A few years ago…well, more than a few now that I think about it…I decided that if this story I was writing was going to capture the flavor of the Peruvian Amazon, then I needed to go there. With a medical team. For seventeen bug-filled days. Throughout the seventeen hour flight I kept wondering what the hell I’d gotten myself into. I didn’t know a soul and, as it turned out, I was the old lady of the group of wide-eyed medical students, a couple Peruvian docs, and Patty Webster – the formidable woman who makes Amazon Promise a reality. Oh, and did I mention that my vast knowledge of Spanish ranges from ordering a taco and a beer and asking where is the bathroom? That’s it.
I learned, though. Since I’m not a doc, it was my job to do intake – meaning that I write down a person’s ailments. Everyone kept saying “bitches.” WTH? Bitches? Why, I beg your pardon.
Ohh…beechos…that’s something else. Parasites. I blanched. Uh, parasites? As in-the-belly-bugwormie things? How would I ever survive seventeen days of Amazon showers that consist of drenching one’s carcass in Deet?
But Patty made it all happen, and made it a hell of a lot of fun. Exhausting, to be sure. But fun. And life-altering. To say she is amazing is to say that Twinkies need to be their own food group. For twenty years, Patty has been in the Amazon helping a forgotten people – throwaways is what I called them in my book – people who no one cares anything about. The things I saw put my fertile imagination to shame, and I came back from that experience far richer and carrying a whole different perspective about a lot of things.
At any rate, Patty has been named CNN Hero of the Week . Quite an incredible woman, and I couldn’t be happier for her if I were twins. Way to go, Patty!