Conquest consultant’s visit to Bolivia to help Amazon locals

Pieter Gouws with the mother of one of the babies he helped, together with his theatre nurse Chantelle Pace

Pieter Gouws with the mother of one of the babies he helped, together with his theatre nurse Chantelle Pace

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A hospital consultant spent his holiday in the Amazon jungle helping impoverished locals with eye diseases.

Pieter Gouws, one of the Conquest’s consultant ophthalmologists, worked again with the Andean Medical Mission (AMM) in Bolivia in what was his third annual visit.

He, together with other colleagues, went to the remote Beni district in the north east part of the country.

The AMM’s aim is to provide treatment for blinding eye conditions and to train local ophthalmologists to improve the eye care offered throughout Bolivia.

Mr Gouws said: “The AMM doubled the area where we offered screening and treatment this year due to the increasing number of volunteers trained in optometry as well as ophthalmic surgeons and nurses from as far afield as Spain. This mission is only possible with the tremendous help from all our fundraisers and volunteers. We remain extremely grateful for all the hard work done by all the fundraising groups who continue to support our mission.

“I use my annual leave and fund my own expenses including the costs of a theatre nurse who travelled with me to help during operations as this allowed for faster surgeries and more treatments. The new areas visited this year were the most remote yet and the harsh conditions proved a real challenge. Local villages have very little infrastructure with only a few hours of electricity per day and no hot water. They can only be reached by small plane or boat and that means all our equipment needs to be transportable and as light as possible. A suitable theatre space needs to be created using a local room and lots of improvisation. We screened more than 800 patients and performed sight saving or sight restoring surgery on 120 people.

“We also managed to manufacture spectacles for more than 100 children this year with a new bit of equipment and the help of our Spanish optometrist – another first for our mission.

“I am extremely proud of what we achieved this year with the most surgeries performed yet, culminating in restoring some vision to a four-month-old baby who was born blind with dense bilateral cataracts. I removed both cataracts and inserted lens implants on little Anna Rosa as our last procedure as we needed to transport her and her mother to the city to be able to administer a general anaesthetic.

“Sharon Forward, one of our clinic co-ordinators has organised a fundraiser for the AMM. The event titled Food and Music from around the World will be held at the Conquest Hospital Social Club on Sunday (October 12) from noon onwards.”

For more details on the AMM visit www.andeanmedicalmission.co.uk.