On a boat transformed into a hospital and housing, the project Doctors of the Waters brings health care, vaccines and hygiene practices to the riverside population in remote areas of the Amazon Basin.
Four doctors and another 28 professionals and students of dentistry, pharmacy, nutrition and education travel in a boat transformed into a hospital and depart from Manaus, capital of Amazonas, for a journey of 11 days and a thousand kilometers of navigation.
The project, which completed ten years in 2022, is a highlight of the CNN Vital Signs From this week. The program presented by cardiologist Roberto Kalil will air this Sunday (25), at 7:30 pm, reinforcing the diversified content with the brand CNN Soft .
Kalil interviews infectious disease physician Rosana Richtmann, from the Emílio Ribas Institute of Infectious Diseases, one of the project’s volunteers. “It was with a group that did sport fishing in the Amazon and always found a riverside man in pain who asked if there was a doctor in the group”, she explains. “There was always one or two who examined and gave medication, but that’s not right, do we come here and see this exuberant thing and don’t do anything in return? So we are going to structure something, and the three-story hospital boat was built with medical and dental offices, a pharmacy and which is also our home”, she says (see the interview above ).
the team of CNN Vital Signs accompanies the health expedition that travels through the south of the state, covering nine rivers: Negro, Amazonas, Madeira, Madeirinha, Canumã, Sucunduri, Acari, Arariá and Abacaxis to serve five riverside villages.
“I’m saying goodbye to my 90-year-old mother”, says infectious disease doctor Rosana Richtmann after a cell phone video call a few minutes before the entire crew lost their internet and telephone signal, while the vessel of Doutores das Waters are moving away from the urban area of Manaus. “We get a little apprehensive because we lose contact and it always causes anguish”, she says. “The cool thing is that she’s super cheering and just wishes good luck.”
“I get emotional because for me it’s a washing of the soul. I did volunteer work with my husband and he passed away in January. So, I had already made an appointment to come here”, says pediatrician Valéria Clemente while her gaze rests on the horizon of the Rio Negro. “It was a surprise. It’s another way for us to make peace with nature, with the world and feel useful”.
It takes almost 40 hours of navigation to reach the first village. The medical coordinator of the project, Francisco Leão, explains the purpose of the group: “We decided to do this project to improve the quality of life of the riverside people so that they stay and do not leave here, because they are the ones who defend the Amazon, not us. , because they live in the Amazon rainforest without trying to take it”, he says. “This is the big problem for those who try to tame the Amazon, no one has ever succeeded because it is indomitable”.
Upon arriving in the community of Bom Jardim, the Doutores das Águas are greeted with a welcome sign, which moves the group. Flying boats and rabetas, typical riverboats powered by motors, and canoes spread across the Sucunduri River coming from other communities around. Some families bathe their children in the river and others put on makeup and wear the best clothes to receive the health team. “The only medical assistance they have year-round is us,” says Richtmann.
Upon disembarking, the doctor is received by community leader Raimundo de Souza Dias, who is already in a hurry to show the wooden health post built and donated by the Doctors of Water in previous expeditions. “It hasn’t worked for years because it doesn’t have a health agent”, says Dias. “What if I get sick? How?”, asks Richtmann. “Make a lemon balm tea”.
“And if you have a snakebite, do you have serum?”, asks the doctor. “There is not. It’s all kind of abandoned.” The village also has no power. Riverside people often drink water from the river without being able to filter it with chlorine and suffer, above all, from malaria and worms.
Coming from another village, farmer Calisto Pantoja dos Santos, 64, had sailed for six hours on his houseboat to receive care. He brings his 68-year-old wife, daughter and two grandchildren. “I haven’t been to a doctor in two years,” says he, who complains of dizziness and pain in his left leg.
At the consultation, doctors identify a heart murmur. He is indicated for further tests and medication is prescribed for the leg pain. He is also vaccinated against flu and tetanus, Covid-19 immunizations were up to date. Finally, he also gets a dental prosthesis to be able to eat better. Her grandchildren receive medicine for worms and one of them has two viral warts removed by plastic surgeon Marcelo de Fiore de Castro Oliveira.
“We set up an operating room on the boat to perform small procedures,” explains Oliveira. “The most frequent attendances are skin lesions, infected lesions, knife wounds in the exercise of the activity and small skin tumors”.
On the fourth day of the expedition, the Doctors of Water disembark in the town of Ariquemes. The farmer and mother of five girls and a boy, Luana Prado de Oliveira, 30, complains of severe headaches and cramps. She is also worried about her 15-year-old daughter who has stomach pains. Even so, she had the strength to wear the best clothes on her and her children, and put on makeup to go to the service line where another two hundred people were waiting. “We get excited and get dressed, it’s an event, to welcome people”, she says with a smile on her face.
For the mother, specialists deliver pain medication. For the 15-year-old daughter, a medication for worms. It is also identified that she is not eating properly and receives guidance.
Luana remembers when she, her husband and eldest daughter fell ill with Covid-19 and were left without care. From Ariquemes to Manaus it takes at least three days to travel. “I almost died,” she says.
Luana’s family lives in a wooden house without walls, supported only by beams and a roof. Cooking with firewood on the ground, parts of a tapir, recently hunted, are prepared. The shack, also made of wood, where the community’s electricity generator is installed, which has been broken for months, becomes his daughters’ dormitory with hammocks.
“I am happy because because we live in this small country, it is very difficult, right, but thank God, we are healthier here, because in the city it is very dangerous for children due to banditry, drugs and prostitution”.
On the sixth day of the expedition, while navigating the Acari River, Rosana Richtmann is surprised by an emergency when she takes a speedboat, coupled to the Doutores das Águas boat, to get fish for dinner. A person can explain, through signs and gestures, that he has been bitten by a spider. “It’s impossible for him to get service anywhere else,” says Richtmann. “That thing we say: at the right time, in the right place. I went to get the fish, I never imagined that I would find a patient in need of some urgent care”.
The riverside dweller is taken to the doctor’s office inside the Doctors das Águas boat and receives an injectable medication to relieve the pain and stop the repercussion of the bite. The report took him back by speedboat and in exchange received from the riverside people a huge bucket of fish in gratitude.
At the end of the expedition, the Doutores das Águas performed 820 medical consultations, 796 dental consultations, delivered 122 prostheses and vaccinated 448 people, more than half with doses against Covid-19.
“Every time we hear a riverside man who speaks from the heart, you really feel that he speaks from the heart, that if it is not our presence here, they have nothing, they have no assistance, and that God who sent the people here, that pays for any trip”, says Richtmann.
Source: CNN Brasil