History of our Healthcare Initiative

We have come so far in our healthcare program in the Tahuayo, from such humble beginnings; we had to constantly work to improve our professional services and better the facility of the clinic at Esperanza village. We can proudly say that we accomplished our dream project which serves so many people from the communities of the Tahuayo River basin. The clinic is open 24 hours, 7 days a week for emergencies, overnight patients and maternity delivery. This can only be accomplished because of our donors’ support. The Esperanza Clinic staff is dedicated and contributes to the success in our mission. Because of new infrastructure recently remodeled and improved, more rooms were added, new services were added, more medical equipment, etc., the representative of the Ministry of Health in Peru from the jurisdiction of Tamshiyacu has granted the clinic with a new category of Hospital level # 1.

This facility serves about 17 communities in the upper and lower Tahuayo as well some communities that come from the nearby Amazon River. People from outside the Tahuayo often prefer to come to AoA clinic because of the good care and quality of service that they receive compared to the other rural clinics.

Esperanza Clinic…Humble Beginnings

My own involvement in health care for the Tahuayo communities had a simple beginning. In 1995, after building the first version of our tourist lodge near El Chino village, the people of the village often came to the lodge if they had a minor accident or needed some medicine from our first aid supplies. We always had some medical supplies at the lodge for our staff and clients. However, I quickly realized that I am not a medical professional and so struggled to provide adequate medical care.

At the time I was also working with the mothers from the villages to create a group of artisans in a sustainable way for conservation. The women often would share their concerns about the lack of medical professionals and medicine for their healthcare needs. It was difficult for them to just travel to the city and find financial support. Especially if there was a real threat of life or death. They kept coming to the lodge for over-the-counter medicine and for me to dress their wounds. I learned that while the government did have a medical post in one of the communities—Esperanza Village, it was often short of medical supplies.

I visited the medical post in Esperanza and found a simple 2-meter x 4-meter sized room, with one clinician, who the government placed there. He had a nursing degree; his name was Jorge Caro. My late brother Rolex, who was one of our lodge managers, came with me to do that visit. It happened that Jorge and Rolex knew each other; Jorge also knew my other two older brothers as they went to school in Iquitos together. With time I started to have more meetings with Jorge to learn and educate myself about the situation with the healthcare provided by the government for the Tahuayo communities.

Jorge explained to me that he had more patients than the medical supplies that were provided to him. So, he had to triage his patients according to most serious need. The government sent him medicinal supplies every 3 months, but it was never enough for what was needed. Simple first aid was provided at the medical post, with more serious cases referred to Tamshiyacu Village hospital. I offered to have my tourism company buy the extra supplies Jorge needed, so that all who came to the medical post could be treated. He was so grateful to have the ability to alleviate so many more people who were suffering.

Esperanza Clinic….A Dream is Born

After I started providing medical supplies, the service improved and the people of the Tahuayo communities had more confidence in the services of the medical post. I was relieved that people were no longer coming to me, a non-professional, for their medical care. But with the increase in demand for services, it soon became clear that the tiny one room post, with dirt floor and no electricity/light, was inadequate for the medical needs of the communities. With no overnight bed, Jorge would have to send the patients back home after treatment, sometimes traveling in the rain or under the beating hot sun. Many times, patients tried to find a family or friends in the Esperanza community to host them if they were too sick to canoe back home. But the problem with this was that if they were sick with a virus or something contagious, the family who would host them would be in danger of contagion. I learned about this problem and offered to build a small hut with thatch roof and wood walls and add a couple of beds to use it as an overnight patient room. And that is how the construction of the clinic Angels of the Amazon was started.

With the improvements in services more people had confidence and came for help. Jorge was soon overwhelmed by the number of patients that he was receiving. The government provided an additional obstetrician who needed to do her internship. Amazonia Expeditions donated to a non-profit organization called Rainforest Conservation Fund, to provide for another nurse assistant. The obstetrician and nurse stayed for a year and it was great help for Jorge. The obstetrician and nurse were a great help to the people of the communities, especially helping with childbirth, vaccination drives and other issues. But this help was only provided for one year, and then Jorge was back to working alone.

One day I visited the clinic to bring more medicine and found Jorge running back in forth doing triage and every room himself. I helped him for that day however I could and he expressed his concerns to me. He was overwhelmed and was really exhausted as he had been doing this over the last month, with no help. I saw the long line of patients, mothers waiting, standing outside in the sun holding their sick babies, it was painful to watch, I felt bad for the crying babies and their red cheeks with fever. Jorge said that the government promised to send him another internship but so far there was no news on that. He said the first obstetrician worked wonderful for our needs.

{Peru’s healthcare problems in the rural areas are nothing new, there is a lack of healthcare in so many areas, even in the cities. So, you can only imagine how it is in the middle of the Amazon, so far away from the city}

Esperanza Clinic…Expansion Continues

The intern from the government never materialized. At this time, I was just receiving my not-for-profit status of my foundation Angels of the Amazon. Our first goal was to pay for another obstetrician. Jorge found a good candidate for obstetrician and also a part-time nurse. With the increase in patients and staff we decided to build additional rooms. In 2008 we built 4 small wooden rooms for emergency, waiting, Jorge’s office and overnight patient room. The waiting room was also used for triage and pharmacy.

