by Sevak Hakobyan

For a whole year, Gayane Mkhitaryan has wondered how she could express her gratitude to her doctors from Adventist Health Glendale. “Had I written them a note in Armenian, they might’ve not been able to read it; and my English is not strong enough to communicate my thoughts fully,” she recalls. So Gayane, who is a resident of Koghb, a village in the Tavush Region, eventually decided to convey her thanks in person, when the doctors returned to Noyemberyan in 2017.

Gayane, 59, has been suffering from severe joint pain for the past ten years. She has been treated in Yerevan a few times, but it’s very hard for her to make regular trips to the capital. She lives with her husband. As for her two daughters, they have moved to Yerevan. An economist by training, Gayane used to work in sales. However, as she was unable to get a job following Armenia’s independence, she went into farming. She confesses that economics wasn’t quite her thing.

“I love cultivating the orchard,” she says. “I’ve also received farm-management training from the Fruitful Armenia Fund, but the pain in my legs makes it difficult for me to work.” Everyone benefits from the bounty of her orchard. She rarely sells its harvest, instead distributing it among neighbors and friends.

Gayane also loves physical exercise. She takes long walks, up to 4.5 miles a day, keeping track of her progress with the help of an app on her smartphone. But recently she has been in too much pain to maintain an active lifestyle or tend her orchard. Still, she doesn’t like to complain, and does her utmost to hide her health complaints from her children, so as to spare them the anguish.

“My daughters are always there for me,” she says. “Although they have their own worries and problems to deal with, they put everything aside when it comes to me. Still, psychologically speaking, it’s hard for a parent to be depending on her children.”

Gayane is delighted that doctors from Adventist Health Glendale (AHG) are providing free healthcare to Tavush residents, as part of the third medical mission to the Noyemberyan Hospital, organized jointly by Armenia Fund and AHG. During the 2016 mission, doctors had given Gayane a shot, which had almost completely relieved her arthritis pain. She’s hopeful that this year, too, she will feel much better after her treatment, and be able to look after her fruit trees.

Gayane says the significance of the Armenia Fund-AHG medical mission goes beyond bringing the gift of health to Tavush. “Armenia Fund is bringing color to our black-and-white lives,” she says. “You know, we wait 365 days for the doctors from America to come and not just heal us, but spend time with us as our dear friends.”

It’s why she’s a bit saddened that members of the mission team have not been able to accept her invitations to her orchard. But she realizes, of course, that their time is extremely valuable.

“There are hundreds of people like me who need the services of these wonderful doctors and nurses, so I completely understand that they don’t have time for a social call,” says Gayane and rushes home, in anticipation of tending her orchard and perhaps setting a new walk record with the help of her app.

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Photo Credit: Areg Balayan