AMAZON BOAT TRIP – JUNE 13-25, 2022 - By Lisa Smith
Our team this week consisted of ten from Connection Pointe in Indiana (Neil, Jill and Elise Propst, Lisa and Kanon Kelley, Lisa and Logan Smith, Marty Williams, Beth Kine, and Teddy Haubner who also served as the family host and translator), two from CCV in Arizona (Scott and Nicki Woodall), and two dentists from Brazil (Nat and Max). Teddy, Lisa S., and Scott were the veterans. All others were first-timers. Beth and Neil were our docs for the week. Scott was our pharmacist.
We arrived on the typical “middle of the night” flight into Manuas in the early morning hours. Thankfully, there were no flight delays as have been all too common lately and so the boat was able to push off on time. We were greeted by the expert crew and grilled cheese after a long day of travel. We watched from the rooftop as we passed Manuas and then most went to bed between 4:00-5:00AM with anticipation of finally getting to see the sights of the river in the morning light.
June 15, Wednesday - We spent the day traveling downriver, counting and packaging vitamins, putting together hygiene kits, and just generally making sure we were ready to go to see patients. We arrived at São Sebastiáo that evening to pick up the rest of our crew. Since it was still light out, our team decided to go for a swim. After dinner, Scott and Nicki introduced some of our team to a new game - Skyjo. Just after heading to bed, a four-wheeler drove down the riverfront street with HUGE speakers blaring music so loud it sounded like it was right in some of our cabins. We learned that it was a church advertising for another worship night so we didn’t mind so much. However, when the music and preaching was still blaring well after midnight, we were ready for them to call it quits.
June 16, Thursday - We pulled out of São Sebastiáo at 4AM and were out of cell service by the time we woke up. Scott volunteered to be our “rooster” for the week calling BREAKFAST at 7AM sharp. For this trip, we were going further downriver to a group of villages that haven’t been treated before. After morning worship and devo time led by Teddy, we started treating at the village of Santo Antônio do Panauarú. There were lots of vaginal exams and pregnancy tests to be done. Neil also removed a suspicious looking mole off the arm of brave a 11 year old. Since we had three 18-20 year olds (Kanon, Logan and Elise) on our team interested in going into healthcare, procedures were something they were excited to assist with whenever possible. They would spend the week rotating between the medical and dental rooms. Elise actually got to help pull 3 teeth on her first day! Lisa S., Lisa K. and Nicki started in the “front of house” performing the caller, blood pressure, heights/weights and eye checker duties while Jill served in the pharmacy waiting area passing out worm meds, hygiene kits and sunglasses. Teddy, as the only translator, had to go back and forth between the two medical rooms. Max also helped translate a couple of times throughout the week if the dentists finished earlier than the medical rooms.
June 17, Friday - Today, we treated patients from the village Nossa S. Aparecida Panauarú in the morning and then Sagrado Coração Do Buiuçú after the lunch/nap break. Among other things, we saw chicken pox, scabies, a young girl who had gotten stung by a fish, and performed an ultrasound at 4 months for mom to hear the heartbeat. One woman brought back bag of fruit to give Nat as a gift for treating her dental needs earlier in the day. Game night was Team Uno USA vs. Brasil.
June 18, Saturday - Today was Marty’s 70th birthday which meant birthday cake for breakfast! Neil led devotions before we started treating the village of São Benedicto do Aduacá. Interesting cases included a lady who had swallowed a chicken bone and wanted to make sure everything ok in her throat and a cyst that had to be removed from a man’s foot. One family told us that they lived so remotely that they had no running water, no electricity, no refrigeration, and only ate one meal a day. Mom was 22 years old with 4 children. This makes you realize that we’re doing all we can, and we send them all with all we can, but that some families still have access to very little every other day. Later in the day, a woman came back to bring Max a bucket of tapioca as a gift for treating her in the dentist office earlier in the day. What little they have, they still want to share in appreciation!
June 19, Sunday - Happy Father’s Day! We woke up on Sunday, had breakfast and then went upstairs for church/devotions led by Scott and Neil. We also participated in communion. Once that was finished we left that village and drove about 40 minutes to the next village, Divino Do Aduacá. Once we arrived there we started seeing patients at 10AM. Nicki went into the village today with Santana to play games with the waiting children. In between patients, Beth and Marty did a lot of organizing and stocking of the medical rooms so everything should be nice for the next team. Among the typical fungus, UTIs, coughs, and aches, today’s patients consisted of an elderly man who had a cow fall on his right knee and another with a giant tumor next to his eye. Neil removed the tumor. Logan, Kanon and Elise all wanted to assist on that one! This was all before lunch. Later in the day, a pregnant woman got to hear the heartbeat of her unborn firstborn. The next patient was also pregnant, and at age 25 already had a 1, 2, 7, 9 and 10 year old.
