April General/GYN Trip
April 9-16
Guatemala

Trip Participants: Surgeons: George Haight, Benny Cleveland, Michael Ross, Grady Bruce, Ana-Maria Gray, Bill Griffin; Residents: Arin Semel, Kathy Wood; Anesthesia Providers: Al Jones, Kenneth Beach, Bob Engel; OR Staff: Glen Berkey, Mike Caldwell, Lisa Cantrell, Norman Jenkins, Jordan Powell, Leslie Smith; Recovery Room Staff: Lisa Bartee, Neva Berkey, Anora Burke, Heather Burke-Cody, Devona Haight, Ruby Lucroy, Tracy Mitchell, Erin Prather, Katherine Ritter, Teahna Smith, Miriam Hobbes, Charla Smith; Translators: Carly Donovan, Lily Salcedo; Caregiver/Sterilization: Tami Beach; Trip Chaplain: Klay Bartee; Team Leaders: Rick Harper, Julie Wheetley

Most of the team arrived in Houston without any trouble. Dr. Griffin was the last to get on to the flight to Guatemala getting on just before they closed the door! The Jackson, MS crew was delayed arriving into Houston and missed the flight. Thankfully there was another flight just an hour later and they arrived shortly after the rest of the team. Danny waited for them at the airport and got them safely to Clinica Ezell. Once at Ezell the flurry of activity began. We unpacked and prepared for surgery. Most of the team members were veterans but those few new members were able to get a tour of Ezell and their work areas.

Shortly after we arrived the surgeons headed down to the clinic and started seeing the patients hoping for surgery on Sunday. Two GYN cases and eight general cases were scheduled for Sunday afternoon. After seeing patients in clinic we ate dinner together and had a brief orientation time. We all turned in early after waking up so early for the 6am flights to Houston.

Sunday morning we woke up to the sound of tortillas being patted and started off our day with a delicious breakfast of eggs and black beans, our Guatemalan staple breakfast. The morning passed by quickly and it was time to head across the street to the Montellano Church of Christ for worship. The service was great and the Spanish speakers in the group were able to pick up on a fair amount of the content of Dr. David Lux’s sermon. Carlos Baltodano also led several songs in English for the team. Having the Spanish song books was also a great way for everyone to feel like they could participate and follow along with the worship service a little more.

After church we were able to welcome the last few team members who had arrived late. Klay and Lisa Bartee arrived with Lisa and Kemmel. They had been in the highlands holding a seminar for the local church members. Klay talked to the church leaders about how to deal with counseling needs within their congregations. He did a great job and we were so grateful the he could spend time both in the highlands and at the coast. Klay led a seminar on Wednesday at the Montellano church of Christ. He helped the church members from several congregations think “outside the box” and hopefully taught them to look on the struggles church members have with love and correction instead of judgment and condemnation. Klay has certainly been a great asset to our ministry each time he has spent time with us in Guatemala.

Lisa and Kemmel weren’t able to stick around very long after church so we said our quick hello and goodbye’s and they headed on their way to spend a day relaxing before getting back to work in Chichi.

Rick also joined the team on Sunday and headed straight into the sterilization room where he would be easily found most of the week. Rick had great help from Tami and others who popped in to wash an instrument or two. Rick did a great job keeping the instruments washed, sterilized and ready for the next case with much less help than he was used to. Tami was a hard worker and we were so thankful that she was willing to work in sterilization and help serve our patients in that way.

Cases went well on Sunday and the surgeons had lots of consults for the following day. The day ran a little long so our devotional time was short. Klay gave a brief talk and managed to get us thinking deeply in a matter of minutes. He has a way of challenging the group to look at stories we have heard from scripture for years and years and completely change our perspective. He shared with us each night leading us into a deeper understanding of our relationship to Christ and our experience of God’s love.

Monday was a busy day in surgery. There were five GYN and seventeen general cases. The nurses in recovery stayed busy as case after case came back. The “Georgia belles”, Anora, Heather and Teahna all worked the morning shift together and did a great job as first timers looking after the recovery ward with the help of several veteran nurses. Miriam, Katie, Jordan and Charla all took turns on night shift throughout the week. We were certainly blessed to have so many nurses willing to work nights and take care of our sweet patients. They worked tirelessly and Miriam even wound up sleep walking at one point after she got off her shift. We all got a big kick out of that when she woke up and realized what was going on! I can’t talk about our recovery nurses without mentioning the sweet Devona who was a HUGE help to Dr. Walter and Rosario as she did her best to make sure our demerol count was correct each day. Keeping the demerol count correct can be a tough task so it’s a great help when we have someone like Devona on the team to lend a hand.

Tuesday we had five GYN, sixteen general and three urology cases. Several people were able to go out to mobile clinic, including Ruby our nurse practitioner. She attended clinic in San Jose with Dr. Lux and had a wonderful day in the village. Having practitioners on our teams is always a great help to our full time doctors. It allows them to see more patients at clinic and in turn help more people. On Wednesday Dr. Lux attended the seminar in Montellano and patients were still able to be seen his clinic thanks to Ruby.

Wednesday was our last full day of surgery with six GYN cases and nine general cases. There were more urology cases throughout the week but they meshed in with both GYN and General cases. Grady did stay busy in the OR however and having him on the team certainly increased our quality of care for both gyn and general patients. Wednesday afternoon a few people were able to take a trip to the cacao farm and meet the sweet family that lives there.

Thursday we wrapped up surgery with one gyn case, five colposcopies and twelve general cases. Our afternoon trips were limited because of strikes on the main road so we spent the afternoon relaxing and enjoying Montellano. Several people toured the little village, walked across the swinging bridge and visited on the patio. We also said goodbye to Grady, Bennie and Mike as they left early to get back to their families.

That evening after dinner we gathered outside around the fountain for our final devotional time. Thursday evenings are always a special time of sharing. We went around the circle and gave everyone the chance to talk about what God had done in us throughout the week.

Friday morning we said goodbye to the remaining patients and headed out for Antigua. We also said goodbye to Rick as he headed back to Little Rock for some family obligations. We passed a great day visiting the sites and relaxing before getting together that evening for dinner. After dinner people picked up their delicious coffee and said goodnight.

Saturday morning we headed out for the airport after breakfast and had no trouble getting through security and onto the plane. Several people were worried about their connecting flights because our flight out of Guatemala was delayed so the goodbyes in Houston were short and sweet.

Once again God blessed us with a wonderful week. We had a record number of surgeries for an April clinic and give Him all the glory!

By: Julie Wheetley