Meet My Brazilian Friends: Roads I Have Traveled ... Transition Journal

The next time I flew into Sao Paulo, Sostenez and his wife Miriam met me at the airport. They brought along with them the medical student, Lorena. She was a real winner, and for the rest of the many times I visited Brazil, Lorena translated for me. Little did I know at that time the importance and providence of that meeting at the airport in Sao Paulo. 

Lorena was from a medical family. They had moved to Brazil from Chile during the repressive regime of Pinochet. Lorena’s mother, Natalia, was one of the best known gynecologists in the whole Sao Paulo area. Her sister, Natasha, was a dentist, and Paulo, Lorena’s fiancé, was a doctor already well known for his outstanding work in infectious diseases. I was totally surrounded by medical people. They would invite me to go to their church with them and then would insist that I come to their home for Sunday dinner. Following dinner, I would be expected to accompany them on their hospital rounds. I got a real introduction to Brazil’s health-care system. 

At times they would insist that I join them as they visited the poorest of the poor favelas, or shantytowns, to perform free medical service to the desperate dwellers. It was so dangerous in some of the favelas that the police or military would not even enter the areas. Then, the family would tell me how every October they would fly in small airplanes into the remote villages of the Amazon region and perform free clinics for the native people, who would have an opportunity to see a doctor only once a year. I began to truly admire the members of the family and all the acts of goodness in which they were involved. 

I was fully engaged with my economic consulting work with President Jose Sarney and his chief economist, Antonio Bacelar on our plan that came to be known as the “Libra Proposal.” I was also becoming extremely sensitized to the urgent need in the Lesser Developed Countries for someone to go and help them with their health-care delivery systems. Even just the simplest of medical help was not available to millions of poor, but good, people. 

NOTE: Lorena and her family became a strategic keystone to what would eventually become Project C.U.R.E. (Commission on Urgent Relief and Equipment), the largest handler of donated medical supplies and pieces of medical equipment in the world. Over the years Anna Marie and I totally adopted Lorena and her family. We told our sons, Douglas and Jay,that Lorena and Paulo were as close as they would ever get to having a brother and sister. Eventually, I began working directly with the two medical universities in Sao Paulo state where Lorena and Paulo were affiliated. We visited them many times and had them come to our home in Colorado. In recent years Paulo and Lorena even came to the mountains of Colorado with their teen-age sons to spend Christmas with us in our home on the creek. We also brought them from Brazil to Colorado to meet all our friends when we celebrated the launching of my book The Happiest Man in the World. 

Over the ensuing years Lorena and Paulo have become very influential medical doctors in Brazil. Lorena and her mother, Dr. Natalia, now have their own successful medical clinic. Paulo is highly decorated as a researcher and professor at the university in the areas of dermatology and infectious diseases. Little did we know what God had in store for us when Sostenez and Miriam introduced me to Lorena at the Sao Paulo airport that day in 1987. 

© Dr. James W. Jackson   

Permissions granted by Winston-Crown Publishing House