Sunday, May 17, 2015

Indiegogo Fundraiser for Don Sergio

Photo taken by Justin McManus of Australia. For more photos go to: Justin McManus Photography.

The January trip working with Don Sergio was a whirlwind. He and I spent very little time together with all that occurred around that time with his family. From my home in Tucson he and I speak once every 2-3 weeks.

An avid support, Carla Woody who is founder of Kenosis, has donated kindly from her special guided trips through Chiapas. She always makes a special trip with her group to stop and visit with Don Sergio. Through numerous phone calls and help from another friend in San Cris, Don Sergio received the donation at such a crucial time of need...which for him, is almost always!

Meanwhile, those close to me recommended an Indiegogo fundraiser for Don Sergio.
So, here it is: Indiegogo Mexican Healer Who Asks for Nothing in Return

My partner, Bruce, and I once again scoured the internet for any new postings or blog reports from those who have recently met or reported about his work. We found both old and new.

John Scherber, a US citizen traveling all through out Mexico, came across Don Sergio and of course could not resist, like many, to not say anything.  Don Sergio humanitarian work is so compelling one just can't keep it to oneself.  Here is his report from April 2015 visit:

In the blogging archives we also found a professional photographer's visit with Don Sergio but are uncertain of the year. His story was written before I met Don Sergio; pre-2008 and I found that his experiences then are now mine. Justin McManus knows how to tell a story and take photos that are more descriptive than can be verbalized. Some great shots of Don Sergio, some heart-wrenching photos of Don Sergio's patients. His story, with photos, was published in The InSight Press.

As a follow-up to the patient, Petrona, that Justin reports on, here is a video I took several years later (unaware of Justin's reporting). If you have the time, please see the photos from Justin and read his blog, then click on the video below. You will see that Don Sergio uses all gifts bestowed to him by nature and Petrona is living proof that miracles can happen.


For those who have met Don Sergio or anyone interested, we encourage you to consider an Indiegogo donation to help this tireless humanitarian and share this with friends.  It is our hope that I can present Don Sergio with the fully funded amount when I see him in July this summer.

Posted by Patricia Ferrer, PA-C.

Monday, January 26, 2015

El Regalo de Iker (The Gift of Iker)

January 15, 2015 Thursday
Jueves 15 de Enero

Bela's garden. Jardin de Bela.

Many people ask what will happen when Don Sergio is not able to provide wound and burn care to the people he’s been serving all these years. DS usually answers, ‘I don't know’ or ‘it will just stop’. It makes sense to train someone who can continue, but who would be likely to give of themself as DS does? People have wanted to help but the follow-through has been iffy and in the past, has compromised his trust.

Mucha gente pregunta ¿qué pasará cuando Don Sergio no es capaz de proporcionar atención y cuidado a las heridas y quemaduras a la gente ha estado sirviendo a todos estos años. DS generalmente responde, 'No sé' o "sólo se detendrá". Tiene sentido entrenar a alguien que puede continuar, pero ¿quién sería capaz de dar de sí mismos como DS? Personas han querido ayudar pero el seguimiento ha sido incierto en el pasado, y ha comprometido su confianza.
In this seventh year of my working with DS, I have been the consistent medical help that returns again and again…. as far as I can tell.  Thankfully, that has changed.

En este séptimo año de mi trabajo con DS, he sido la constante ayuda médica que vuelve una y otra vez... en cuanto lo que pueda ver. Afortunadamente, esto ha cambiado.

Iker works while DS looks on. Iker esta trabajando
mientras DS mirando.
Iker, from the Basque region of Spain, said when he arrived at his posada last year, he briefly met someone who told him of Don Sergio. Iker went on DS’s tour and then came back later to see if he could help. DS told him, “only look, don’t touch”. Iker, a well-trained RN with a lot of experience with serious wounds, saw DS getting busy so he stepped in and got to work. He has been in San Cris for almost a year and helps DS most evenings at the museo.

