“The Flying Hospital”, an L-1011 wide body jet transformed into a medical care facility, visited Ecuador on a medical mission of mercy for three weeks in February.
It was the fifth overseas mission for the Flying Hospital, a self-contained, fully equipped outpatient medical facility built and operated by Operation Blessing International, a Christian humanitarian organization providing, “relief to individuals around the world who have neither access to, nor the ability to pay for primary medical attention”.
The retrofitted jet includes a surgical area with three operating stations, two dental stations, a minor surgery station, a pre- and post-op recovery area for 12 patients, x-ray and laboratory equipment and a seating section for 67 people that doubles as a classroom.
After arriving in the recently flooded coastal city of Guayaquil, the 140-member team, which included 28 doctors and 7 dentists, worked closely with the interim First Lady of Ecuador, Lucia Peña de Alaarcon. She is president of INNSA, Ecuador’s National Institute of Children and Family, the cosponsor of the Flying Hospital’s mission to Ecuador.
In addition to other services rendered during the two week stay, five ophthalmologists were on hand to perform cornea transplants and treat cataract patients. Eyeglasses were given away. A reconstructive surgeon worked on cleft palates and burn victims. And orthopedic surgeons were available to reset bones and treat disease. The team planned to set up a pediatric care wing at a local hospital and put on puppet shows for the children there.
A second wave of ten doctors arrived the final week to conduct a 5-day trauma symposium with Ecuador’s health professionals. Educational seminars have consistently been a part of the goal of OBI missions.
The first four Flying Hospital missions in 1996 & 1997 to El Salvador, Panama, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan had multi-national medical teams with professionals from the U.S., El Salvador, Canada, Belarus, Argentina, and Norway treating more than 22,000 people. 852 surgeries were performed aboard the aircraft and in designated local facilities.
Operation Blessing International is a non-profit volunteer organization founded in 1978 by religious broadcaster, Pat Robertson. He began envisioning the idea for the plane in the early 1990’s. After an investment of 25 million dollars to purchase and transform the aircraft, the Flying Hospital was christened in 1996 in a ceremony with former President George Bush. Robertson planned to be in Ecuador to participate in the mission, the cost of which was approximately one million dollars.
OBI is working to reach agreements to send similar teams on missions to Brazil and India, later in 1998.