Naomie Bellows in Peru.

Naomie Bellows, an Ellenton resident and respiratory therapist at St. Joseph’s Hospital-South in Riverview, went on a two-week mission trip in June to provide health care services to an underserved community in the Peruvian city of Chulucanas.

Bellows went on her own time and expense as part of Global Health Volunteers, a program BayCare participates in that is organized by Trinity Health, a not-for-profit Catholic health system.

Bellows was among 30 volunteers from across the country, including doctors, who provided services such as wound care, well-care visits, medication dispensing and assessments for surgery. She and a nurse from St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa were the BayCare contingent on the trip. The volunteers saw about 150 patients daily, ages ranging from infants to 100 years old. Bellows did some breathing treatments, but she was mostly involved with administering laboratory tests. Bellows, who speaks some Spanish, was assisted by interpreters in her work.

“All the patients lived in different levels of poverty, but none of them had easy access to doctors,” she said. “Some had never seen a doctor before, and others had seen doctors but not in years. Some knew they had blood pressure or diabetes and knew they needed medication. They were very grateful for us being there.”

This was her second mission trip through BayCare with Global Health Volunteers, the first being a mission to Haiti in 2018. She’s also done a Habitat for Humanity mission trip to Botswana.

Bellows summarized her 2022 Peru trip:

“Our goal was to provide basic medical care to the poor and underserved people of that region of Peru. Because of the pandemic, many mission teams had not reached patients in years and many were in desperate need of care or of simple reassurance that everything was OK with them and their loved ones.”

“Even though the care we provided was so essential to our patients, I feel that what I received from them was even greater. The people of this area have so little. Many have ailments that cannot be treated by a simple visit, yet they came to us every day with huge smiles on their faces and remained grateful for everything we did. Their resourcefulness and resilience is astounding. I am beyond grateful to our patients that have shared their culture with me and showed me how rich a life can be even with so little.”

And how did Bellows’ family, her husband and four kids, feel about her leaving them for two weeks in the summer?

“It wasn’t easy for them, but they were very supportive,” Bellows said.

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