HEALTH TALENTS INTERNATIONAL
Guatemala Gyn/Gen Surgery Clinic
April 9-16, 2005

Participants: Drs. Grady Bruce, Aarvind Sankar, Tim Winkler, Charles Anderson, AnaMaria Gray, Jessica Vaught, Fred Mecklenberg, and David Craig; Dentist John Bailey, Jr.; Nurses Margaret Ball, Glenn and Neva Berkey, Stacey Clark, Jeanine Dodd, Andrea Dunn, Grace Jensen, Mary Jean Kendell, Julie Plemons, Nancy Russell, Jeremy Taylor and Ashley Towler; Surgery Techs Karen Althage, Liseth Vieyra, Shana Harter, Alfredo Maldonado and Jason Vega; Pre-Op Jerrod Van Landingham; Med Tech Louise Clites; Team Chaplain Steve McVey; Translator Glenda Jordan; Instrument Sterilization Room Kent Brantly, Joanna Agee and Ginger Key; Post-op aides Janet Mountjoy and Asa Winkler; and Marie Agee.

Our flight arrived in Guatemala City fifteen minutes early! I think that is a first. All the luggage came but one piece, so after filing a report on it, we all gathered at the curb to get on the bus. As usual, we spent the night at Seteca and left at 6 the next morning to go to Clinica Ezell.

After breakfast, unpacking and the worship service across the street, things started coming together. The surgeons began doing pre-op exams on the patients Dr. Walter Sierra had lined up. Included in the list were two patients with unusually serious conditions. One was a woman with a bad gallbladder problem with potential complications, and the other was a woman with a really large incisional hernia that she had had for several years. Her condition screamed possible serious complications as well. After a good bit of discussion, Dr. Grady Bruce, HTI board member and acting medical director for the week, decided they were both too risky. The general surgeons and the gyn surgeons did, however, successfully operate on nine people the first day.

Monday, April 11: The woman with the large incisional hernia was still there, and everyone felt sad that we weren’t going to be able to help her. Walter called the city to see if she could have surgery at Roosevelt Hospital and find out the cost. He learned that surgery was possible, and the cost was Q2500. He talked with the patient, who agreed that she could afford to pay Q1000s, and we agreed to pay the rest. Our share turned out to be about $187! She left feeling content that she would get the help she needed, and we all felt better that we didn’t leave her in pain.

The gyn surgeons were having quite a day themselves. Drs. Jessica Vaught and Charlie Anderson “delivered” a 19.5 pound ovarian cyst on Monday! It was huge! The woman later told us that she had had it for ten years.

The week began with anxiety all around because two of our three scheduled anesthesiologists had to drop out a week before our departure date. Try as I might, I could find no replacements for them. Dr. David Craig said not to worry…he could handle it. And handle it he did! With help from three trusted nurses he works with regularly, everything ran smoothly. By the end of Monday, the doctors had operated on thirteen patients.

At 2 pm on Monday afternoon, Carlos, Lisa and Kemmel and I met with representatives of two local organizations (Social Security Adm and a national youth organization), both of whom are acutely interested in providing AIDS education in Suchitepequez. They provided us with statistics showing that though the total number of reported AIDS cases in Guatemala is low (a bit over 5,000), it is rising steadily. And its path seems to be the coastal highway. We spent an hour and a half with them discussing various ways and means of providing such education. We confirmed that absolutely nothing is being done at the moment, despite a few feeble attempts in the past that received little or no interest and funding. Our interest is to include it in with our CHE training. Their interest lay more in the area of going into schools. The down side of working with a government agency like Social Security is that we would be limited as to who we worked with, as they only work with companies that pay into social security. When we mentioned this limitation, the men, however, said that they were coming at this from an individual perspective and were willing to help as individuals. The representative of the youth organization is also the vice-president for the teacher’s association, so he had great access to classrooms. We concluded our meeting by agreeing that we would review the material discussed and Marie would write a draft grant proposal and send it to Guatemala by June 1 to get their reaction to our plan. They, in turn, said they would write a similar proposal from their perspective. We suspect that they will ask to be on the payroll, and none of us wants to go that route. But, they may surprise us and be willing to volunteer their services. They seemed very sincere. We can easily do what we want to do without their help, now that I have the statistics in hand to write a solid proposal to get money for printing necessary brochures for distribution.

The day ended in quite a dramatic way. As we were concluding our devo, we were singing the song, “We are standing on holy ground,” when the ground began to shake with a strong tremor! Talk about your object lesson!!

Tuesday, April 12: This day was a killer day, with general doing eleven cases, and gyn eight! We sometimes ran three rooms when there was a small procedure to do. A mobile medical/dental team went to Samayac on Tuesday. Dr. Charlie Anderson went to treat patients medically and Dr. John Bailey went with Silvia to pull teeth.

For fun late in the afternoon, Carlos took a load of us down to the swinging bridge. We all made fools of ourselves as we tried walking across the bridge! The locals make it look so easy.

Tonight just before devo, Carlos learned that his mother was having trouble with her gallbladder again, so his sister had taken her to the emergency room. We prayed for her and John Peden, along with all our patients for the day. After the devo, Carlos called the prayer number for John to let him know we were praying for him.

Wednesday, April 12: The first surgery case of the day was a 2-yr-old Mayan boy who was found to have what appeared to be a malignant testicular tumor. Before surgery he was so cute because he would not let anyone take his shirt off in order to put him in a hospital gown. Every time his mother or anyone tried to remove it, he could grab the hem and pull down! It was as though he knew that if he put that gown on, he was in for trouble! The good news was that the docs said that this kind of tumor in children responds well to treatment, and Guatemala has a good organization to help children with cancer.

Another patient was an 88-yr-old woman with a hernia. Dr. Craig and Walter did an EKG on her to see if she was strong enough to withstand surgery, and it came out good, so they proceeded. She was delightful and bounced right back!

By the end of the day, general had done eleven cases and gyn had done four. The last gyn case of the day was cancelled when it was discovered on routine check that the woman’s blood pressure was 280/130! Poor thing had been sitting there all day long waiting, only to learn that we could not operate on her in that condition. They decided later that her bp had probably jumped up due to dehydration.

Another mobile medical/dental group went to La Fortuna today. It is located near San Basilio and is one of the newer villages we attend now. It is very poor. By the end of the day, they attended to 52 medical and 75 dental patients.

Steve McVey, our team chaplain, focused tonight on how trips like this can teach us not to worry about “stuff” and instead appreciate the important things in life. Here, he asked us to focus on the good character traits of the Maya, noting their patience, humility, and gratitude.

It was incredibly hot today, hotter than I remember it ever being. It was made worse for me because I worked a lot in the bodega, where there are no windows or breeze, trying to consolidate supplies to make room for the new shipment that will come this summer. As lunch I put my combination compass, alarm clock, thermometer outside on the terrace, resting on a flipflop to get an accurate picture of just how hot it was, and discovered to my shock that it was…106 degrees in the sun and 101 degrees in the shade! No wonder I was dying!

Thursday, April 13: Today the gyns didn’t operate, and the general surgeons had only three cases, so it was a short day...which was good. The mobile medical team was going to Xejuyup with a side trip to the waterfall at lunch. We divided the group up and sent some with the team that morning, and they returned around 1 pm to relieve those who were still working so they could go. It worked well. It is important for the team members to get out and see where and how the patients actually live.

It was Alex’s birthday today, so we had a cake for him and sang Happy Birthday. Our devotional that evening included sharing time. It is especially inspiring to hear how the trip affects first-timers.

The final count for the week was 56 patients. Praise God for keeping them free from complications and for keeping the team safe. It was a good week.