Iker, de la región Vasca de España, dijo que cuando llegó a su posada el año pasado, brevemente conoció a alguien que le habló de Don Sergio. Iker se fue de gira con DS y llegó más tarde para ver si podía ayudar. DS le dijo: "sólo mira, no toques". Iker, un enfermero registrado con mucha experiencia al trato de heridas graves, vio a DS ocupado por lo que intervino y se puso a trabajar. Él lleva casi un año en San Cris y ayuda DS por la noche en el museo.

The gift of Iker is trust.  El regalo de Iker es la confianza.

His working with DS consistently has built trust.  Shortly after his arrival, Cesar and Alfonso, two Coletos jovenes (young people born in San Cris) showed up wanting to learn and help DS as well. They both plan on attending medical school and are eager to play a part in some type of patient care exposure. Of course, it is my hope, these Coletos will continue to help and possibly return after all their medical training.

Su trabajo con DS consistentemente ha construido confianza. Poco después de su llegada, Cesar y Alfonso, dos jovenes Coletos (jóvenes nacidos en San Cris) aparecieron y quisieron aprender y ayudar a DS también. Ambos planean asistir a la escuela médica y están dispuestos a participar en algún tipo de exposición al cuidado del paciente. Por supuesto, es mi esperanza, que estos Coletos continuarán ayudando y posiblemente volver después de todo su entrenamiento médico.

From my observation, it was Iker’s presence that made this easy for DS to train and trust them. Iker’s natural energy is sweet, loving, compassionate, and fun and he has a grounded presence everyone is attracted to.  Los jovenes look up to Iker and DS and I can’t imagine better role models.  Now Edith (another premedical Coleta) is helping and its obvious DS appreciates and enjoys their help.

De mis observaciones, fue la presencia de Iker que hicieron esto fácil para DS entrenar y confiar en ellos. La energía natural de Iker es dulce, amoroso, compasivo y divertido y tiene una presencia que todo el mundo se siente atraído. Los jovenes admiran a Iker y DS y yo no puedo imaginar mejores modelos a seguir. Ahora está ayudando Edith (otro pre-medicina Coleta) y es obvio que DS aprecia y disfruta de su ayuda.

Foreigners that come from countries with good medical resources are changed when we spend time in parts of the world where there are great disparities. Once you see things a certain way, you can never close your eyes to them.  This change creates an irreversible desire that moves you to do what you can in your world to make it better in theirs.

Los extranjeros que vienen de países con buenos recursos médicos cambian cuando pasan tiempo en partes del mundo donde hay grandes desigualdades. Una vez que ves las cosas de cierta manera, nunca les podrás cerrar los ojos. Este cambio crea un deseo irreversible que te mueve y al hacerlo querrás hacer todo lo que está en tu mundo para hacer mejor el suyo.

In the near future Iker will be leaving San Cristobal on his bicicleta to unknown Central and South American destinations for an unknown length of time, hoping to promote blood donation and finding ways he can help along the way.  He has no concrete plans; just to live and help on this journey of life.

En el futuro próximo Iker se irá de San Cristóbal en su bicicleta a destinos desconocidos de centro y Sur América por un período de tiempo desconocido, la esperanza de promover la donación de sangre y encontrar maneras que pueda ayudar en el camino. No tiene planes concretos; Sólo para vivir y ayudar en este camino de la vida.

Iker believes there are no coincidences and his time here was meant to be…this I agree.  Iker told me that this may be the last time we see each other, but I don't believe it, nor do I feel that way.… I think our paths will cross again, somewhere, someday.

Iker cree que no existen las coincidencias y su tiempo estaba destinado a ser aqui...estoy de acuerdo. Iker me dijo que esta puede ser la última vez que nos vemos, pero no lo creo, ni me siento así...Creo que nuestros caminos se cruzaran otra vez , en algún lugar, algún día.

