Talk about a morning commute: 82-year-old woman makes three day round trip to sick patients on remote island
An incredible doctor who travels for 72 hours by BOAT to care for her patients has refused to hang up her stethoscope despite being 82 years old.
Doctor Joana Ramos da Rocha has been doing the same three-day round trip to four islands off the north east coast of Brazil, every month, for the last 43 years.
The sprightly pensioner sets up her clinic at local schools on the archipelago islets and sees more than 300 patients during her visits.
Some of the islands are so remote that residents must climb up trees to receive a mobile phone signal and only have electricity for four hours a day.
In many of the villages, horse and cart remains a regular mode of transport.
Without the energetic physician, the isolated islanders would fail to receive adequate medical care.
Dr Rocha said: “Age is no barrier for those who are willing to work, even if the work requires a lot of physical effort and is risky.
“I love the challenge and I’m never afraid when I travel.
“Since I started, quite a few doctors have come and gone. They say it’s too hard, because it also involves travelling to the other islands in canoes.
“Once they’ve experienced a bit of sea sickness they refuse to come back.”
Dr Rocha, who trained as an obstetrician and still practises at three hospitals on the mainland, is godmother to hundreds of children delivered with her help.
She also acts as a counsellor, and some locals call her the ‘Patron Saint’ of the island communities.
Every month the tireless mother of one packs her doctors bag with basic medical essentials including a blood pressure monitor, thermometer, several specimen bottles and packets of painkillers.
At 6am she takes a small fishing vessel across treacherous waters out to the Atlantic Ocean.
She said: “If I don’t do it no one else will.
“These islands are my home, my people and my roots.
“My ancestors lived and worked in these communities and I have to take care of their offspring.
“Every month hundreds of people depend on me to sort out their medical problems and check they are still in good health.
“To me practising medicine is like being ordained as a priest, it’s a calling and a commitment.”
One of her adoring patients Ribamar Jose Reis, 87, said: “I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for Dr Joana.
“Some years ago, I kept feeling peculiar on and off for a few days.
“Dr Joana arrived on one of her regular visits and immediately diagnosed that I was having a stroke.
“She arranged for me to be transferred quickly to a mainland hospital and that saved my life.”
When asked how long she intends to keep going, Dr Rocha revealed her great grandmother lived until the incredible age of 116.
She said: “I don’t feel tired. So if I live that long, I plan to still be doing my rounds.”