Tours of compassion

North High graduate travels to identify medical needs

North High graduate travels to identify medical needs

March 23, 2007|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - Struggling to walk miles to the nearest hospital, while suffering from a painful, life-threatening illness. Most Americans can't imagine it, said Ben Lloyd, of Hagerstown.

But while in Peru, Lloyd met a woman who suffered from acute appendicitis. Living in a remote village meant that she would have to walk miles for treatment.

"She could walk to the hospital, or die," Lloyd said.

Lloyd was in Peru for a week to study the country's medical limitations and needs. It was the second trip of its kind the 20-year-old has taken this year.

Lloyd is majoring in biology at the University of Richmond (Va.), where he is a pre-med student. He is a 2004 graduate of North Hagerstown High School, where he was the class valedictorian.


During his freshman year at the university, Lloyd said he began researching with a faculty member a bacteria primarily found in contaminated water. He said he enjoyed learning about the potentially deadly bacteria, but it was after reading "Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World" by Tracy Kidder, that he wanted to meet the people affected.

The book follows Farmer's medical work in Peru, Haiti and Russia.

"I thought I really need to see the area," Lloyd said. "I want to see Haiti."

In February, he got his chance through a trip hosted by Saint Ann Catholic Church in Hagerstown. His mother, Barbara Lloyd, went with him to Haiti for a week, along with three other parishioners.

"I really fell in love with the science of infectious disease," he said. "But going there, and seeing the people, it makes it real. I got a feel for what the people need, what their lives are like."

What they need is a little bit of everything, Lloyd said.

They need antibiotics, hospital care and trained medical professionals. For the most part, the people suffered from treatable illnesses, but the medicine available there treated only symptoms.

Sick people might be offered cough syrup he said to treat a respiratory infection, which was one of the more common illnesses he saw there.

"You almost felt helpless," Lloyd said.

When he returned from Haiti, he made several presentations about what he learned, and in early March, Lloyd and several fellow students at the University of Richmond traveled to Peru. They wanted to, again, study what the people there needed and how their medical care could improve.

He said they desperately need an ambulance service to take people from rural villages to the nearest hospital. He hopes to raise enough money to make that happen in Peru.

While learning about their medical needs, Lloyd said he also learned a lot about the people.

"I was impressed and amazed at the generosity of the people," he said. "People who had so little to begin with were sharing with us. I really feel like I left a part of myself in Haiti."

Lloyd said he hopes to make traveling to countries like Haiti and Peru a part of his life, and is looking to perhaps go to Africa.

The Herald-Mail Articles