L>R: Patricia, Santo Iker, Mexico’s future physicians: César, Edith, Alfonso.
Thank you Iker, we love you! 

 I > D: Patricia, Santo Iker, los futuros médicos de México: César, Edith, Alfonso.

Gracias Iker, te amamos!

There are more photos of Iker in past blog postings over the last year.. Hay más fotos de Iker en publicaciones en esta blog el año pasado.

Posted by Patricia Ferrer.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

January 14, 2015 Wednesday

You can buy Amantenango pottery from
the local market, but your choices
are better in Amantenango.
Bela, Ricci, Manuela (Bela’s cocinera) and I had planned a trip to Amantenango de Valle to shop and buy handmade and painted pottery but with Ricci’s tummy problem it was a no go. This worked out as I could spend time with Don Sergio before our departing on Thursday.

Handmade and hand painted pottery from Amantenango.

He was glad to see me at the museo as he thought I was going to Amantenango. We quickly fell into our routine as we waited for the taxi. I told him the progress of our two crucial patients as we prepared our bags.

Our driver, Juanito, was running late so DS and I sat in silence until he started telling me of Elsa’s situation of dividing things amongst her sisters. He hopes it does not become too complicated.  Then he started telling me of his visit with his father and how his father wanted to leave him part of the house in Mexico City. DS said he did not want part of the house and since his step-brother had been taking care of the father the house should go to him.  There were other family issues and heartbreak but it sounded like a good visit.  Then with pause he said he wanted to spend more time with Elsa and take her on a trip to Tuxtla for one night - this was music to my ears as I told him that was a fantastic idea.

It was in November 2008 when I met Don Sergio and the person I am most grateful to for sending me to him is Nadia Guilliard. She started the La CasaEn El Árbol Language School and speaks 5 or more languages herself. Over the last 7 years we have seen each other infrequently, but today I had the pleasure of visiting with her again.  It turns out Christiane, Tuesday night’s tour guide, is good friends with Nadia and invited her to join us for tea in the afternoon. It was a short but wonderful visit at Tierra Adentro en Real de Guadalupe andador.
Nadia, right, is expecting her first child in May. Christiane, long time
supporter of Don Sergio is in the middle.

During the evening clinic DS was in his natural stride; quietly doing his wound care as he’s done it for 40+ years.  The crew was there except Cesar; since starting medical school he can only come in occasionally; and Ricci still battling the runs, but she came in later. It was nice having DS back.

Fellow PA, and dear friend, Ricci Silberman and I spend our last night, for this
trip visiting with Alfonso, Edith and Iker while DS gives a tour.

Shortly after patients left we sat on the benches looking forward to chatting with him but three English-speaking tourists had come in and were hoping DS would give a tour.  Whenever English speakers come it’s my opportunity to tell them of DS’s humanitarian work that he does not mention himself.  He gave a nice tour and I followed up with checking if they had questions. Everyone always has questions, as they are amazed with him. The words ‘surreal, amazing, Mother Teresa, Saint’ comes up a lot with many questions about the healthcare system, injuries, funding, and help.

Don Sergio and I hugged and said our good-byes for now. He knows I will be back this summer.

That evening Ricci and I had a dinner party for the crew: pizza, salad and Iker brought the Spanish wine.  It was quite and simple and we all visited. Bela joined us and chatted with everyone.  There were 7 of us and we could not finish the two bottles of wine Iker brought – wimps.

Posted by Patricia Ferrer.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

More Supplies Arrive

January 13, 2015 Tuesday

A well constructed home-made child seat for the bike.
 I love the innovation of necessity, this is probably
someone's main transportation.

My cousin Roy happened to be visiting at this time and he always brings an extra suitcase of medical supplies from NGO MedShare  for Don Sergio.  Always one for adventure he had stayed one night in San Cristóbal and was off to Palenque. He texted saying he left the suitcase at his hotel.  What he brought will last 2 – 4 weeks.

