Tacna, Peru. June 2017


After 4 months of preparation, the day came at last to start towards the Hipólito Unanue hospital in the Tacna region at the South of Perú. In the airport we all gathered with Teresa to prepare the bags with our equipment. This is always a great moment when the members of the team come to know each other in between chaos and nerves. We are 9 persons, 4 general surgeons, 1 paediatric surgeon, 2 anaesthetiologists and 2 nurses. For some of them this is their first mission, although most of us have had some previous experience

We land at Lima after a 112 hours flight, and there Dr. Herrera, who is coordinating all our Tacna mission, is expecting us. He takes us at once to the centre of Lima where we see the Main Square and the Cathedral.

We come back to the airport to catch our Tacna fight, where on arrival we are met by a great welcome committee headed by the Health Regional Director, Claudio Ramirez. They give us flowers and take us to our hotel.

We settle down in 10 minutes and proceed to the hospital with all our material. There are more than 70 patients waiting, and we begin, together with Dr. Chura, coordinator of the Tacna mission, and Dr. Carpio, to organize the program for the next days. Most of the patients have already gone through the proper preparation, and have been evaluated by cardiologists, anaesthetiologists and surgeons, what has meant quite an effort for the hospital staff.

 The day after our arrival we start operations. With the help of the local surgeons we are able to operate upon 17 patients on that first day. We had 4 tables in 2 different rooms. Lady Dr. Pilar Murga, anaesthetiologist, together with nurse Almudena Ceballos in one room, and nurse Mercedes Contreras in the other. Paedriatic surgeon José Miguel Morán and general surgeons Lucía Catot, José Manuel Hernandez, Claudia Tinoco and myself went from one room to another according to need, always with the help of hospital surgeons, residents,students and nurses.

I want to underline the work of the nurses Almudena and Mercedes as well as Isaac, René and Delia who very efficiently organized the whole work.

In this way we began our daily work with Marathon timings with began at 7:30 h. with heavy work side by side with the hospital staff, so that by the end of the mission we had operated upon 170 patients with almost 200 procedures, with the greater part of patients being given leave on the same day. Those who had to be hospitalized were evaluated at the beginning of the next day. The operations were chiefly inguinal and umbilical hernias, some of them very large because of a long evolution, and incisional and epigastric hernias. Only a few children were operated upon, as there was little information and collaboration by locals.

In the midst of all this work there were always some moments to disconnect, particularly at the meals with the delicious traditionally Peruvian dishes prepared by Carmen and her daughter Vanesa, and also in our walks after work through the city of Tacna. One day Dr. Chura and Isaak took us to the seashore to admire the Pacific Ocean which many of us had never seen before.

Besides that daily work we also organized some teaching days where a workshop on operation theater work and experiences was carried out and three talks were given: “Inguinal hernia treatment through open hernioplastia mesh” (Lady Dr. Gay Fernandez); Inguinal hernia treatment by laparoscopic way. Tapp and TEP” (Dr Hernandez Gonzalez) and “Surgical calendar for children” (Dr. Morán Penco) with a large audience from hospital staff and students.

After 10 days of hard work came the farewell. They organized a function with the hospital director and the national health surgeon where they gave us a thanksgiving document from the Tacna community.

The mission in the Tacna Hipólito Unanue hospital, the first in the region, had been a success, and both the hospital staff and the patients are looking forward to new campaigns. All this has been possible thanks to good work relationships and to the outstanding persons of the team, together with the great persons who made up the team and the collaboration of the Hipólito Unanue hospital staff, chiefly Dr. Chura. Without of course forgetting Dr. Herrera and Martha Vasquez who helped us from Lima.

With the satisfaction of a work well done we started for Cuzco to see one of the marvels of the world before coming back to our usual routine.