June 13th, 6:30am Lima

I’ve just touched down in Lima after a flight via Dallas Ft.Worth, where I spent a little time with my sister and brother in law. (I used to live there for a while back in the early 80’s).

I will be meeting up with Denise to go to the care home to bring the suitcase full of supplies and see Will for the first time since I left. I will update this evening.

Blood donations

An account by Denise Crisanto-Clark on the blood donations ‘owed’ to the hospital for Will.

“On Saturday 11th of June, Lima is holding a Blood Donation Day event linked to World Blood Donation Day 2016 on June 14th. By chance, one of my friends who volunteered in the mission to replenish the two blood units we ‘owe’ for Will’s stay at Hospital Dos de Mayo has chosen to attempt to donate on Saturday (you will understand why I say ‘attempt’ as your read on).

According to the Ministry of Health, voluntary donation in Peru is very low, only 0.5% of the population donate blood. Only 5% of this 0.5% donate voluntarily, thus the main source of blood supply is by ‘reposición’, or immediate replacement (in some instances you will not be treated until you bring your replacement donor/s, or in the last instance you will not be allowed to leave the clinic/hospital until you bring your replacement donors or pay a high fee/fine. This encourages risky donors because many resort to paying financially needy people for this service, or friends and family might lie about their health in order to help their acquaintances with a Speedy solution). According to the WHO, in order to measure the efficiency of a system of  national blood provision, blood units obtained from voluntary donors should be equivalent to 2% of the national population in order to satisfy demand.

Back to Will. When Will arrived at the Hospital Dos de Mayo on April 7th,  he was given 2 units of blood, something that was brought to my attention while sorting out the last bits of paperwork for his discharge from hospital – processed and stamped (the latter being a big thing here in Peru).  The day Will was being discharged (18th of May) I had managed to get all of his discharge papers sorted after  joining 3 different queues in 1.5 hours (the photocopy queue to get a pile of papers copied for me and hospital, stamp queue, signing off queue.

IMG_3272This had been a common routine while he was at hospital (getting pieces of paper stamped and ‘processed’ on a daily basis before any procedure could be done). I asked whether I needed to process anything else and was told ‘no’. I asked again because I know my fellow Peruvians and something is always missing or more complicated than what it should be, but I was told ‘no’ twice more after my prompting. So I waited for another couple of hours until the ambulance personnel arrived to transport Will to the care home (the social services lady got this sorted out for us free of charge – it could’ve been very costly), and when the ambulance crew arrived, sharp on time,  someone on reception approached me and asked whether I had got the ‘exit paper’ (the shock of the moment has probably made me forget the name of the piece of paper). I froze; at that moment I knew I  would have to go and join another queue. So I breathed in deeply before telling someone off, sent the ambulance personnel away and went on a mission to get a last piece of paper before Will could finally leave the hospital. I joined a queue, then a second one where I was told Will owed 2 units of blood, so unless we paid something over S/500 soles on the spot, he would not be discharged. To cut the story short, I managed to get the social services lady release us by signing a ‘guarantee’ letter stating that I would bring in 2 people to donate blood within 15 days. I got a fantastic response on Facebook – 5 local friends/acquaintances willing to donate to help Will’s case.

IMG_3289Last week one of the volunteers Luisa took time off work to go in to the hospital only to be told that they didn’t have any reactives, so the hospital was unable to take blood from anyone that day.  Thank you Luisa for your time! an hour each way in daytime traffic.
I need to remind anyone reading this that Hospital Dos de Mayo is located within an area of the city centre well known for its danger, where traffic is chaotic and buses release copious amounts of diesel fumes. If you don’t work in the city centre, traveling in and out of it can become a noble mission in itself!

IMG_3326Last Monday 2 other friends went into the hospital to attempt  to donate. I went in with them because they needed ‘a piece of paper’ from the social worker and it was easier for me to find that piece of paper than making them spend an extra precious half hour or so figuring out how to obtain that piece of paper and during which the donation queue could grow larger. After collecting the piece of paper we managed to get Monica and Cristine through the first part of the process without any problems, but we could only be informed – after 2 hours – if they were fit to donate. So we waited over coffee, and after rejoining the process two hours later, Monica and I were met with a little surprise:  we had ticked one of the boxes incorrectly and were about to be sent by an insistent receptionist to sort out the paperwork  in a different part of the hospital! Thankfully he was  understanding and agreed to tick the other box for us. It was as simple as that! It was being made more complicated than it was. After a big sigh of relief we walked to the blood donation area where Monica was given the go-ahead to donate.  Cristine had been told within the first part of the process (but after making her fill forms and then have an interview with the doctor) that she couldn’t donate because she had had a vaccine within the last three months. Why that was not listed under the restrictions list in the first place was beyond belief!  We are nevertheless used to flaws in communication in Peru, so we just looked at each other and raised our eyebrows.

The whole procedure took 6 hours, from 10am when we left our meeting point to 4pm when we got to our next destination. This timeframe for things is quite common and of no surprise for Peruvians, especially if one is dealing with a national, bureaucratic, sometimes Kafkian institution.   It can be incredibly frustrating at times, to say the least!

So my feelings about sending another friend to donate the other pending unit of blood and experience this kind of setback to his day were rather mixed, until my friend pointed out that an event for World Blood Donor Day is being held throughout Lima on Saturday, the day he had initially chosen for donating not aware of this event, and that in turn magnifies this purpose in positive ways.  Good luck to Alvaro on Saturday and thank you!  Will has brought people from all over the world together in acts of love.”

And we think the NHS can be frustrating!  Thank you to Denise and her friends for stepping up and giving their time and blood. If you haven’t done so yourself for a while, maybe now would be a good time in Will’s honour. I will be leaving very early on Sunday to arrive Monday to see him for the first time in the care home and meet with the team.

June 6th, 7:00 PST

This time next week I will just be arriving in Lima to see Will in his care home for the first time.  You may remember that he got transferred out of the hospital just after I left in May so I will be signing financial papers taking over responsibility for his monthly upkeep as well as bringing down supplements and reading material.

I will be visiting him each day until I leave on Tues June 21st so I will get a good 8 days with him as well as meet the other women who have been visiting and giving them your thanks and praise.

There are encouraging signs but it is still too early to tell what pain he may be in as he comes round or what motor skills he will have and we must be prepared for him to react emotionally to ‘being back’ and discovering what he can and can’t do.

Let’s keep praying for miracles.


June 2nd 1:30 PST

One of the British volunteers, Rosemary,  went in to see Will yesterday and I wanted to pass on her update as she wrote it.

I think Will was dozing when I arrived. But I spoke to him anyway, chatted a bit, and then read to him for an hour. He opened his eyes quite often. He was bending his left leg quite a lot. He was trying to move, I think.

I reminded him several times about what happened to him, where he is and how he got there, and how many friends are helping and in contact, back home and here. That he is safe and in good hands, and improving. And not to worry. And that Elizabeth is looking after him very well.

Rosemary is going to see if she can tell him a few more funny stories so I’ve  advised some Spike Milligan and other British comedians for her next visit.

It’s encouraging to see him continuing to respond.

I have also sent off the latest scans in high resolution to a UK neurosurgeon friend and await his response. The LBT have also received them and are getting responses from their contacts but have already given me feedback that the normal air ambulance companies they use don’t operate as far away as Lima so they are digging deeper to find if any other companies can do so at a reasonable cost.