By Shermakaye Bass
Matagalpa, Nicaragua — Some people get by with a little help from their friends; we get by with a lot of help from our friends. And among our most cherished ones are the doctors and volunteers associated with Amigos de Salud, a nonprofit that has sponsored medical missions to Central and South America over the past 20 years.
Recently two of their finest physicians, Dr. Karakurichi Sankran Venkatesh and Dr. Debra Venkatesh of Tempe, Arizona, completed a mission whose scope was nothing short of breathtaking.
During the period between August 10-15, 2014, this husband and wife team saw 226 patients. Think about that. Two doctors, five days, 226 patients… Paying for their flights and providing their own medical supplies and staff, the Drs. Venkatesh treated folks from around the Matagalpa region, taking a week off from their own busy practices back home to help people here get the attention they need.
This was the couple’s third project with Fara Foundation and Fara Clinic, and as is their custom, they brought thousands of dollars worth of life-changing (and potentially life-saving) equipment. They also brought their dedicated assistants: Tana Kolton and Courtney Dennis with Dr. Karakurichi, and Natalie Loyola and Brian Parker with Dr. Debra.
Dr. Debra is an audiologist who specializes in pediatric care. During the weeklong mission at Fara Clinic, her team of three saw 113 deaf and hearing-impaired children. They came from all over the region — from Los Pipitos in San Ramon, from Esquipulas in San Isidro, from Sebaco and Matagalpa, and from Escuela La Amistad. She also paid a visit to the Hogar Escuela in Dario and treated children there.
During these appointments, Dr. Debra conducted audio tests (audiometry) and took measurements for hearing devices; based on that data, she will send the children the appropriate audio equipment — batteries included! Some of these youngsters are patients that Dr. Debra has cultivated over the past three years, and for those she reassesed their needs and made adjustments to their audiological prescriptions; for the new ones, she offered an opportunity that most have never had before: the chance to hear. Throughout the coming year, she will continue to send batteries and upgraded equipment to her patients in Nica.
Dr. Karakurichi is a gastroenterologist whose mini brigade also saw 113 patients, 80 of whom were referred from the Regional Medical Center in Matagalpa. Some needed diagnostic work, such as colonoscopies and endoscopies, and some needed other procedures to treat existing stomach problems. His work over just one week’s time helped to greatly reduce the waiting list for GI patients at the local hospital. And like his wife, he continues to send equipment to his Nicaraguan patients throughout the year, equipment such as colostomy bags, medications, and other valuable supplies that would otherwise be cost-prohibitive for the patients.
The Dynamic Duo, as we call the Venkateshes, worked seamlessly with our own talented staff at Fara Clinic — as always. And we count their most recent visit as one of our most productive medical missions to date, given the ratio of doctors to number of patients. We absolutely are blessed to count the Drs. Venkatesh and their assistants as our friends. Friends indeed to other friends in need.
We look forward to their return in 2015!