HEALTH TALENTS INTERNATIONAL
SURGICAL CLINIC
SEPTEMBER 7-14, 2002

Participants: General Surgeons: Dr. Duncan McRae & Dr. Howard Snider; Gyn: Dr. Judi Jehle; Emergency Room: Dr. Glenn Owen; Anesthesiology: Dr. Lilia Daniel, Deborah Mallory, CRNA, and Deloris Shultz, CRNA; Nurses: Jan Aaron, Leah Crane, Betsy Dowell, Connie Eckstine, Lynn Gorman, Jayne Hitt, Betsy Keene, Celia Lett, Beth Nichols, Lynn Samuels, Bonnie Spink, and Chris Zimpritsch; Tom Crews, Jr., Jerry Ervin, Debbie Gale, Richard Yates, John Land, Charles Campbell, Harriette Shivers, Dianne Martin, John White, Alfred Anderson, David Catalina, Lynn Himelrick, Mary Spence, JoLee Thayer, and Marie Agee. Our Guatemalan helpers: Dr. Sergio and Veronica Castillo, translators Raquel, Alexandra, and Gaby, the myriad of health promoters and Quiche translators, and other staff.

Saturday, Day 1: Wonder of wonders, despite some travel delays early in the day, everyone arrived in Miami on time to catch the Guatemala flight! Because of our early arrival time, we were able to drive on to Montellano immediately rather than spend the night at Seteca. Supper was awaiting us when we arrived. Everyone expressed wonder at the new facility!

Sunday, Day 2: Everyone was up early, ready to go. Betsy Keene, a veteran of these trips, acted as Head Nurse. She had an orientation meeting with all the nurses and began working out a schedule for them to follow. Marie provided a tour of the supply room to acquaint the nurses with what was available and where they could find it. After a couple of hours of emptying the many bags of supplies that everyone brought, searching for missing items in the facility, and examining patients, the actual surgery began. All went very smoothly except that the anesthesiologists said one of the oxygen tanks was nearly empty and they could not find some meds that they felt they needed. Someone called Hugo in the city and asked him to bring some with him on Monday when he came. By the end of the day, the surgeons had performed 6 vaginal hysterectomies and 8 hernia repairs.

Monday, Day 3: Surgeries began again as soon as we finished breakfast. Things appeared to be running smoothly, especially after Hugo showed up with the requested meds. The surgeons requested that they use the third operating room, but upon investigation we could not do so because there was no regulator or “O” ring on the third oxygen tank. We also discovered that there was no oxygen tank available for use in the ward, in case we needed it. (We never needed it, praise God!) John Land and I made a note to correct that before the next clinic. By the end of the day, the docs had performed 7 vag hysts and 9 hernia repairs.

Violeta arrived from the city with Dr. Silvia and Dr. Walter. She had come to take Harriette and me to visit some ABC coordinators. Our first visit was to Xejuyup, where we met with an individual family who had three children in the program. This Quiche family expressed great gratitude for the opportunity of education that ABC offers. In this time of reduced work because of low coffee prices, this father himself has begun studying to be a teacher.

We then went to visit Luis, the preacher/health promoter at Xejuyup. When we asked him what he thought ABC’s most valuable service was, he said that it provided motivation for the families to remain faithful to the church. He seemed delighted when I asked to take a picture of him and his family.

On Monday night we suffered a terrific thunderstorm, that lasted about three hours. The lights went off several different times for brief periods. We went to bed with it still storming.

Tuesday, Day 4: When we arose on Tuesday morning, we discovered we were running on the automatic generator. To all of our surprise, we learned that it was powering the entire facility, not just the surgical unit! Surgeries went on as planned, and by the end of the day they had performed 7 vag hysts and 7 hernia repairs.

Violeta, Harriette, Charles Campbell and I went to visit the people in San Basilio, and it was incredibly inspiring! There must have been about 35 people who showed up for our visit. The group included mothers, children, Pablo the preacher, and another man. They seemed very pleased to be there and spoke of their gratitude for the program. When we asked Pablo the same question we’d asked the others about what they thought was ABC’s most valuable service, Pablo went into a long monologue about education. He said that no one from that village HAD EVER graduated from high school…but now they had 6 children from the village attending! He expressed the hope of the community that FINALLY someone from their village might have a “career” rather than be just a common laborer as all those before them had been.

When we asked if they had any particular problems, Pablo said that although the ABC program paid for school, bus fare was a problem. With low coffee prices causing low employment, it was difficult to get the money together needed for bus fare to Sto. Tomas and Mazatenango, where the students went to school. (And to even get to the bus stop, the students had to walk an hour from their homes to the highway!) Because of this problem, the students were attending only spasmodically. We promised to look into the problem and see if we could find a solution.

Wednesday, Day 5: Still running on generator. The gynecologist had a particularly complex case, so she performed only 5 vag hysts on Wednesday. There were 8 general surgery procedures, including the removal of a cystic hygroma from the back of a man’s neck. All the patients did well, including the woman with the complicated surgery, although her low hematocrit was of some concern for a while. The surgeons suggested that we get some Hispan to have on hand for such cases. So far as I am away, we’ve never had any of that before, but they said it helps stabilize patients suffering great blood loss.

Since it was September 11, we had planned a special ceremony for the evening devotional. Three of the group were from New York and had first-person experiences with last year’s tragedy. Several others in the group had been on last year’s September surgical trip and thus had been locked out of our country for several days. Additionally, Alexandra’s father (and Violeta’s husband) works in Manhattan, so they were affected deeply by what happened. We tried to weave all these elements into the devotional in an appropriate way. Several thanked us afterwards and said it was an appropriate combination of remembrance, acknowledging the pain, and looking to God for our only real security.

Thursday, Day 6: The final day of surgery ended with 3 vag hysts and 9 general surgery procedures completed. There was one case that involved a mastectomy on a young man who had an abnormal growth in one of his breasts.

Friday, Day 7: After rounds, we left for Antigua and a day of relaxation after a grueling week. We needed a day of transition before heading home on Saturday.

The total number of procedures for this clinic was 69, a bit higher than average. We were incredibly pleased that there were so few complications. Everyone worked very hard to make this a successful clinic and we thank them deeply. We also offer praise to Our Father for His mercy and kindness throughout the week.