A month later and every moment of my amazing week in August still so fresh in my mind.Santa Cruz welcomed me with open arms and sun shine days!
A week anywhere in the world can seem both too short and too long. This is exactly how my week in Bolivia felt. Just long enough to really get s sense of what some great goals and needs are, and slightly too short to feel as though it zoomed right by.
From the moment I arrived the word had gotten out that a "Canadian" was in town for the Coloproctología meeting. I was welcomed with more phone calls and visits in one morning then I have in one month at home. I was graciously received at the airport by Dr Heredia, a leader in healthcare in Bolivia. Followed by a visit from the local ostomy association president. To everyone's surprise I was not the "gringa" they expected and also speaking Spanish eased many people's doubts of my authenticity.
In the days that followed I felt blessed to experience first hand amazing education from doctors and nurses from LATAM and of course India.
The conference consisted of two distinct groups for education. The surgical procedures and the patient care. Though turn out in the patient care room was slightly smaller, the buzz, excitement and true passion filled the room!
Dr Heredia presenting on the history of Bolivia, Dr Harikesh presenting on a diverse range of post and pre op subjects. We debated, engaged and truly united on what I hope will be the future of OSTOMATES and medical success both locally in Santa Cruz, and across the Americas!
Area of success were clearly defined when our small but engaged group stood strong in the subject of nurses needing more of a public platform, patient care being just as important as the surgical aspect, the voice of the patient being present at all tables. This is something that I believe ALL medical conference can take and learn from.
I was truly honoured and humbled by the outstanding dedication of a few mentioned doctors. The time, energy and efforts to ensure success in the ostomy world has clearly paid off!
Seeing first hand Dr. Harikesh visit local hospitals, support and provide hands on care to patient seeking any help was truly moving and I will forever hold these memories close to my heart. His patience, respect and outstanding knowledge filled the room of patients seeking help and nurses looking to be educated. I feel so privileged to call this amazing man my friend.
The conference was also highlighted with the launch of Dr Heredia's book. A true honour to be present as the political and medical community of Santa Cruz came together to support, celebrate and give honour to such an accomplished man.
Meeting people over the week from all walks of life, I must take a moment to also highlight the dedication of the nurses in this community. They are outstanding! From the few that were able to educate and attend the conference, to the ones at the bedside supporting our ostomates day in and day out. They are beyond amazing! They inspired me, as I am sure they did others, to fight for the rights of not only the patient but the medical professional that is often overlooked... the nurse and entrostomal therapist. These caregivers are the reason our patients are able to join society, feeling empowered and knowledgeable in their ostomy, and the care needed. They often do house calls, late night support, clinical visits and personal emotional support. Thank you to these few that were able to educate us and speak as the voice of so many others not given the platform to attend and educate doctors and other medical professionals.
Now to the nitty gritty of it all. The conference was truly as success, that is not a doubt in my mind, however there are clear areas that I believe would be beneficial to both the medical professionals and the patients at future educational sessions such as this.
- Giving a more economical registration to nurses, thus allowing them to not only attend, but connect with, collaborate and educate others including doctors, patients and guest.
- Mixed presentations. Ensuring the education provided is mixed in the way it is presented. Thus providing a more diverse platform of education to those attending, and ensuring a larger reach for each topic presented. This is a necessity.
- Patient integration. It is vital that medical professionals be present for patient integrated days. These are the people they are helping, and hearing the type of education they receive of sexuality, Stoma Carr or emotional development is integral part of the way a doctor can ensure success in the future of each patient they treat.
- Development of the local associations. Santa Cruz has done an amazing job of developing their patient community with strong leadership. A recommendation would be to every 2-4 years pass the leader torch on to a new and eager member thus growing the community and ensuring future and sustainability in the next generation.
- There is a clear need both in Santa Cruz and across the world of bridging the education of surgical and emotional care. Our patients need the feel empowered in all aspects of their journey as a patient to ensure success, and more then anything ensure quality of life. I hope that this conference was just the start of future educational events that will help de stigmatize the ostomy community, and bring together the different areas of our society who can make changes and take the steps to ensuring success for today, tomorrow and the future of ostomy healthcare and patient care.
I am amazed by the dedication of a handful of medical professionals. The perseverance, dedication and unwavering support to the Coloproctology and Ostomy community is outstanding.
I am, as mentioned, honoured to be able to attend, participate and be educated at such a wonderful event. My hope is to see more people step forward and continue to be the voice of ostomates across the world.
To end this on a high note the highlight of my trip was the phenomenal turnout on the last day of patients from across Santa Cruz and Bolivia. Easily over 200 people participated in a final session of support, education and hopefully motivation!! This is why we came. To help those living with Ostomies and ensure that they feel empowered in the amazing new life they have with an ostomy.
Thank you to Ken, Harikesh, Hugo and many more who made this trip possible for me, and allowed me the opportunity to speak on a subject I not only am passionate about but live with.
Signing off with some more photos from the conference, a full heart and most of all gratitude for this truly inspiring, educational and motivating experience.