By Shermakaye Bass, Fara Foundation reporter and editor.
Dallas/Matagalpa — In November of 2011, Fara Foundation and Fara Clinic had the honor of hosting Texas vein specialist Dr. Steven Reeder for a weeklong mission to Matagalpa. During that time, Dr. Reeder and his five-person team treated more than 120 patients in our clinic virtually for free. These patients suffer from severe varicose vein disorders of the lower legs, often exacerbated by poor diet or lifestyle and simple lack of healthcare. Which is why such medical exchanges have become a big part of Fara’s assistance programming.
A pioneering vascular surgeon who taught at the University of Saigon in Vietnam and later in Gothenberg, Sweden, Dr. Reeder has traveled to Matagalpa twice before under the auspices of Fara and Austin Samaritans. He is based in Dallas, where he operates the renowned Reeder Vein Institute, treating scores of patients each year, using the latest laser technology to open or “drain” blocked veins. If the same problem occurs to someone in a country like Nicaragua, and they receive no medical attention, ulceration can occur, possibly resulting in amputation or, in rare instances, even death.
“The first time we went to Nicaragua, in 2010, we did the procedures in a local doctor’s home clinic, and we did about 30 cases that week. If you do 30 cases a month in the United States, that’s a lot,” Dr. Reeder says. “The second time, we worked at the regional hospital and did about 80. But we had a waiting list of 250 people.” (In fact, we are happy to note that many of those same people received care during this most recent mission.)
Dr. Reeder said Fara Clinic‘s new, modern facilities and staff made the recent trip his most effective so far in Matagalpa. Just imagine: One week of work changed 120 lives. Those whom we couldn’t help with laser treatment or foam injection, we sent home with medical-quality hose and other compression devices donated by pharmaceutical companies CircAid and SIGVARIS. The need for these services is so great that Dr. Reeder has agreed to return for a mission in April of 2012.
And perhaps good news comes in pairs: During the surgeon’s November trip, his colleague Dr. Nick Morrison, a vascular surgeon from Phoenix, made a one-day exploratory visit to our clinic, and he has since informed us that he also will travel to Fara Clinic for a weeklong mission — in June of 2012. We would like to thank both surgeons for their commitment to the people of Matagalpa.
“Most of the people who suffer from this have ulcers on their ankles and lower legs, and a lot of them are disabled,” Dr. Reeder says. “To be disabled in Nicaragua is to go hungry. One man told me, ‘It’s getting harder and harder to work, and if I don’t work, I don’t eat. My family doesn’t eat.” Literally the next day, they don’t eat. … This is debilitating, and everyone’s (medical) impression is that it’s more common in Hispanics. And since in the really poor areas they get no treatment, it just gets worse. It’s more prevalent in Nicaragua than you can imagine, and seemingly more severe and more prevalent in the Hispanic population in general.”
One of the problems, Dr. Reeder says, is lack of access to preventative or early-onset treatment.
“In Matagalpa, they have little or no access to medical support hose, so the problem only gets worse and worse. And there is nobody that does what I do full-time in Nicaragua, because of the poverty. You can have an old-fashioned vein stripping procedure, but it’s $600. The people I’m working with, they don’t make that in a single year,” he says.
For that reason, doctors like Steven Reeder and Nick Morrison have committed their time, their staffs and their expertise to helping as many people as possible during our weeklong collaborations. And we thank them again for their dedication.
“There are so many heart-breaking stories that you just have to be consigned to helping one person at a time,” Dr. Reeder says, admitting that he is deeply moved every time he visits the Matagalpa area. “You can’t save the world, but you can help one person at a time.”j
Or 120 people in one week. During the next mission, in April, we hope to help even more.