by Sevak Hakobyan

When asked to reveal her secret to longevity, Grandma Zemfira lists a number of exotic-sounding herbs and vegetables. At 78, she still works every day, going to the fields and working the land.

“The young ones joke that I’m healthier than them,” she says. “Well, I can’t just sit idly at home. Then who will take care of my plants?”

Zemfira Yeghiazaryan was born in Voskepar and married in Voskevan. Both are villages in Armenia’s Tavush Region. She has been a farmer her entire adult life. Today, she complains of two things: chronic leg pain and memory loss, although she can perfectly remember each of her four grandchildren’s courses of study.

“My son has three girls and a boy,” she says. “The boy is a high-school senior, while the girls are all university students. The youngest will soon graduate from the art department, the middle girl is a special-education teacher working on her master’s degree, and the oldest is studying English.”

Grandma Zemfira’s son has gone abroad for seasonal work, as jobs are hard to come by in their border village. The sounds of sniper fire from the other side of the border are a constant reality here, but Mrs. Zemfira says jokingly that residents have long gotten used to them, to the point that they they’re taken aback whenever the gunshots stop. Mrs. Zemfira lives in the village with her daughter-in-law and grandson.

“We have an old, Soviet-era car,” Mrs. Zemfira says. “My grandson drives me to the fields every day. I used to walk there, but now my health won’t allow it. It’s thanks to the fruits and vegetables I raise that I’m able to send money to my grandchildren in Yerevan. It’s not easy to support three university students in the capital.”

Grandma Zemfira’s pension totals a little over $100 a month — which means she cannot possibly afford the medical care she needs. Fortunately, for the second year in a row, she was treated at Noyemberyan Hospital in the fall of 2018, by physicians from Adventist Health.

As part of the fourth medical mission to Noyemberyan since 2015, organized and implemented jointly by Armenia Fund and Adventist Health, the volunteer physicians from the US provided an extensive range of free medical services — including primary and specialty care, various tests and screenings, and surgeries — to close to 2,650 patients from throughout the Tavush and Lori regions. As significantly, the week-long mission continued to build the technical and professional capacities of Noyemberyan Hospital, as the volunteer doctors from Adventist Health provided their local colleagues with extensive training in the very latest medical techniques and methodologies, while Armenia Fund provided the hospital with large quantities of medical equipment, supplies, and pharmaceuticals donated by Adventist Health.

Also during the mission, the volunteer doctors from the US administered a total of 550 joint injections. Mrs. Zemfira was among the patients who received such an injection.

“I’ve suffered from leg pain for years,” she says. “What I didn’t know was that the pain goes away right after an injection. Had I known this, I would’ve gone in for treatment earlier. I got my first injection in 2017, at Noyemberyan Hospital, thanks to the doctors from America. I was pain-free for the next six months. And this year, after I heard that the volunteer doctors were coming back to Noyemberyan, I made sure to get an injection again.” She adds with a smile, “It was even better this time around: the injection didn’t hurt at all.”

Grandma Zemfira was driven from Voskevan to Noyemberyan by her neighbor’s son. Her grandson doesn’t have a driver’s license yet, so he doesn’t take the car outside the village. Besides, the young man is busy with his studies. In the footsteps of his sisters, he plans on going to college in Yerevan. Meanwhile, Mrs. Zemfira and her grandchildren can’t wait till it’s winter. That’s when her son will be back from abroad, and, as in years past, the whole family will gather around the fireplace of their ancestral home. Grandma Zemfira says she will be delighted to tell her son and grandchildren about the wonderful doctors from America, who help restore her health year after year.

“God willing,” she says, “even if I don’t feel the slightest pain next year, I will still come to the hospital, to see our volunteer doctors and give them my blessings.”

HELP US EXPAND OUR MEDICAL MISSIONS TO THE HOMELAND: With your generous support today, Armenia Fund will be able to expand the scope of its medical missions to Armenia and Artsakh, with the twin goals of elevating the technical and professional capabilities of medical centers, and providing high-quality care to economically vulnerable communities.

Photo Credit: Areg Balayan