HEALTH TALENTS INTERNATIONAL
Guatemala Surgical Clinic
October 7-14, 2006

TRIP REPORT

Participants: Drs. A.D. Smith, Devin Donnelly, Ana-Maria Gray, Fred Mecklenburg, and Al Jones; CRNA Wanda Sumner; Residents Andrew Altman, Randy Lizardo, Kelly Morales; Medical student Joy Kim; Nurses Susanne Bjork, Elaine Griffin, Sheri Kretzschmar, Cathy Love, Sherry Murray, Jackie Price, Holly Russell, Ruben Martinez, Joan Scales, Jeanne Trammell, Non-medical support Pat Alexander, Keri Donnelly, Methel Gale, Aimee Hunter, Rosemary Geddes, Dennis Griffin, Luke Norman, Sharon Midgett, Barbara Pippin, JoLee Thayer; Chaplain, James Massie; Translators Jackie Collier, Elizabeth Hollman, Julie Wheetley; and HTI team leader Marie Agee. Jimmy Dobbs and Wes Gunn were also with us. They were there as representatives of the Landmark Church of Christ in Montgomery, Alabama, who had come to meet Dr. Josefina Lux, whom Landmark had agreed to support. All but one of the surgeons on this team were vets of previous surgical clinics, but each surgeon brought a resident with them. That makes for an ever expanding pool of surgeons for the future. In fact, of the 35 team members, 14 of them were first timers. The balance was just about right. Vets give the week stability…newcomers add the excitement of experiencing everything for the first time!

The week started off with a sad note, as within the first couple of days, the surgeons diagnosed a half dozen cases of cancer. Our history has been that we might perhaps see one or two, but never as many as six. One of the women appeared to have quite advanced uterine cancer, so much so that the physician noted that the patient “had the smell of death” on her. Her prognosis for continued life was only a month or two. Her family was very supportive and full of faith that God would be with them during her final days.

Sheri Kretzschmar once again played the role of head nurse and got everyone organized and oriented as to the recovery room. Cathy Love, Ruben Martinez and Jeanne Trammell were on the OR teams. Luke Norman, who is headed to med school, served as a circulating nurse. Everyone seemed pleased with their schedules. We had several non-medical women on the trip who served quite effectively as nurses’ aides. They were scheduled just as the nurses were. We had three young women, recent Lipscomb grads, serve as translators. They are currently in language school in Antigua. They did a really good job and stayed on task well. They will serve with the November mobile medical team as well.

JoLee, Sharon and James took autoclave duty. As usual, it was terribly hot in there most of the time, but they all courage from the fact that construction had begun to enlarge the room and move the autoclaves into the adjacent addition to contain the heat. Next time they came, things would be better! As an aside, we have most of the remodeling costs covered via donations.

Dr. Ana Maria Gray had come to Guatemala two days earlier to examine the patients she had operated on in April. Fifteen of the 22 or so patients came for their appointment. She was pleased with what she saw except in one came a woman had had an extremely long period of incontinenance. She was distressed that she didn’t know that for she felt that she could have offered some relief. She strongly urged that Dr. Walter send word to the operating physician in the future if he sees a problem like that.

Dr. A.D. Smith did no laparoscopy surgery. He was not a fan of it, even for gall bladder surgery.

The team seemed pleased that we had prepared for the accidental needle stick with the rapid tests for HIV and meds.

One of the general surgery patients was a precious little girl who was about 8 years old who had a Baker’s Cyst behind her left knee. Dr. Smith worked hard to remove it in such a way that it wouldn’t return. The little girl endured the surgery well and was walking on the leg pretty well by the time she went home.

Another little boy had a large umbilical hernia. He, likewise, endured the surgery well and bounced right back.

Another important activity was the work of Dennis Griffin, who spent the week installing all the screen doors on the dorm rooms. He worked at it from the time he got up until he went to bed. What a bonus! My roommates and I slept with our big door open the last couple of nights, and it sure made for more comfortable sleeping!

I noticed that the storage room for storing the weed whackers, etc., had been completed and was in use. Additionally, the annex to the sterilization room had been started. All who work in there were excited about that!

Although all the patients did well, we had one female patient who, despite the fact that the doctors spoke only English when speaking to each other in the operating room, thought she heard the doctors saying that something had gone wrong during the surgery and that she might die. During the night after her surgery, she was very agitated. Rosario came to me in the morning and told me about it. I checked the patient’s record, and there was nothing unusual at all noted in it. I informed the operating surgeons and told them of the woman’s plight. The resident, Dr. Kelly Morales, had actually performed the surgery, and she assured me that there had been nothing unusual about the woman’s surgery. She and Dr. Devin Donnelly went to talk with the patient and reassure her. Dr. Walter also spent time talking with the patient. Eventually, she acted relieved that she was not about to die.

Holly Russell was one of our nurses. She had been one of our MET students a couple of years ago who has now finished nursing school and came back to work with our surgery clinics. She made me proud!

James Massie from Oaks Hills in San Antonio served as chaplain. He presented very meaningful and often gripping devotionals each night…the kind people talked about the next day.

Each night after the devotional I spent a few minutes telling of a different aspect of Health Talents, including explaining our evangelism philosophy and strategy. My comments were well received. I felt as thought I was not only “informing” but educating the team members. Several of them talked with me later about it, saying they felt we were correct in our methods of supporting and enabling local churches rather than doing their job for them.

By the end of the week, we had provided surgical services for 56 people. This number was smaller than usual, but the doctors elected not to operate on a few people, plus we had a couple who didn’t show up as scheduled. All in all, it was an “uneventful” week. That’s the way I like ‘em! Praise God.