Bayside Medical Missions: Angels of Mercy
Paul and Flor Fellers of Fairhope, AL are truly Angels of Mercy. During the 1980s and 90s, Dr. Fellers, an orthopedic surgeon, generously donated his vacation time to travel to Third World countries where he performed surgery on crippled patients who otherwise had no hope of using their limbs.
In 1999 the mission work was formalized by creating a non-profit organization, Bayside Medical Missions, in hopes of recruiting much needed orthopedic surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurse anesthetists.
During the years 2000 through 2003, the Fellers volunteered in the extremely poor Ecuadorian province of Manabi. The local hospitals only performed surgery for orthopedic emergency cases, and often the bones were set poorly, leaving the patients with little or no use of their arms or legs.
Flor Fellers worked as an office manager. She recognized the need for a registered nurse if they were going to be successful in pursuing their dream of a permanent clinic. At age 49 she enrolled in college again, receiving a BS Degree in Nursing, and continues to assist Dr. Fellers as a surgical assistant.
A New Facility is Born
In Portoviejo, Ecuador, the church owned land suitable for a new clinic and agreed to donate the acreage. Samaritan’s Purse Ministries constructed the building and soon the Ecuadorian non-profit, La Vida, was created. After three years of construction, Fundacion La Vida opened its doors in 2011 to treat patients of all ages, and specializing in orthopedic surgeries, when Dr. and Mrs. Fellers arrived every 2 months. They stay for two-month periods, during which time they coordinate volunteer medical/surgical groups that provide many of the surgeries.
This is where Monica Heseman enters the story. She is a retired Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist and worked at Mayo Clinic until she retired in 2012.
In November, Monica volunteered administering anesthetics at the clinic, joined by fellow CRNAs Michelle Marshall of Cocoa and Jason Green of Findley, OH. Monica is no stranger to medical missions, and has experience helping the poor in Haiti and the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico on seven other occasions. During her time in Ecuador, the surgery team performed 10 procedures on three adults and seven children.
Volunteers Repair Children
Several of the procedures were correcting, or reconstructing limbs previously damaged from poor medical care. Follow-up surgery was performed on a six-year old girl who was born with both hips dislocated at birth. A toddler was given hope when Dr. Fellers repaired his club feet. A seven year old who had broken his arm at age two, and had it set so poorly that the bent arm remained permanently close to his body–hand constantly by his face–now has full function of the arm, because of the care these volunteers delivered.
The clinic charges the patients a sliding scale fee anywhere from zero dollars, to whatever they can afford. Only a few can afford the $350, which is the clinic’s base cost for most surgeries. All US volunteers, including the Fellers, are unpaid and cover their own travel costs plus help with food and lodging expenses.
The clinic’s yearly budget of $75,000 has always been in the red, when funded by monies collected exclusively from the patients. However, through fund raising events and relying on donations from generous Americans, the clinic’s budget has stayed in the black. The clinic is always in need of new surgical equipment, and appreciates all donations toward these. Presently there is a great need of an ultrasound machine which would be used to administer nerve blocks.
Monica says she always feels as if she receives so much more than she gives, especially when she looks at the smiles of the patients on their return visits. The parents always express gratitude for changing their children’s lives for the better.
For more information please visit: www.BaysideMedicalMissions.org