The day Rotarians saved my exchange

Geddes and the GSE team in Colombia

Ian Geddes (back row fifth from left), members of the exchange team, and their Colombian hosts.

By Ian W. Geddes, past governor of District 1020 (Scotland)

I have many Rotary stories to tell, but this one happened in Colombia. I was chosen by my district to lead a Group Study Exchange team to Bogota. As a Spanish teacher in Scotland, my dream had long been to travel to South America. Having been chosen as leader and then having negotiated a sabbatical from my school, my team and I finally set off for Colombia.

One week into the trip, the day after we had visited the fabled El Dorado, I fell ill. At first I thought it was just altitude sickness as we traveled along the Andes at 11,000 feet above sea-level. But no, it turned out to be appendicitis.

Geddes in spa recovering

Geddes recovering from the appendectomy.

As the surgeon went off to prepare for the operation, I broke down completely. End of dream – three to four weeks convalescence instead of exploring Colombia. Just then the wife of the district governor walked in and said she would arrange to get me back to Bogota – some four hours away – where I would get keyhole (minimally invasive) surgery and be back on my feet in days instead of weeks.

When we arrived at 11 p.m. at the hospital there were a lot of Rotarians there – my host, the Colombian GSE team leader, his wife who had been a doctor in the hospital. They were all waiting for me and they were busy networking to get me the best and quickest help available.

A fellow training leader whom I had met some months earlier at Rotary’s annual training event in San Diego, USA, was a consultant at the hospital. I stood up from the wheelchair and we hugged and said hello. He then slid his hand along my waist as I searched my brain for the right words in Spanish to ask him if this was some quaint Colombian greeting. But he simply replied that as a doctor he was checking for peritonitis! That then for me was when vocation, fellowship, networking, service above self and dare I say, love, all came together.

Some people leave their heart in San Francisco – I left my appendix in Bogota!

Learn more about global grant funded vocational training teams


4 thoughts on “The day Rotarians saved my exchange

  1. I led a GSE from Colo/Wyoming to Brasil in 1998 and also had many adventures. Rotarians did all they could to accommodate our team, including providing sympathy when my mother passed awayin the States a week into the 6 week exchange
    Many friends later and over 20 Rotary grant projects completed between our Districts, we still maintain communication and Christmas cards.
    Rotary is an excellent way to change the world in surprisingly wonderful ways.


  2. Pingback: The day Rotarians saved my exchange | The Rotary Club of Carteret

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