SANTA CLARITA – Some people complain about a 45-minute wait to see a doctor at an urgent-care center. But a team of doctors and nurses who performed 67 corrective surgeries in a recent weeklong trip to Santa Clarita’s sister city in Ecuador heard no such complaints from patients or their extended-family entourages. “We need to really ask where the families were coming from,” said Jennifer Ard, a nurse at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. “One (family) came from an island where they had to walk two to three hours to (reach) a ferry. Across the river, they walked three to four hours, then got on a bus eight hours to Tena.” Ard said they kept the child in the hospital, postponing the discharge to delay the demanding trek home. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWhy these photogenic dumplings are popping up in Los AngelesDuring the May trip to Tena, a city of about 20,000 in the Amazon rain forest, surgeons corrected cleft lip and palate deformities for children in outlying villages. Three surgeons, including a pediatric reconstructive surgeon, three anesthesiologists and four nurses volunteered for the mission, paid their own way and brought along medicines they had bought. The team worked nonstop 14 to 16 hours a day in two surgery rooms. Some operations lasted 30 minutes, while others took up to five hours. The operations, performed for free, would have cost $5,000 to $10,000 each in the United States, said Amparo Cevallos, co-pastor with her husband, Guillermo, at Centro de Amor Cristiano Church in Newhall. Cevallos helped square the logistics. About 110 patients, ages 3 to 17, are on a waiting list for corrective procedures. Cevallos plans to return to Tena late this month to lay the groundwork for a third mission. She will prevail on hospital directors to donate a week’s worth of surgery rooms so doctors can perform cleft palate and lip surgeries, and eye surgeries for cross-eye, cataracts and, possibly, corneal transplants. The facial disfigurements can be more than skin deep, leading to speech and eating problems. Tissue donations are being sought from U.S. tissue banks for the corneal procedures. Cevallos hopes to raise $4,000 to $5,000 to help defray costs. An Ecuadorian doctor helped streamline the process before the American doctors hit the ground, by alerting denizens of the mission. Tena’s mayor provided lodging and meals for the team out of gratitude. Some villagers speak Spanish, others speak a local dialect, Quecha. Cevallos’ job registering patients involved more than deftly wielding a clipboard and uttering, “Next.” “None of these patients really have addresses or contacts,” Ard said. “You get `two blocks from the church,’ `one block away from the greenhouse with the chicken.’ There is usually no phone, and if there is one it is in town.” The villagers may have up to 18 names, and most are not literate, she said. And they are not fluent in medical-speak. “It’s all about symptomology,” Ard said. “Here, you go to a doctor with a predisposed idea of what’s wrong with you.” Ard delivered post-operative instructions in English to Cevallos, who would translate them into Spanish to villagers who translated for others into Quecha. She said the risk of complications from the surgeries is high, but none resulted in a “bad outcome.” The hospital lobby looked like Grand Central Station at rush hour, with patients’ parents, siblings, uncles, aunts and grandparents tagging along – “whoever lives in the house,” Ard said. It was the maiden trip for anesthesiologist Marla Matar, from Childrens Hospital. Via e-mail this week, Matar said supplies that would never be reused in America were used over and over, and the anesthesia machines that were well behind industry standards here forced her to be resourceful. No matter. “It was wonderful providing care to people who have next to nothing,” she said. “I donated my time, lost two weeks of salary, paid for my trip and much of my own expenses … and got tremendously more in return. “I would do it again in a heartbeat.” firstname.lastname@example.org (661) 257-5255160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!