We learned that lab specimens were being sent to the town of Tamshiyacu and it would take 1-2 weeks to get back the results, sometimes causing much health discomfort in the patient. So, we then added a laboratory technician, laboratory room and equipment in 2010. Now we could get lab results in a matter of minutes. In 2011 we built a couple of bedrooms for staff as well as bathroom and showers for staff. We also added a maternity room separate from overnight care room. That year we also added concrete floors, metal roof and 2 bathrooms for patients. We also repaired the solar energy equipment and generator to provide power to refrigerate the vaccines that we had and for electric light at night. We had one small tank for the bathrooms, we used to collect rainwater.

New brick and cement structure medical clinic

Esperanza Clinic…..The Rainforest Fights Back

This arrangement of the clinic worked well for a long time. But more patients started coming, more communities added themselves to our care. We recognized the unique needs we had and kept adding supplies and implemented better as we went. Eventually, the number of patients doubled, and we had the need to hire 2 full-time nurses, a lab technician and another part-time nurse. We thought that the infrastructure of the clinic was good and for many years just concentrated on increasing supplies, equipment, and services. But in the jungle the weather conditions are so humid, the wood structure of the clinic began to deteriorate.

One day Jorge had an unpleasant surprise waiting for him at his desk, a deadly snake was sleeping on top of his desk. It was found that several snakes had made a nest in a rotting wall. After this incident we decided to look for solutions of how we could make a more secure place for our patients and staff. The idea of a long-lasting infrastructure as modern as the jungle can take, clean, sustainable and spacious was my dream. But one thing was in the way, funding. Taking in consideration the environment, location and the need that our professionals have that way they can make their job better our engineer said concrete would be the best way to go. He gave us recommendations to make it more affordable, but it was still expensive for our small non-profit. So, we started working nonstop to fund for the clinic. In 2019 we were ready to start with the remodeling of the clinic, by then the old clinic was really in bad shape. The construction took about 6-7 months. Meanwhile, services had to be moved to another provisional building in the village. It was chaotic but necessary.

For this project we took in consideration the needs from the clinical staff, local authorities in the village, patients, funding, and the constructor. We wanted a project to last long in the community and to be adequate for the environment as well the rough weather conditions. As a result, we now have a beautiful facility, comfortable, supplied to attend the needs of patients and staff.

Esperanza Clinic….Modernization

The infrastructure is made of block concrete walls, big, well ventilated, screened, metal roof, solar power, concrete, and tile floors. We added several rooms including: pharmacy, triage, children, women care, general adults, emergency, observation, waiting, storage room with freezers for keeping vaccines, 3 overnight patient rooms with 2 beds and private bathroom. Maternity rooms with private bathroom, mother and newborn areas with private bathroom, 2 bathrooms additional for daily patients and visitors. Open area for visitors. 2 large water tanks and water well. Last, but not least, we built a nurse’s residence in the very back of the clinic property. 2 bedrooms, small kitchen and private bathroom.

The clinic provides a service 24 hours throughout the year. The clinic is never without a professional who attends the needs or emergencies of the patients who travel from so far away, sometimes at night by slow boat or canoe looking for help at the emergency area. The clinic is open from 8am-5pm every day for regular visits.

Our professional staff sees patients with simple aches and pains, flu, respiratory infections, skin problems, stomach, dental extractions, delivering babies, including snake bites and machete accidents etc. The patients mostly rave about the professional staff who are very patient, compassionate, gracious, and helpful with everyone. They are able to receive medicine for their treatment and do follow up. If the patient is in need of a different or more specific, severe treatment, the nurses send the patient with referral to the closest large hospital in Tamshiyacu town or to Iquitos city.

In Iquitos, our AoA coordinator assists patients with financial support. In some cases we had supported financially patients with cornea transplant to restore vision in the USA; another child who was born without anus, had treatment in Lima and was restored with surgery; an adult gentleman who had a large tumor in his testicles, had it successfully removed; another patient was a 4-year-old girl who was paralyzed half of her body, after her treatment of years and many surgeries she was restored and now walks and has a normal life; another girl who had jaw surgery in Lima and was restored and it was successful. These cases and many more patients of all ages that were helped through the years by Angels of the Amazon, who needed particular care and financial support.

We also provide seasonal clinics with specialist doctors for free of charge and also dental clinics every 2 years. These services are for anyone who needs it.

 

In 2020 the clinic was used to serve patients that otherwise could have died during the pandemic. While the entire world was paralyzed, people who needed to deliver babies or emergencies care continued coming to the clinic. Our clinic was open, and our nurses traveled to the different villages to educate the population about Covid-19. The nurses would also travel tirelessly to save lives during the pandemic patients who survived Covid. They also traveled to the many communities providing Covid vaccines. We believe that the remodeling of the clinic was a perfect timing. The communities suffered only a single death from Covid, and all adults completed their vaccinations by September 2021, with all children 5+ years a few months later.

“Newly completed interior of the Esperanza Clinic”

Esperanza Clinic…..Today & Future

At this moment we continue to maintain and serve the ones in most need. We believe that healthcare is a human right, and everyone should be able to have access to quality care. We are proud of what we were able to accomplish. We continue our relationship with the Ministry of Health in Peru, we work together to better our services and infrastructure of the clinic every year.

Thank you to all who had supported this amazing project through the years, the simple hut evolved into something magnificent and comfortable for our patients and professional staff who do a fantastic job!

With gratitude,

Dolly Beaver

Executive Director

Angels of the Amazon

The Jungle’s  Daughter