Guatemala Surgical Clinic Trip Report (9902B)
February 13-20, 1999
submitted by Marie Agee

Participants: Drs. Bill Bailey, Danny Minor, Chris Porter, Bob Threlkeld, Roy Kellum, Robin McGuire, Joel Payne, Jeff Bennie, and David Netterville; Rod Hyatt – CRNA; Nurses Neva Berkey, Lisa Cantrell, Elaine Fischer, Carolyn Freeman, Staci Hill, Lynea Hollis, Deb Pearce, Vicki Ratts, Dodie Pitt, Juanette Weber; Harding Student Nurses Adria Bonfoey, Tammy Reese, Rachel Wilson; Paramedic Jerry Ervin; Minister Eddie Randolph; Non-Medical Kara Minor, Leslie Minor, Luke Montgomery, Harriette Shivers, Angie Thompson, and Marie Agee.

Assisted by: Roberto Alvarez, Dr. Sergio and Veronica Castillo, medical missions intern Allen Smith, and translators Englishman Tony from Chicacao, and Allen’s friend Mary, an independent missionary to Guatemala.. Also assisted by health promoters Maruca, Cata, Marta from Monte Llano, health promoters Diego of Xejuyup and Diego of Maxanija, plus several area ministers.

Surgical Clinic Statistics:

Vaginal Hysterectomies 19

Hernia Repair 34

Hand Surgery 1

Total: 54

Review of Activities:

The team arrived about on Saturday evening, February 13. Customs was again quite easy, but we discovered that several bags did not make the flight. The planes are much more crowded lately, so the airline has had more difficulty getting all bags on at the same time. I think they really need to begin adding more flights per day. Of the bags that did arrive, two somehow disappeared between the door of the airport and the bus, just a few feet away. We’ve always known that was a likelihood, but it has never happened before. Fortunately, there was nothing critical to the task in either bag.

Roberto informed me on the way to the seminary that the large shipment of medical supplies would likely not be cleared through Customs until the end of the week. This caused me some anxiety because I wasn’t sure we had enough supplies on hand to do a full week’s worth of surgery.

As usual, we spent the first night at the seminary, arising to meet the bus at 5:00. The bus spent the night with us there, as well, so departure was easy and without stress. We made it to Chocola in an incredible time of 2 hours and 55 minutes!! Seems that the road is paved nearly all the way from San Antonio to Chocola! Who would have thought that would ever happen? There is still a treacherous part from the main road over to the clinic, but that was pretty much all.



Chocola

Veronica had once again seen that the dormitory was welcoming. Breakfast was ready, beds were made, tablecloths and fresh flowers were on the dining tables, and the surgical building was clean and ready. As a group, we set to work emptying luggage of supplies we had brought. That was very helpful to all the staff to actually see what supplies were available before they started work. By the end of the day, the surgeons had operated on 10 patients.

Didn’t have nearly the trouble with electricity this time as we did in September. Had continual trouble with "brown outs" which was a particular problem with the fluorescent lights. We ate dinner each night by Chocola candlelight.

The filtered water, however, was only dribbling. Jorge, the caretaker, said he had taken the water filter apart and cleaned it well, but it still wouldn’t do better. No matter what more we did to it, we weren’t able to coax a steady stream from it. Yankee ingenuity prevailed, however, when we let it run continually filling a tub. From that tub, surgeons took turns pouring water over each other’s hands when they were scrubbing for surgery. I have a good shot of that on film!

Surgical Patients: Sergio had told me earlier that he felt it was important to limit the number of surgical patients to around 50, and he did that this time. There were 53 cases that actually went to the operating room, with one woman being sent home because her blood pressure was too high. One additional case was a walk-in, an older man with a badly swollen hand. Dr. Bill Bailey tended to him and said it looked as though a foreign body had penetrated it. He lanced it deeply, treated the man with lots of antibiotics, and had him return daily for the next three days so he could watch it and change the dressing. It appeared to be on its way to healing when we left.

All the surgical procedures seemed to go smoothly. Despite the fact that the shipment didn’t arrive, our supplies held out, rather like the loaves and the fishes! On Wednesday when the missing luggage came in, we knew we’d be okay.

On Tuesday morning before breakfast a man walked up telling of a woman in labor whose baby seemed to be turned wrong. Gynecologists Roy Kellum and Joel Payne hopped in the pickup (which Sergio calls the UPS truck because he picks up and delivers all the time!), along with

Dr. Chris Porter who is fluent in Spanish, and went to get her, expecting they’d have to do a caesarean. They returned a few minutes later. Only a short time after they got her on the table, she delivered breech a healthy 8 to 8-1/2 pound baby boy! It was so exciting! He didn’t breathe for seemingly forever after he was born, so neither did any of us. When he did squall out, we all shouted with joy! He was unnamed when he left with his parents later that day, but we were all pushing for "Roy."

Another highlight of the week came on Wednesday evening when the entire congregation of the Santo Tomas church came to the clinic to share in devotional with us. It was incredibly edifying for all of us to praise the Lord together, each in his own tongue. Towards the end of the evening, we were absolutely blown away when the minister Aparicio’s daughters began singing. Their harmony was beautiful and inspiring! After we finished, the young singers went into the recovery room to sing for the patients. Everyone was so bonded by the time it was over.

When the surgical team left, there were 17 patients remaining, all gyn surgery patients. They all still had catheters.

Allen Smith did a wonderful job. His charming personality and friendly ways made everyone felt comfortable and welcome. He was quite useful in being available for necessary errands in the vehicle, allowing the team to use his computer for emails, and taking folks to the waterfall for a diversion. He asked the team up front to refrain from distributing candy and toys to the children throughout the week, saving them to the last day. He cited the growing problem we were creating by teaching the kids the advantage of constant begging. The team listened to him, and it was amazing how quiet and free of hoards of children we were…until the last day!

Didn’t see much of Roberto for two reasons. The first was that he needed to drive to Puerto Barrios to sign documents that would release the shipment of medical supplies and the second was that the famous Juan Monroy from Spain was in town for a gospel meeting. Since Roberto had been instrumental in inviting him, he was obligated to play host. The meeting was a city- wide one, and was held at Zone 11 because they have the largest auditorium. Roberto reported huge crowds each night.