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Rebirth of Maria

After more than two years without taking the Mobile Surgical Center into the forest, more than 90 volunteers left Campinas (SP) for the small-town Normandia, north of Roraima, close to the border with Guyana. It was not just any expedition: we are here talking about an action that would later deliver almost 500 surgeries in an isolated territory in the Amazon - an EDS record that opens wide the repressed demand by the effects of the pandemic among indigenous populations.

It is not new that the NGO Expedicionários da Saúde takes care of those who take care of the forest. It was in 2003, when a group of medical friends, on one of their adventurous trips, decided to explore Pico da Neblina. On the way down they met a very isolated indigenous community in which they lived well, except for the lack of specialized health - almost non-existent in the region. From there, the friends decided to periodically return to different communities in the Alto Rio Negro (AM) region to offer care, and soon saw the urgent need to create a hospital model that could meet certain surgical demands, but adapted to Amazonian conditions., thus avoiding the need for indigenous people to leave their communities to go to large centers and to enter queues that could take years. Thus was born, at the hands of the current president, Dr. Ricardo Affonso Ferreira to EDS.

2022 was a fresh start for the Organization, as it marked the resumption of traditional expeditions, now with a new, more modern, and efficient Mobile Surgical Center. The NGO worked intensively in the fight against the pandemic in the previous two years, and all efforts were focused on the treatment of patients affected by Covid-19, both in the Amazon and in Campinas (SP). Therefore, Expedition 47, which took place in the Raposa Serra do Sol Indigenous Land, more precisely in Lake Caracaranã, had an even more special taste.

On this particular mission EDS collected dozens of exciting stories. Indigenous children, young people and elderly people had their lives radically transformed after undergoing surgeries that, for us, who live in large urban centers, are relatively simple.

One of the most remarkable stories of the expedition in Raposa Serra do Sol is the indigenous Maria Macuxi, mother of two small children and totally blind, until then. Cataract, a disease that affected Maria early, is not rare in equatorial regions like the one she lives in, due to the high incidence of sunlight. It is the leading cause of reversible blindness in the world and can be highly disabling as it takes the patient out of his normal and productive life.

Maria arrived at the Expedition with fear, but at the same time with hope, because that would be, perhaps, the only opportunity to see again. At the EDS Hospital Complex, she underwent exams and consultations with volunteer doctors and was hospitalized for surgery the next day. Anxious, when going into surgery, she asked her husband to take care of their children, a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old-who were now waiting outside, also apprehensive. The procedure was a success and within half an hour Maria was already released for the postoperative period to be discharged the next day.

Early every morning in the morning, the volunteers followed a ritual that is thrilling for anyone: patients operated on at the Ophthalmology center, many partially or totally blind, had their plugs removed from their eyes and could see again for the first time in years. There was Maria, sitting patiently waiting her turn, not knowing exactly what to expect. She heard an unfamiliar voice: "Good morning, Dona Maria, shall we remove your tampon and drop some eye drops?" - said the nurse Ana Paula who carefully removed the bandage. Shy, the patient gradually saw the light enter her eyes and, with each passing second, she recognized colors and shapes around her that she had not seen for a long time. Maria became very emotional but did not expect what would happen next: still getting used to the light and everything she saw, she heard the already familiar voice of her husband, who gently placed her youngest son on her lap.

Mary saw her son for the first time.

In a compulsive cry mixing joy and relief, she hugged the child repeatedly giving thanks him for that moment! She looked carefully at every part of her son's face and body, and the health teams watching the scene were moved as if they were watching a birth. It was Mary who was reborn that day.

Patient Maria Macuxi is one of many examples of life transformations that go through the EDS, and they are, without the slightest doubt, confirmation that the Health Expeditionaries are on the right path towards caring for the true guardians of the Amazon, forest and indigenous culture.

*In order to preserve the patient's identity, AbmthS use the fictitious name of Maria.

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