Roy brought a suitcase of medical supplies, then off to Palenque
with Mexica Tours. He will return in a few days.

I picked up the suitcase prior to arriving at the museo for morning rounds and Iker was waiting but our taxi driver had not arrived. Again the struggle of finding our two patients' homes was crazy but we found our way to the burn patient’s home where Alfonso, who lived in the area, met us.

They both did the cleaning, debridement and bandage change very efficiently. Fortunately the patient did not have as much pain. Our second patient with both foot ulcers still complained of dizziness but the ulcers were healing well (to our surprise).

We returned to the museo and Alfonso and I took the opportunity to clean and organize this so called ‘clinic’. Don Sergio stopped by and told us la suegra was buried and now the family is getting together. He was on his way to buy 4 kilos of tortillas. He said all was emotional but well and would return the following day for morning rounds.

The evening clinic was busy but there were 4 of us to do the work. Ricci was excused as she had now caught the ‘diarrhea bug’ and was not doing well. ¡Oye, los estomagos las gringas!

Christiane, (in purple sweater) from France, gave a tour to two visitors
 on Tuesday night while Don Sergio was with his family.

Friday, January 16, 2015

A Loved One Passes

January 12, 2015

Ricci during our morning walk at Riñcon Hotel garden.

Before meeting Don Sergio for Monday morning rounds, Ricci and I went out early for a walk then returned to Bela’s for breakfast. As we were preparing to head to el museo I received an email from a friend I have not heard from in 4 years.

Betsy McNair, with MyMexicoTours who I met in 2011 at a fundraiser for Don Sergio in San Miguel de Allende contacted me. She said she was in San Cris and is bringing a tour group and had stopped by Don Sergio's house Sunday evening to arrange a museo tour. Don Sergio, and his wife Elsa, told Betsy that Elsa's mother had died an hour prior and told Betsy he was hoping I would continue to take care of the patients while he took care of the necessities of the situation.  Elsa had been her elderly (and frail) mother's caretaker for more than five years. Don Sergio and Elsa raised their family of 7 children in his suegra’s (mother-in-law) house where they still live not far from the museo.

We arrived at the museo and saw DS had left a note explaining what happened and he couldn't come with us.  Ricci and I were on our own again, but we had a different driver who did not know exactly where to go. The streets of the San Cristóbal burbs are not well marked, but we found our way to the most crucial patients we had been caring for.

Our first patient was the 45 y/o man with severe anemia, liver disease, diabetes and almost blind (most likely diabetic retinopathy) with the grossly ulcerated feet.  Daily we ask him how he feels and usually he says 'más o menos'. Today he said, 'whenever I sit up I get really dizzy'.  Oye!  This is no surprise, he is so anemic, not hungry, and for lack of a better word he looks like Skelator (cachectic is the medical term). His feet are now retaining water without gravity assistance and they are becoming infected no matter how well we clean and treat the ulcers. As we did our job we explained to him why he is dizzy and asked if he can go to the hospital or see a doctor, but he does not want to go and at this point I'm not sure what they can do for him anyway.

Our second patient was the 26 year-old with the severely burned leg. When we arrived it was a surreal scene.  As were knocking on the door a truck with 6 men in the back said he was not at his house but down the street visiting someone, then said '¡mire!' (look), he was heading toward us. Don Sergio had bought muletas (crutches) for him last week and he was already mobile and about. Not with the fastest stride but making progress.


His emotional happiness was soon taken away by the excruciating pain from the bandage change. The wound is improving and there was no putrid smell. Yesterday we had debrided most of the nonviable skin and clinically it looked good (relatively speaking). However, only part of his leg, the pre-tibia region, has a third degree burn (usually painless due to the depth of the burn) and the rest of the leg has deep second degree burns which is the most painful. At burn centers patients are medicated prior to bandage changes, sometimes put completely under general anesthesia.  Not here: we are hesitant to give him tylenol or paracetamol due to not knowing his liver status after 11 years of heavy drinking, so we give ibuprofen. He had so much pain, that no matter how much we pause to let the pain pass he was writhing.  Twice he fainted but quickly came to. He allowed us to continue until done.  We told him to rest, sleep, take the ibuprofen every 6 hours and we will return the following day.

