Beyond the Walls of BWH
A Mission in Ecuador
Holly Sousa joins Project Perfect World
A skilled nurse at one of the nation’s top hospitals, 28-year BWH veteran
Holly Sousa, RN, BSN, MS is accustomed to state-of-the-art technology and providing
the very best care for the sick and injured, regardless of their social or economic
But a chance meeting two years ago opened even more to Sousa.
A colleague told Sousa about her involvement in bringing medical care to third-world
countries through Project Perfect World and Sousa, an Orthopedic Surgery nurse,
was intrigued. When a nurse dropped out of a 2002 mission to Ecuador, Sousa responded
“This is the most amazing thing I have ever done,” said Sousa.
“I worked harder than I ever have and I felt so good about it. It allowed
me to give something to those who didn’t have the same advantages that we
Sousa’s husband, Steven, a retired dentist, joined her and 19 other doctors
and nurses from Boston and Portsmouth, NH, at a naval hospital in Guayaquil, Ecuador.
The caregivers dove into one weeks’ worth of 12-hour days, under conditions
completely foreign to them.
“When we first arrived at the hospital, there were nearly 300 people
waiting patiently outside, their x-rays in hand,” said Sousa. “They
had walked for miles in hope of receiving care from the American doctors. It was
Many of the patients they attended to were children suffering from clubfoot
and bowlegs that are very prevalent in disadvantaged countries. Clubfoot is a
birth anomaly and bowlegs, results from malnutrition and rickets.
The lack of equality in patient care was astounding. Patients requiring blood
for surgery were responsible for buying it from the Red Cross and bringing it
with them to the hospital. Visiting caregivers also learned that patients only
received pain medication if they could pay for it. Project Perfect World administrators
arranged to buy pain medication and a supply of Red Cross blood.
Sousa herself adapted quickly to the circumstances. While preparing for a rare
surgery to rearrange the placement of the hip, Sousa realized that they did not
have the necessary table.
Within minutes though, the team modified a plastic picnic table with duct tape
so the surgery could take place.
Most moving for Sousa was the smile on the face of nine-year-old, Maria, who
had a second tibial osteotomy to correct her rickets deformity. She spoke no English.
But when Sousa and her colleagues visited her after the surgery, the young girl
smiled and said, “Thank you. This was a gift.” She had learned these
words just to convey her gratitude to the foreigners who cared for her. “My
heart melted and I was so happy to have joined this mission,” said Sousa.
Asked if she would join Project Perfect World on another mission, Sousa said,
“I will go when-ever they call me. We are planning to return to Ecuador
in March 2005. This experience has enriched my life immeasurably.”