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Documentary highlights medical mission

CARLSBAD — The Carlsbad Village Theatre rolled out the red carpet for a sold out documentary premiere titled “33in3” on Aug. 12. Viewers captured first world medicine for medical efforts in the third world country of Nicaragua.In only three days, Med4Nicaragua, a San Diego County based medical team, performed 33 surgical procedures at the El Samaritano Clinic in Managua back in April.

Med4Nicaragua netted the attention of San Diego based media company, Man’s Best Media (MBM).

Loghan Call, a Carlsbad resident and founder of MBM, knew the filming opportunity was a perfect fit. With a background in media and broadcasting, he switched gears with a documentary. And “33in3” is his official debut.

“I wanted to focus more on projects that I had an interest in creating and being a part of rather than being handed assignments in broadcast and news,” said Call, 22.

Call was a one-man crew in Managua. He filmed pre- and post- interviews with the medical team, appreciative Nicaraguans who received medical attention, and footage inside the operating rooms. For viewers, it was an indelible visual journey.

Dr. Christine Brody, an obstetrics and gynecology physician employed by Scripps Coastal Medical Center, was one of the surgeons at El Samaritano Clinic. A Carlsbad resident, she is also the co-founder of Med4Nicaraugua.

“‘33in3’ is very special and unique in that very few people get a glimpse into the world of surgery in the operating room,” Brody said. “It’s my hope that ‘33in3’ will give some insight into what the country and people of Nicaragua are like and what a team of medical and nonmedical volunteers can do when they have the heart and desire to make a difference in the lives of others.”

The surgeries performed ranged from laparoscopic ovarian cyst removals, laparoscopic gallbladder removal, hernia repairs, female sterilization, endometrial ablation, a bi-lateral mastectomy, and minor surgeries. There were only two surgeons.

Adam Fierer, general surgeon from Scripps Encinitas Memorial Hospital and Tri-City Medical Center, was the other.

A couple days before their jet left the tarmac to Nicaragua, no patients were signed up. But that number quickly changed.

“On the first day, when we drove up, we didn’t know if there would be anyone waiting for us,” Brody said. And when we came around the corner, we saw about 75 people waiting in line — we couldn’t believe it.”

At 7 a.m., the medical team sprung into triage action. The first surgery started two hours later. Within three days, the medical team clocked in nearly 40 hours; the days were long.

The majority of the team was from San Diego County; and for many, it was a life changing and eye-opening experience.

El Samaritano Clinic did not have the surgical equipment Med4Nicarugua needed. So, it all came from San Diego.
Med4Nicaragua’s other co-founder, Valishia Savage, serves as team coordinator. Savage, also of Carlsbad, said the 22-person medical team brought a carry-on with clothes, and checked in two large suitcases each packed with medical equipment.

Med4Nicaragua was born in 2010 after Savage and Brody met each other on a nonmedical mission trip to Casa Bernabe Orphanage in Managua. Both were roommates and became fast friends.

While there, they visited El Samaritano Clinic, a facility which invites surgical mission teams to provide care. Savage, whose first language is Spanish, was Brody’s translator when they visited the clinic.

“In Nicaragua, I saw the absolute poverty and need for medical care,” Brody said.

Next, was figuring how to execute a medical mission.

“I’m more of the dreamer and Christine is more of the brains,” Savage said. “I said to her, ‘You tell me you want to come back and we’ll come back and do it.’” And they did.

A few months later, they returned with a four-team scout mission trip and performed seven surgeries. Savage came up with the idea to have someone film their 2011 medical mission.

“I couldn’t think of a better way to show people the need in Nicaragua and to show them the feelings behind it and the gratitude that these people have in that country,” she said.

Supporters also see where their generosity has gone.

The expense of the 2011 medical trip, Savage said, was around $40,000 to $50,000. Yet, over $100,000 of medical supplies were donated by Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas and Tri-City Medical Center.

Plans for an April 2012 medical mission are already underway.

“When life is over, the thing that counts the most is what we do for other people,” Savage said.
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