Lubbock, TX (KCBD) - One group of heroes save lives in hospitals here on the South Plains each day, but it is their volunteer medical work in Africa that the American Red Cross is honoring them for this year.
The volunteers with Purpose Medical Mission say helping people is what they do every day and really do not want to be in the spotlight. But, helping people in the poor country of Cameroon would not be possible without the support of the South Plains.
"To think God had a bigger purpose for my life," explained Sixtus Atabong, P.A. He left his impoverished home of Muyuka, a small village in the African country of Cameroon almost 14 years ago. He had no way of knowing then, the impact he and his team would one day make.
Sixtus' father was diagnosed with diabetes and due to complications had one of this legs amputated. The procedure was devastating for his father, a farmer in the village. "It's time, you need to do something and stop procrastinating," Atabong told himself. "There is nothing better or bigger than the gift of life or health and if I have that then I need to pass it along."
"From day one when Sixtus mentioned the idea I was on board," said Sammy Deeb, M.D.
His dreams of opening a small clinic to help farmers like his father were overshadowed by even bigger ambitions of building a hospital. His colleagues were inspired.
In 2008, Purpose Medical Mission was started, a group with a mission dedicated to improving the quality of life by building sustainable healthcare infrastructure in Southwest Province of Cameroon. With no electricity or running water, patients in Muyuka who wanted to see a nurse or a doctor would have to travel almost 50 miles.
"When we started 3 years ago there was nothing," said Atabong. Not only has the team touched the lives of thousands of people, but the group – thanks to donations – has almost pumped close to $1 million worth of supplies and medical infrastructure into the community.
"There is always a way that something happens and it is because of this community," said Richard George, M.D. who sits on the mission's board.
The most ambitious idea so far was to build the Healing Touch Hospital the missing link, an operating room. "What we have now is a full functioning hospital," said Atabong.
In just six months, local volunteers built the operating room in containers on Lubbock Christian University's campus. After the containers arrived in Africa and cleared customs, it took the team 36 hours to set the operating room up. In July, the medical staff performed the first of many surgeries to come.
"It's not just us going over there and coming back as we speak there are patients being seen in Cameroon," said Atabong.
"When I sit back and look at my life this will be one of the greater accomplishments," said Dr. George.
"It dawned on me one of these kids could be another Sixtus sometime in the future," said Dr. Burke.
The average Cameroonian only lives 46 years, something the volunteers hope their efforts change.
The health minister for the region wants to start rotating Cameroonian medical residents through the Healing Touch Hospital that the group started.
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