News>Feature - Everyone has a story: Capt. Rebecca Bush visits Huancavelica
A Peruvian boy gives a thumbs up after surgery at an Expeditionary Medical Support mobile field hospital in Huancavelica, Peru, July 2, 2012, during New Horizons 2012. New Horizons is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored annual series of joint humanitarian assistance exercises deploying U.S. military engineers, veterinarians, medics and other professions to Central and South American nations for training, construction projects and to provide humanitarian and medical services. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Michael C. Zimmerman/Released)
by Senior Airman Jarad A. Denton
633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs
9/18/2012 - LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. -- This story is part of the 2012 Joint Base Langley-Eustis fall series, highlighting individuals with interesting stories.
Capt. Rebecca Bush watched as the message was passed from the U.S. Air Force doctor, through two translators, before reaching a woman who waited patiently with her sister inside a tent that served as a makeshift hospital at Huancavelica, Peru.
The final translator dropped the proverbial bombshell in Quechua, the native language of the woman.
"You have cancer."
The woman's eyes began to tear as the doctor further explained that her stomach pain was due to pancreatic cancer, which had spread throughout her body. She only had weeks to live.
"Thank you," the woman said, earnestly, before leaving the hospital with her sister - their eyes filled with tears.
Bush, who normally works with the 633rd Inpatient Operations Squadron as a neo-natal intensive care nurse, shook her head sadly as she remembered this woman.
"I never saw her again," Bush said. "It makes you wonder what happens to these people after they leave."
While on a five-week medical mission to Peru, the Texas-native worked in the emergency room, helping treat local residents who came to the hospital tent in need of medical care.
"I was very much out of my comfort zone," she said. "But I loved every second of it."
The mission was part of "New Horizons 2012," a joint medical and civil engineering assistance exercise which ran from June 4 to Aug. 31, 2012. According to the U.S. Embassy of Lima, Peru, the mission Bush took part in at Huancavelica provided free medical and surgical procedures for more than 7,000 people.
"They were so appreciative," Bush said. "It made me realize how much we take for granted here."
Children from a local orphanage came to the hospital one day for routine checkups. Bush said they would repeat the same phrase over-and-over. Finally, she asked a translator what they were all saying.
"Don't forget us," he said.
With that in mind, Bush walked through the tent and noticed a young boy, another member of the orphanage, staring at her. She walked over and said hello, but he didn't speak English and there were no translators nearby. Instead of talking, the boy showed Bush why he had been staring. On a plain piece of paper he had drawn Bush, smiling in her uniform.
"We were like movie stars," she said.
Bush said their gratitude sometimes made the differences in lifestyle and living conditions between the two cultures readily apparent.
"They work really, really hard and have nothing," Bush said. "We work really hard and it pays off - we can see our success."
Despite the hardships she saw in Peru, Bush wouldn't trade her experience in the country, or her time in the Air Force, for anything. She said her journey through Huancavelica only strengthened her own appreciation for life in America.
"I will say that the grass isn't any greener," Bush said, smiling. "It's just a different shade."