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Surgical mission trip to Bolivia

Hi friends,

I just received this email from Savannah our Videographer for our surgical mission trip to Bolivia. She wrote this after her first day in Bolivia. It’s emotional, raw and beautiful. It really portrays the reason why giving back is one of the most amazing things possible.

Kami Parsa, M.D.

Hi Friends!I’m not normally one to give email updates or blogs on my trips but today was an exceptional day so I felt I just had to share while it was still fresh in my brain. Today was an exceptional day but it was also a very sweaty, LONG, active, emotionally draining, physical, mental crazy day. We started with a 6am wake up time… breakfast at the hotel at 6:30 where I had the sweet sweet fresh mango, then 7:00am in the car for an arrival at the hospital at 7:30. Of course I attached the GO Pro to the car most places we drive with some gaff tape and often forget it … but Bolivia seems incredibly safe so far. The people are so warm and hospitable, they make you feel like your old friends even though you’ve just met.

When we arrived at the clinic we walked through the gates and already there were so many patients waiting for us, as we walked down the palm tree lined path so many kids running around and older people sitting on benches, they all stopped to stare at us, like we were gods coming to save their lives. I can’t illustrate the feeling, I don’t even think I captured it on camera (though always I was filming). Each person staring us with deformed eyes, faces, but so much hope. As we entered the facility there was a HUGE waiting room filled past capacity of people waiting for Dr. Parsa to evaluate them and they all seemed to pray to god that they would get operated on. I actually started crying, it was too much to hold in.

We then proceeded to the opthalmologist’s office to begin evaluations. With over 70 people waiting to be evaluated, it was chaos, each person’s story was more and more tear jerking. The two that really got me was a two year old who came in with his mother and he couldn’t open his eyes. It was too painful, he just cried and cried. The doctors caught a look at his legs and he had a massive infection which made it impossible to open his eyes, he was actually in need of antibiotics and an operation … otherwise he may have died. His body was decomposing. Omg.. whent they chose him, his mother… who seemed my age became so emotional because for many of these people they can’t afford the proper medication so to have one of the best oculoplastic surgeons in the world agree to operate is truly a gift from the gods (to them). The other one that shocked me was a 25 year old woman whose boyfriend poured acid on her face and lost her left eye and had a burned skin. We also discovered eyelid tumours and cancers and omg… it was endless. But it was also incredibly heartbreaking as there were 70 patients who traveled from all over bolivia but we could only take 18 patients as many of the operations are long and complicated cases… so thats a hec of a lot of people we had to say no.

But the truly powerful thing about this project isn’t the 18 patients who’s lives are improved… its the fact that Dr. Parsa is teaching the doctors here to do what he does. He is walking them through it step by step and teaching them how they can treat the other patients. Thats why they chose diverse cases so he can teach a wide variety of things. One doctor flew in from la paz to learn from him.

It’s also Carnival, which is a HUGE festivity closing all the streets where people throw water balloons filled with paint and everyone is walking around with different colors and there are parades and music in the streets and dancing and quite a vibe. I took a break and walked around with Frank (our body guard.. ) so I could film some of the culture.

This email is getting long and its 12am… but it was such a jam packed day..

We then went and operated on 3 patients. Left the OR at 9pm and went to a cafe for dinner. I’m not such a fan of the food here… but I love the spanish.

Okay tired now.

Much Love,


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