Ten-minutes later an internal shaking took place in my body for about a minute, a few tears, and then I was over it. This is how it was for medics prior to anesthesia and this is how it is now here in Chiapas. This had to be done in order for the wound to have the best chance and to reduce pockets of retained bacteria that may cause infection. Ricci took the following day off from this case; it was just too much to bear. Experiences like this is what Don Sergio has dealt with for many years.

The evening clinic was busy with patients and to my relief Edith and Cesar arrived.  After telling them Don Sergio’s suegra se murío and he would not be coming they both jumped in. Our patient load was quite heavy and Cesar took complete control directing the patient flow. He was telling me which patients to see, telling Ricci and Edith what to do as he took the most challenging cases. Cesar, el general, is a natural born leader: clear-headed, able to see what needs to be done in different areas and execute a plan of efficiency.  I loved it, a 20 year-old medical student was bossing me around.

Christiane, a French woman living in San Cristóbal half the year and who has been an avid supporter of Don Sergio for 26 years came in  asked if there was something she could do. We had had 4 visitors earlier wanting tour but I had asked them to return later in the week. So, Christiane agreed to be the museo tour guide on Tuesday night. She speaks French and Spanish so the museo doors would be open for visitors.

Alfonso has a quiet demeanor, is a hard worker,
and can focus like a laser beam.
During clinic Alfonso came and calmly got to work. Ricci keep everyone supplied with what they needed. After things settled down Cesar told Alfonso to get flowers, Edith for cups, he was going to get coffee and sent Ricci and I for bread.  He told us to meet him back at the museo at 8pm said he will find Iker and we will go see Don Sergio juntos (together).

At 8 pm Iker and Edith were waiting at the museo doorsteps in the dark. We chatted and watched sporatic fire works until Alfonso and Cesar arrived. I lead the way along the narrow sidewalk to Don Sergio home. His son answered the door and from the back of the central patio of this ancient colonial home comes Don Sergio, in a stride I have never seen before: a fast and efficient pace. He welcomed us into the large bare foyer and as we half-circled around him he hugged us all and recounted what happened.

On Sunday he returned from seeing his father in DF (Mexico City) around 3pm and all was well in the house. His suegra sat with the family, chatted with him, ate and was in a good mood. She then went to lie down and a few minutes later she yelled 'ayudame, ayudame' (help me, help me). They came to her and saw something was wrong and she became limp and slumped over. Don Sergio tried to revive her with mouth-to-mouth and chest compressions but she was gone. Sergio snapped his fingers as if this was as fast as it happened and said, 'gracias adios, ella no sufre' (thanks to God she did not suffer). He believes she had brain hemorrhage or stroke.

We remained entranced with this story then he told us of his visit with his father in DF who remains lucid and mentally alert although he cannot walk or feel anything from the waist down. Then he burst into tears that he had the opportunity to spend some time with him. There were no dry eyes in this group.  He hugged us one by one as we left the items we'd brought and told him not to worry about anything with the clinic and patients. He said he’d return to work on Wednesday.

The six of us walked in silence toward the Zócolo at which point we split into our separate ways. Ricci took the next day off and Alfonso and Iker agreed to come with me to see our crucial two patients. 

Friends of Don Sergio coming together at this time remind me of It's a Wonderful Life. George Bailey who had always treated people fair and kind had his own ‘time of need’ in which his friends showed up.  My timing for this trip was perfect. Although busy, intense and with a touch of diarrhea and nausea for three days, with all the help, the wound and burn care did not miss a beat.

Betsy McNair stopped by Bela's for comida.
We have not seen each other for
4 years. She knows all of Mexico
and advocates supporting Don Sergio`s work.