In my world, surgery is always done in the same sort of suite: sterile, with bleached floors, bright fluorescent lights that shine with blinding precision upon what needs to be illuminated, and an ergonomic table that can be lifted to the exact height one needs to eliminate those pesky hunchback issues during surgical procedures.
Needless to say that is not really the case here in Peru. Here, we stack benches in old schoolhouses, cover pool tables with plastic, and balance a plank on a sawhorse to create any sort of workable flat surface. Sandbags with twine provide surgical placement, and without the glow of an REI headlamp, I’d have no idea what the heck I was operating on.
Days 1 and 2: Ye Olde Pool Hall becomes the suite du jour. Waiting area, observation area, and surgical suite all combined into one.
Days 3 and 4, the second half of the week in Iquitos, we were in some sort of concrete room. My understanding was that in the evenings it was turned into a discotheque.
There was also, inexplicably, a dusty and cobwebby Barney costume. Sadly, Molly was unsuccessful in convincing Patrick to do surgery in it.
The second week on the Amazon, we ventured from the cities to the river villages. Day one we, um, ‘performed’ surgery under the watchful eyes of the entire village:
Tuesday was Tamanco, where the suite in the medical clinic afforded rolling views of the cows and the chickens wandering about (my favorite suite to date!)
Wednesday, we ventured to the town hall of Urco Murano. We stood on the stage like spay neuter evangelists behind our tables, preaching to the roped off throng of puzzled Peruvians. Come one, come all, all ye saints and sinners. We have tales of testicles to tell.
On Thursday, we were in a larger village than we had been all week: Mazan, perched between the Napo and Amazon rivers like a thirsty frog reaching out for both. The medical clinic we were provided for the day was a rather dark affair.
I peeked down the dark hall of the hospitalization ward, enclosed in dusty shadows like something out of Silent Hill, before retreating back to the relative light of the intake area where we did surgery, and there I remained for the rest of the day.