Health Talents International
Plastic/GYN surgery Trip
Feb. 5-12

Trip Participants: Surgeons: Mike Hueneke, Phillip Strawther, Dwayne Fulks, Jud Allen, Roy Kellum, Mark Kellum, Jojo Payne; Family practice: Quinton Dickerson; Pediatrician: Kathryn Farrell; Dentist: Gerard Cascio, Daniel Kellum; Dental Hytienist: Kim Harris, Deborah Watson; Respiratory Therapy: Martha Hueneke; Anesthesia: Yvette Riker, Jeff Bennie, Jon bennie, Tamara Cameron; OR Staff: Glen Berkey, Charlotte Gass, Jan Harper, Carol Holzman, Misty Vance, Steve Wilkinson; Recovery room staff: Nancy Bennie, Neva Berkey, Hannah Buzhardt, Kelsey Camp, Ann Cross, Laura Driggers, Adria Gibbs, Joy Kellum, Katie Odum, Linda Osborne, Brenda Robinson, Nancy Crooks, Sheri Kretzschmar; Nursing students: Kristen Allen, Emily Crooks, Carie Ayers, Rachael Robertson, Lindsey Mondich, Calle Pittard; Compassionate Caregivers: Ann Dickerson, Marjorie Strawther, Dee Anderson, Jerad Craid, Rita Benson, Darby kellum, Susan Kellum, Susan Payne; Sterilization: Sean Driggers, Doyle Robinson, Alfred Anderson; Team Leader: Julie Wheetley

When taking a trip to Guatemala you have to be ready for all sorts of surprises. The first surprise came when many of us arrived in Houston to find the airport tram that shuttles people from terminal to terminal not working...Houston is not set up to handle getting people from place to place when their tram’s aren’t working but Julie had been through this once before so she led a large portion of the group out of the secure area to the smaller, slower tram in the basement of the airport. The group made it to terminal E and went back through security. Most of us were just in time for our flight but those that were scheduled on the earlier flight were too late. Thankfully Continental was able to put Dr. Fulks onto our flight and allow him to arrive in Guatemala on time.

The next surprise for many team members showed up in the form of an air conditioned charter bus waiting to take us to Montellano. The luggage was loaded in a matter of minutes into the cubbies beneath the bus and we were on our way. We had a smooth ride in the charter bus and all arrived rested and ready to get to work.

When we arrived at Clinica Ezell we were greeted by many patients and their families. Shortly after unloading and getting situated the surgeons all headed down to the clinic to start seeing patients. Mrs. Nancy Bennie served as our charge nurse and held a meeting with the nurses and nursing students. She oriented them and coached them on nursing techniques and practices at Ezell. This team got to work like a well oiled machine from the very start. Having such a great number of veterans on the team really makes things go smoothly. That evening we had a short orientation time and a prayer for our week after dinner, then we said goodnight and headed off to bed.

Sunday morning started out with a flurry of activity. Alfred and Doyle were firing up the autoclaves, our OR nurses were busy getting the rooms ready for cases, anesthesia providers were double checking their equipment, and patients were preparing for surgery. When church time rolled around we crossed the street and joined the Montellano church of Christ for worship. We shared a wonderful morning with this sweet congregation and many of our patients and their families were also present. After church we made our way back to the clinic and greeted Dr. Walter and Rosario as they started off our medical practices meeting. The meeting went by quickly since all of the surgeons and anesthesia providers were veterans and Nancy had done such a great job of orienting the nurses. Soon it was time for lunch and time to head off to the OR.

While the team got busy in the OR a few of our non-medical helpers and our dental team who were free on Sunday decided to take a trip out to the cacao farm. They got to go and see the beautiful ceiba tree and the lush green forest and gardens there. They came back excited and thoroughly impressed.

Things in the OR were slow the first day in plastic surgery they had only two cases but things picked up for them drastically once Monday rolled around and they started working on the cleft lip and palate babies. The GYN surgeons helped three patients on Sunday afternoon.

Sunday evening we had a devotional time after dinner. During the devotional time a very special presentation was made to Mrs. Marjorie and Dr. Phillip Strawther in honor of Mr. Bill Strawther. A plaque was presented to them by Dr. Roy Kellum which is now hung in the sterilization room where Bill spent many hours helping scrub and sterilize instruments and imparting his wisdom. Losing a loved one like Bill is difficult but taking the time to celebrate his life and share stories and memories of him was a beautiful healing experience for all those on the team who were blessed to know him.

Monday morning we ate a quick breakfast and headed to the OR. There were six GYN cases and seven plastic cases. There were lots of mothers trying to comfort babies who couldn’t eat while awaiting surgery. One of our team members in particular spent a great deal of time loving and caring for the parents of babies while their children were in the OR. Sheri Kretzschmar, one of the HTI missionaries sat outside the OR doors with parents and prayed with them, talked with them and gave those words of encouragement that helped the hours away from their baby pass quickly. She was the face of Christ to those worried parents.

