São Paulo Rotarians help American family in need
Samantha Buzbee (left) and her mother Carol on Samantha's 18th birthday. Rotarians in São Paulo, Brazil, came to the Buzbees' aid when Samantha came down with a serious case of pneumonia. Photo courtesy Portrait Innovations
Carol Buzbee didn't know a soul in São Paulo, Brazil, when she arrived by medevac flight with her daughter, stricken by an unknown illness while volunteering with an international charity.
Buzbee had no Brazilian currency, no visa, no luggage -- and she couldn't speak a word of Portuguese.
After 48 hours alone in the hospital by her daughter Samantha's bedside, she was stunned when she received a telephone call from Rotarian Victor M. Esteves de Moraes, of the Rotary Club of São Paulo, offering to help her in any way he could.
"Victor came to the hospital that night and handed me Brazilian money. He took my dirty clothes home to his house to be washed," recalls Carol.
Samantha had been volunteering with Amigos de las Americas in Paraguay when she became ill. Local doctors were initially unable to diagnose her illness, and her condition worsened. Shortly after her mother was flown in from their home in Mantua, Ohio, USA, Samantha was transferred to Albert Einstein hospital in São Paulo.
Moraes and his wife and children welcomed Carol into their home when the hospital told her she could no longer spend the night in her daughter's room.
"Once I knew someone needed help and it was in my reach to do it, I had to do it. Period," says Moraes.
Dulce Mara Romanin, District 4610 grants subcommittee chairperson, also stepped in, offering to take Carol out to lunch and to buy clothes and supplies.
"She looked at me and said, 'Just think of me as an old best friend. Ask me anything; tell me anything,'" says Carol of Romanin.
Romanin and Moraes learned of the Buzbees' predicament after Samantha's grandmother, Phyllis Boldon, contacted the Rotary Club of Mantua on the chance that someone involved with Rotary might be able to help. Pearl Austin, president of the club, sent an e-mail to four district governors in São Paulo.
Austin also tracked down a Youth Exchange host family in Ohio that had students from the São Paulo area. The students called their parents, who found an English-speaking doctor to visit the Buzbees in the hospital and reassure them.
Samantha was eventually diagnosed with bacterial pneumonia. Once she was on the correct antibiotics and her condition improved, she was discharged, and the Buzbees returned home.
Carol, Samantha, and Phyllis visited the Mantua club to express their thanks.
"I did so little," says Austin. "It was the Rotarians in Brazil who came through so beautifully."