Health Talents International
November 14-20 Eye Surgery Trip
Clinica Ezell, Guatemala

Trip Participants: Surgeon: Russell Brear; Optometrist: Dakota Waldroop; EMT: Aaron Glover; Nurse Practicioner: Yuki Fujimura; Translator: Ted Wheetley, Flor Ramos; Sterilization: Dee Anderson; Care givers: Savannah and Jericho Steiner; Team Leader: Julie Wheetley

This group was much smaller than our November team from a year ago but God provided just the right people to fill all the spots we needed! Ted, Flor, Savannah and Jericho all met the team at the airport in Guatemala City because they had all been living in Guatemala. Dee, Dakota, Yuki and Aaron all flew down with no trouble on Monday. We loaded everyone up and headed out for Montellano. The drive went by quickly without much traffic in Guatemala City.

When we arrived at Clinica Ezell the team unpacked and got organized. Julie led the group through a tour of Ezell and the fruit and nut tour of the grounds. That evening we shared a meal together and started getting things prepared in the OR. Dee was busy sterilizing and organizing in the sterilization room. She also came prepared with lots of yummy snacks for the team which always drew a crowd into the sterilization room!

Tuesday morning we shared breakfast together and then got to work seeing patients. Dakota had several patients to see for optometry visits as well as the pro-operative consults. The day went by smoothly. Savannah, Jericho and Flor helped out doing all the visual acuity checks. Meanwhile, Aaron and Ted sat with Dakota helping with eye exams and praying with patients. That afternoon Julie headed back to Guatemala City to pick up Dr. Brear who arrived on the last flight of the night. The team set up for surgery and had things as ready as could be on Wednesday morning when Dr. Brear arrived.

Thankfully God was watching out for Dr. Brear and made sure that he made it through Guatemalan customs without any trouble despite the large machine and quantity of supplies he brought down with him from the States.

Early Wednesday morning Julie, Luis and Dr. Brear left Guatemala City headed for Montellano. They arrived around 8am and gave Dr. Brear a chance to meet the rest of the team. The OR was set up with the phaco machine and we were operating on the first patient by 11am. Dr. Brear worked long and hard but with great results using the phaco machine. Dee was on top of things in the sterilization room and had instruments rolling out clean and sterile all day long. There were a total of eight surgeries on Wednesday. In addition to surgery Flor and Yuki had the opportunity to join Dr. Walter in Samayac for clinic. They prayed with patients and helped take vitals and prep patients before they saw the doctor.

Wednesday evening the team gathered together and shared in some devotional time with Ted leading the devotional. Ted filled in as chaplain for the week and did a great job of challenging us to think about what in our lives needs to change? He mentioned how easy it is to go home from a mission trip and be more appreciative of what we have instead of being challenged that perhaps we have too much. He asked us to think about what lifestyle God desires for us regardless of where we find ourselves.

Thursday was a smoother day in the OR and also a fun day for Yuki and Flor out at mobile medical clinic with Dr. Walter in Xejuyup. The mobile clinic day was particularly impressive for the girls who loved seeing the rich Mayan culture and teaming up to see patients themselves. The OR was bustling with activity all day long. There were a total of 16 surgeries on Thursday. Aaron learned how to scrub in and was a huge help to Dr. Brear. Julie also hung around as circulator and others rotated through helping out as they had time. Dakota continued seeing pre-op patients in the afternoons, Savannah and Jericho mastered the vision checks, Ted visited with patients in OR1 as they awaited their surgery and prayed over each of them before they went into the OR. Having a bilingual chaplain was a huge blessing!

Surgery ran a little late on Thursday so our devotional time was cut short. Instead of having a long talk we sang a couple songs and prayed to God giving him our thanks for a successful day of surgery and asking for a good night’s rest!

Friday morning the team was up early and ready to roll. The first patient was in the OR ready for surgery by 8am and we rocked and rolled through the morning. Lunch rolled around and we took a break to eat and visit. Smaller teams like this one are so enjoyable because each meal is like a family sit down meal where we all get to visit and enjoy each other’s company. The group was full of laughter and joy as they worked hard and saw another 16 patients for surgery on Friday. All together there were 40 surgeries done in three days time. The days were long but once the team got into the groove and got the pahco machine working surgeries were taking 15-20minutes and new cases were in the OR every 30-45 minutes!

We had another short devotional on Friday evening and got packed up and ready to head out the next morning. Saturday morning we had breakfast and said goodbye to our last patients. We headed out for Antigua around 8:30am. The day in Antigua was beautiful. Carlos and Silvia were able to join us for the day since we were there on a Saturday. That evening Alex came to bring the coffee. We had a great meal at La Pena del Sol Latino with live music and yummy coconut lemonade smoothies!

Sunday morning we headed out for the airport. The flight to Houston was delayed by an hour which caused some trouble for a few team members catching connecting flight with short layovers. Thankfully everyone made it home that same day and we were able to thank God for yet another safe and blessing filled trip.

Written by: Julie Wheetley