Tonight was full of adventure! After dinner, we went out in small groups divided into three small boats. We went out into complete darkness to look for alligators! It was amazing and a little scary at the same time. At night, the Amazon is full of so many unknown noises. Away from any light source, you can see the stars so clearly. We traveled through parts that were grown over so much that it covered us like a canopy. It felt like we were in a movie!
We didn’t run into any alligators, so we came back to the boat after about an hour. Some of the crew were spear fishing. Logan, having been wanting to fish, jumped right in. He probably imagined line fishing, but spear fishing was even better! He didn’t catch any fish, but the crew did, so Santana fried them up for us to eat. The next thing we knew, the “president” of the village went back out to catch a couple of baby alligators and brought them back to us to see (and hold for those brave enough). Right before heading off to bed, Nat dropped her phone in the river so the adventure wasn’t quite over yet. Junior and Cristiano were still fishing in the small boat and came to her rescue. The water wasn’t deep but had a lot of mud and plant growth, so we couldn’t see the phone. Junior jumped in the water, went under, and found it. And it was still on! Praise God! What an full evening!!!!
June 20, Monday - Today’s morning devotion was led by Lisa K. It turned out that Nat had the same devotional book in Portuguese, so they ended up taking turns reading from their respective books. Today’s village stop was Bolivia Do Aduacá. It was decided that today would be our last day treating patients since it was going to take so long to return to Manaus. Having Nicki now feel comfortable enough with the Portuguese phrases needed to be the “caller” for patients, Lisa S. moved away from calling and into the village with Santana for tug-of-war, jump rope and language lessons with the children. Nat saw a rare tooth disorder she hadn’t seen in person before where the person had an extra “vampire tooth” in the top front center that had to be removed. Kanon assisted on that one.
Other than the typical lunch/nap break, we worked up until about 5:45PM. Logan, Neil and Nat were all swimming with local kids off the side of the boat by 6PM. Not long after cleaning up for the day, a woman came back with her 2 year old little girl because she had snorted an orange seed up her nose. You truly never know what will come next out here! Attempts to suction it out with the dental equipment, a nasal bulb and then trying to flush it out by squirting water up the other nostril all failed to produce an orange seed, so hopefully it wasn’t stuck up in there after all. Our team gave their best effort though!
June 21, Tuesday - We pulled out of Bolivia (the village, not the country) at 7AM and made it to São Sebastiáo by evening. On the way back, we passed a village that we had treated a couple of days earlier. All the kids came out of the school to wave as we passed by. Most of today consisted of rede (hammock) time, reading, watching the sunset and keeping an eye out for whatever interesting sights the Amazon wanted to bless us with on our journey.
June 22, Wednesday - We woke up for breakfast and the team picture before heading into town to visit Santana’s house and the greenhouse project. Marty and Nat got to ride over in a trike taxi and helped to have the jewelry table ready for shopping. The rest of us walked. Santana had maracuya juice for us though! It was another hot and humid day, so some of us when for a swim to cool off as soon as we got back. The CBM Amazonia pulled out slightly ahead of schedule leaving some of our beloved crew in São Sebastiáo. Later that evening, back on the main river, we were pulled over by the Brazilian Navy at a checkpoint to check for accurate ship logs, drugs and child trafficking. Our expert crew passed quickly and we were on our way in time to enjoy the best sunset yet!
June 23, Thursday - We arrived at the Meeting of the Waters between 6:30-7:00AM as predicted and then docked near the market in Manaus. We took the obligatory walk through the fish market, shopped for redes and a few other things before heading back to the boat and arriving at the new boathouse. Some swam while others packed or napped in the afternoon. The evening celebration was held on the boathouse deck. A dolphin swam by about 10 feet from the deck, so even he probably knew it was the place to be! As one team member put it, “Heaven.”
Overall numbers for the week included 502 medical patients, 95 dental patients for cleaning or procedures, and 98 pairs of reading glasses being given out. What a blessing to be a part of this medical ministry making a difference in such hard to reach and beautiful places!