of what dad did all day. I never wanted to follow in his footsteps, though. Neither my brother nor I went into medicine. I can’t even get blood drawn without lying down so I don’t faint. I wish he’d passed on the doctor gene, because I cannot think of anything more noble than helping people — fixing them when they’re somehow broken. I’ve always looked at what he does with deep respect because I literally can’t imagine doing it myself, rebuilding people with hammers and saws and pins. He’s also just a wonderful person and dad… but all that time he spent in medical school, in residencies, and in operating rooms? It’s pretty impressive.
A few years ago, a friend of Dad’s, also an orthopedist, asked if he’d be interested in joining a team of doctors and other medical personnel that goes to South America twice a year to do surgeries on children who have no access to modern medical care. Since then, he’s joined those medical missions to both Peru and Ecuador, fixing kids with all manner of bone deformities, in some cases, making it so that they can walk for the first time.
Each time he went, I thought to myself, wow, dad is amazing. And each time I also thought to myself, wow, that would be a great story. But the timing and opportunity to go with the team, as a journalist, never worked — until this year. So I’m heading out tonight and will spend several days at a small clinic in Coya, Peru (that’s a photo of my dad about halfway down the web page in blue scrubs, looking at an xray). I’ll have a little bit of touristy time both before and after, to see the World Heritage City of Cusco, and, of course, Machu Picchu. But mostly, I’m working. I have all kinds of radio and photography gear with me. I have no idea what story (stories, hopefully) I’ll come back with, but I know that it will be a truly special time to be with my dad, see the work of this team, and learn about the child patients and their families, including the ones who come to visit years after being treated. I’m bringing a large duffel bag full of stuffed animals for the kids to have while awaiting surgery, and also in recovery rooms with their parents. It’s the least I can do in exchange for access to the clinic, and I can’t wait to help hand them out.
So… I will be documenting this off and on (as WiFi allows) on Tumblr, as well as posting on Instagram and Facebook, though the Tumblr will have most of the content so I don’t clog peoples’ feeds. Please follow along and share any thoughts.