Another team member who stirred things up was Mrs. Marjorie. I was walking past a patient’s bed as she was talking to another GYN patient who had recently made it back to her bed and was recovering from her surgery. The first patient pointed at Mrs. Marjorie and said to the other “There is the nice lady who makes you dance. Now that you are operated they are going to make you get up and dance!” Dancing isn’t exactly what we were doing but the patient had the right idea, Mrs. Marjorie got those ladies out of bed and had them singing songs and walking around the recovery ward in a line! She is a true gem and a light to the patients. Dr. Katy Farrell was another great asset to the team in the mobile medical setting. She was able to go out to clinic on Monday and Tuesday and assist our full time doctors in seeing the little patients at clinic. Having a pediatrician along is a great help to our doctors because they know that whatever ails those sweet little bodies will be taken care of.

Dr. Dan Kellum and Dr. Gerard Cascio both took turns helping out in the dental clinic and going out on mobile medical clinics. They were a HUGE help to our dental team and were able to see many patients. Both of the doctors did some special training with Silvia to help her continue improving her techniques and learning more about making impressions for dentures. The dental clinic was also blessed by the presence of Deborah and Kim our dental hygienists. These two ladies worked tirelessly cleaning teeth and teaching our staff. The dental clinic staff took advantage of the knowledge of Kim and Deborah and had them help by suggesting better ways to organize and maintain supplies and keep things running smoothly. The dental clinic crew sent out a big thank you to all those that helped them throughout the week.

This team did not have a designated chaplain so several team members stepped in and helped lead devotionals. Dr. Mark Kellum led the Monday night devotional, Doyle Robinson lead on Tuesday, Jeff Bennie led on Wednesday and we had our usual share time on Thursday night. Hearing from each of these team members was a real treat. We were so grateful that these men stepped in to share with us and appreciated their insight and the way that they all tied their talk into the work we were doing. Being on a trip with such wonderful people was truly a privilege.

Tuesday held another full day of surgery. Our nurses handled the crying babies and the aching women with grace and good nursing practices. The Harding nursing students were able to gain great amounts of knowledge about nursing, especially nursing without all the high tech equipment they learn to use in the states. Having the nursing students around is always a great help to the RN’s because they are willing to help in any way possible. It’s a good thing too because Tuesday was a full day in the OR! On Tuesday we had to say goodbye to Dr. Dwayne Fulks as he left us to return to his family and work in the US. We were so glad that he could come and be with us for a few days to help with the cleft palate and lip repairs.

On Wednesday surgery was still in full swing. Most of the cleft lip and palate babies were already recovering from their surgeries and the plastic surgeons had moved onto their other adult cases. On this day we did a swap and changed up a few trip participants. Dr. Katy Farrell and Sheri K. said goodbye to the team and headed up to Chichicastenango to work there for a couple of days. Meanwhile Dr. Quinton Dickerson and his sweet wife Mrs. Ann made their way to Clinica Ezell. Dr. Dickerson stopped off at Nahualate to spend the afternoon seeing patients with Dr. David. He was pleased with the participation of church members and with the patient volume at Nahualate clinic that day.

That evening introductions for the Dickerson’s were made at the devotional. We were happy that everyone had safe travels and that all surgeries had gone fine without any complications.

On Thursday morning people headed in all different directions. Several went out on mobile medical trips, Dr. Dickerson joined Dr. Walter in Xejuyup while others attended patients and still others went to visit the cacao farm. The surgery cases left for the week were all minor operations and surgery was finished up by mid day. A large group went together to have lunch at Irtra, a beautiful hotel resort in Retalhuleu. The resort is designed to look like different places throughout the world so everyone enjoyed looking at the buildings designed like those in China, Germany, Mexico, Italy, etc. There were also plenty of good photo opportunities when the group came across some of the famous Irtra peacocks! It was a nice lunch and a fun afternoon for all.

Thursday evening we had our devotional time together around the fountain in the dormitory. Sharing about the week is always a great way to end our time at Ezell together. After the devotional we said good night and got some rest before heading out to Antigua the next morning.

The group picture was taken after breakfast on Friday morning, patients were discharged and the group loaded up on the charter bus once again. We arrived in Antigua mid morning and spread out across the town. After a day in the Antiguan sun and markets we gathered together for our last dinner. The buffet at Hotel Antigua was lovely and the weather was perfect as usual.

Saturday morning we headed out for Guatemala City and our flight to the US. We made it through security and onto the flight without any trouble at all. We were once again thankful for a successful week of surgeries. Our total surgery count for the week was 23 plastic cases and 32 GYN cases! We had a full load and a great chance to bless 55 patients and their families.

By: Julie