NAME: Maria Josephina*
In 2005, Maria Josephina* gave birth to her third child in the national hospital in El Salvador’s capital, San Salvador. While she delivered her son normally, complications from the birth led to an additional surgery. She was sent home and told to rest but when she got there, she found an infestation of ant’s on her mattress. With no one with her to help, she lifted the mattress herself to take it outside. She needed to take the mattress outside, but the physical exertion and her recent surgery, caused an hernia in her abdomen. She went back to the national hospital and they put her in line for reparative surgery – but she never got it. Six years later, with increasing violence between the gangs in the capital, Maria was forced to leave.
One day she heard a radio announcement about free surgeries at the Centro Medico David V. King
The city of San Salvador ranks number three in the world for the most murders per capita, and gang violence, murder and crime are a daily reality for the 6.8 million people of the country. Maria doesn’t give her real name and asks that her photo not be used, out of fear for her safety and the safety of her family. Together with her three children, she fled the capital. Now outside the zone of influence of the hospital, she lost her place in line for her surgery. She moved once more to the district of Usulutan, in the south-west of the country. At this point, Maria had lived with her hernia for 10 years. Maria says that when she went to the national hospital in this district, she was told she needed to find someone to donate four quarts of blood so that she could get the surgery. “I didn’t know anyone to ask for blood,” she says through a translator.
Maria works as a vendor, selling clothes off a folding table in one of the ubiquitous outdoor markets. One day she heard a radio announcement about free surgeries at the Centro Medico David V. King. “It said, here in the hospital they are going to start general surgery, hernia, and more.” Maria came to the center and was told her surgery could be preformed in January by the visiting American medical staff from Peconic Bay Medical Center. While the surgery would be completely free, she only had to pay a fee of $13.85 for blood tests. “The worst problem is the bad economy,” Maria says. “People can’t do anything because they don’t have the money.” For her surgery, Maria didn’t need to find donations of extra blood. “Thank you for this opportunity,” she says of being at the Centro Medico David V. King. “I am praying to God that everything will go well and trusting in God that everything works out.”
Working together with El Salvadorian medical staff, including an anesthesiologist, surgeon and surgical technicians, Dr. Agostino Cervone – a general surgeon from Long Island’s Peconic Bay Medical Center – and surgical resident Dr. Jake Gingerich, completed a successful hernia repair on Maria.
“I was very impressed with the anesthesia,” Dr. Cervone said after surgery, which lasted two hours, with the patient awake, having received an epidural and medication to help her relax. Dr. Cervone said he was impressed that medical staff in El Salvador – operating with a lack of resources and a small budget – are able to do more, with less.
by Laura Kelly
*the name has been changed to protect the safety and privacy of the patient