HEALTH TALENTS INTERNATIONAL
Surgical Clinic Trip Report
September 8-15, 2001

Participants: Drs. James DeHaven, George Robertson, Leigh Taliaferro, Ken Mitchell, Indu Anand, Barbara Wotherspoon, and Lee Hughes; CRNAs Eddie Milam and Jan Pratt; Nurses Connie Campbell, Barbara Cornell, Judy Gardner, Elaine Griffin, Cathy Love, Vicki Ratts, George Roberts III, and Bonnie Spink; Surgical techs Deb Pearce and Richard Yates; Med techs Tom Crews, Jane Hicks, and Dick Tilley; EMS Jerry Ervin; Translators Jennifer Goodfred and Dianne Martin; and non-medical personnel Alfred Anderson, Eugene Campbell, Dennis Griffin, Linda Robertson and Marie Agee.

Assisted by: Dr. Sergio and Veronica Castillo and Marco Diaz. Also health promoters Maruca, Diego of Xejuyup and Diego of Maxanija, and Hermalindo, the preacher from La Florida.

Surgical Clinic Statistics:
Vaginal Hysterectomies 18
Hernia Repair & Cyst Removal 40
Total: 58

Arriving in Chocola: We arrived in Chocola in time for breakfast. The doctors were operating within less than two hours after our arrival. The speediness of our start was based on having so many repeat team members who knew the drill as well as the flow of the supply room. Connie Campbell was head nurse and did an outstanding job of working out the schedule in view of having only 8 nurses-3 having dropped off just a month before. She asked some of the med techs to fill in from time to time, and they were quite willing to do whatever she asked.

Surgical Patients: I am extremely pleased to report that in light of our having to cope with news of the attack on our country, all our surgery patients did well. There was only one case that I can think of where there was even a question, and that turned out not to be a problem. We had only a few children this time with the youngest being 7 years old. They all did very well. The whole team, especially the repeaters, were grateful for the ease with which the clinic proceeded.

Spiritual Care: On Friday before we left on Saturday, our scheduled chaplain, Vernon Ray of the Harding Grad School in Memphis told me he was not going to be able to go. This was quite distressing, but I knew we had some strong Christians on the trip who could fill in the gap. Dr. Ken Mitchell and I discussed it, and we decided that he would coordinate the devotionals, doing some himself and asking for help among the team members. Jerry Ervin ultimately volunteered to do the daily coordination of it, and several team members who had never participated before shared their thoughts. Frequently throughout the week, Marco, Hermolindo and Jerry Ervin would be outdoors preaching to waiting family members. They also frequently prayed with patients, sometimes going bed to bed.

Maintenance Problems: As far as maintenance problems went, we had very few. I had included several new surgical lights in the last shipment, and Sergio had them in place. The surgeons were pleased. The electricity went off only once-and that for just a short period. One of the new water filters that I had brought down earlier had been installed, and I asked Alfred and Eugene to install the other one so the water would be twice filtered: both for particulates and via ultraviolet. I personally drank this water several times after that without incident. Because TSI is no longer working in Xela, we did not have our favorite maid, Rosario, cleaning in the dorm. Her smiling face gave us constant joy. She now works for the secretary who used to man the office at our Xela clinic, Veronica said. The housekeeper we had is the one who regularly works for Sergio in his clinics, and she did a good job of keeping things clean.

Tragedy in New York and Washington, DC: We learned about the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon a couple of hours after they happened. Hugo called Sergio; Sergio told me; he then called Nery to get more information; and I then called Roger to verify everything. It was terrifying to say the least. I called the American Embassy to make sure they knew where we were, even though I had filed that information (complete with passport numbers) before we left the States). They assured me that they had no reason to believe that we or any North Americans in Guatemala were in danger and that we should proceed with our planned scheduled and check in as often as we felt it necessary. I gave them the number of the cell phone I was using, and they promised that they would contact me if anything changed. Thus, we worked the rest of the week burdened and heavy-hearted. Everyone seemed to know about it, even the children. So many of them expressed concern and offered prayers for our country.

Chocola Tribute to HTI: On our last night in Chocola, we had a surprise treat! As a token of their gratitude for our many years of work in their community , the people of Chocola sent their marimba band to our dorm and serenaded us. That, along with the special occasion tamales that the cooks made for our dinner, made for quite a festive occasion. In view of what our country had endured and was facing, we especially enjoyed this delightful time.

New Facility: On Wednesday afternoon Dr. Ken Mitchell, Vicki Ratts, and I drove over to Montellano and did the final walkthrough. We couldn’t help but "ooh and aah" at how beautiful everything was. Much of the tile is in place now, which gives it a nearly finished look. We found only a very few items that needed to be addressed and discussed those with Baldimar Ruiz, our on-sight construction supervisor.

On Friday morning, we drove by there again to give the team members an opportunity to see it. It was while we were there that we learned that our flight back home the next morning had been cancelled.

We gave thanks to God who had the mercy to protect our patients while we were enduring the agony of being away from our families in such a time of national crisis.