The journey begins!

The journey to Cuenca begins with a 3 1/2 hr flight from Calgary to Houston, a short afternoon layover, followed by a 5:35 pm flight from Houston to Quito, Ecuador.  Arrival time to Quito is approximately 11:30pm local time: 2 hrs ahead of Calgary.  Two main groups have travelled via the same flight plan:  one on Feb 25 and the other Feb 26.  There are also volunteers joining from Edmonton and Winnipeg, on different schedules.  No trip is without hiccups though as we have had our share of detours, delays and reschedules due to airline changes.  At last, most volunteers are in Cuenca by Friday, Feb 27.

Collaboration & Partnership with Cuenca’s Santa Ines Hospital and Club Rotario Cuenca Yanuncay

True North Missions Society wishes to express our deepest gratitude to the Santa Ines Hospital and the Club Rotario Cuenca Yanuncay for their most extraordinary support of this mission.  They are very generous to open the doors of the hospital to our medical team.  The mission wouldn’t be possible without this invitation and support.  The Hospital Directors and Club Rotario Cuenca Yanuncay send, annually, an extraordinary greeting entourage to the Cuenca airport to welcome the True North Team.  As well, there are delicious refreshments and coffee made available for the team in the hospital.  With the support and aid of our hosts, the mission begins February 27.

Cancer symposium: 10:30am

Dr. Walley Temple speaking at the Friday Cancer Symposium with Dr. Diana Aspe Ayer – Dr. Temple’s translator.

Dr. Wally Temple plans and presents the cancer symposium.  Dr. Diana Aspe Ayer translates his educational presentation. Many are in attendance in the theatre on the 5th floor of Santa Ines. Local medical students, the head of surgery, oncologists and others come to the symposium to hear of Dr. Temple’s experience in the practice of cancer treatment, specifically, breast cancer.  One of the topics is the sensitive issue of delivering often discouraging and challenging news to patients.





Assessment Clinic: 1:00pm

A group of potential patients (and their families) waiting to be seen at the Friday Assessment Clinic.


As in prior years, Dr. Manuel Avila, a director from the Santa Ines hospital (and strong supporter and proponent of True North Missions Society annual mission to Cuenca)  has arranged for possible surgery candidates to attend a clinic to determine whether they can be helped.  The makeshift clinic is set up, this year, in an accessory building attached to the back of Santa Ines hospital.  Over 50 patients are evaluated.

In addition to our own invaluable translators that travel with our group, this year, four local, young, English speaking residents of Cuenca volunteered their assistance as translators: Elmer, Jenny, Fernanda and Paolo.  Translators facilitate the communication link between the patients and the many members of the team: surgeons, physicians, anesthetists, nurses, physiotherapists, medical instrument/joint representatives, and volunteers.  This link is instrumental in the evaluation of potential candidates for surgery.

Team volunteer observations from the day…

The clinic was very well organized and everyone pitched in.  As successful as it was, it was also heartbreaking to send home those patients we could not help at this time…or ever (as some cases cannot be helped at all or with the local resources at hand)

A very stoic and resilient population. They are so appreciative and trusting.

A summary of a few of the cases follows:

  • M. C. – 33 yr old female has bilateral hip pain – pain meds- generally healthy- will receive a right Periacetabular Osteotomy (PAO)
  • A. P. – 53 yr old -male – hip pain for 4 years- arthritis – worked in construction but now a driver instead due to pain. Surgery may help him return to his regular work. He will receive a total hip replacement.
  • B. L. – 28 yr old female hip pain- had a PAO last year and now needs the other hip replaced – she cannot work. Not able to walk more than one block.
  • J. D. – 27 yr old male -congenital left hip pain from birth. Not able to work due to pain. Pain in hip wakes him every night. Has used a cane as long as he can remember.  Otherwise healthy. He is a high school grad but has never been able to work.
  • M. J.- 58yr old female – 7yrs of bilateral hip pain. Right worse than left. Tingling in toes while lying down. Has hypothyroid and hypertension. Lives with sons. Worked as house cleaner but cannot work anymore due to pain. Uses two brooms as a cane for mobility. She will receive a total hip replacement.
  • E. N. -17 yr old female- left hip pain for 7 yrs – can walk 10 blocks but in constant pain. Unable to do sports. Pain is rated 8/10. High school student . Generally healthy. She will receive a PAO.
  • H. S. (‘Granny’) -75yr old female – left hip pain is progressively worse. Sitting is painful. She had a right total hip replacement 1 1/2 yrs ago. On meds for hypertension. Able to walk one block but needs assistance on stairs. Wakes with pain. She will receive a left total hip replacement this week.  Granny travelled 6 hrs to get to Cuenca from an area to the north.

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