HEALTH TALENTS INTERNATIONAL
ACU/Eye Surgery Clinic
Spring Break – March 10-17, 2007

TRIP REPORT

Participants: Ophthalmologist Dr. Lee and Amy Coleman, Ophthalmologist Dr. Brett Teague, Family Practice Dr. Tony and Dana Rector, Orthopedic surgeon Dr. David and Vanessa Gilliam, Cameron Gilliam, Whitney Gilliam, Dentist Dr. James Haller, Rachel Teague, Anthony Aven, Adam Biesman, Jared Brockington, Rebekah Cotton, Emily Dolan, Courtney Hobson, Lyndsay Ice, Sabra Mitchell, Cade Owens, Kyle Pickens, Megan Reynolds, Kayla Stephens, Amber Tate, Lacy Barger, John Coleman, and Ben Watson.

We gathered in Houston as usual with our group plus the group of physician assistant students from Harding University, who were going to work in Chichicastengo for the week. Alex, Rick and the Dunhams were there to meet us when we arrived. The disappointing thing was that most of the luggage for the ACU group did not arrive, and we did not get it until Tuesday afternoon. Since much of it contained surgery supplies and equipment, it was frustrating. It turned out that the luggage (16 pieces in all) had flown on American Airlines and had likely arrived the same day we did, but Continental had not bothered to do as they had promised and bring it to us. We had to track it down and send Alex to pick it up and bring it to the clinic.

During the orientation period at the clinic the first night there, I reviewed our new procedures concerning infectious diseases and the newly established rule that no one under the age of 21 should handle sharps or come in contact with body fluids. Everyone understood, and as far as I was able to tell, abided by this all week.

Everyone was delighted with the fact that we now have clean drinking water in the bathrooms! We have greatly reduced the number of bottles of water used during a typical week.

Despite the lost luggage, the clinic started on time and progressed smoothly. Each day Dr. Tony assigned the students to different work areas…some to stay at Clinica Ezell and assist Dr. Lee and Amy Coleman and Dr. Brett Teague with eye surgery, some to work in dentistry with Dr. Jim Haller and Dra. Silvia, some to work with Drs. Walter Sierra and David Lux, and others to work with him in mobile clinics. It gave the students a good overall look at what was being done and ample opportunity to get some hands-on experience in the field.

Most of the eye surgeries were for cataract removal, with some pterygiums in the mix. The two most dramatic cases involved one man whose lens fell behind the eyeball during surgery, which is a very bad complication. Dr. Lee was frantically praying, he said, as he watched it slide away! But, lo and behold, as he worked to retrieve it by flooding the socket with water, it floated back up to the top! Whew! He finished up the surgery and everything turned out just fine.

The other difficult case was a 14-year-old girl who had a cataract. Dr. Lee removed that quite easily, but discovered that her retina was badly scarred from an obvious earlier infection. This meant that she would likely not recover the sight in that eye after all. He had the sad task of telling her and her mother the bad news. He and the others with him prayed with the mother as she cried. He told her also that he would ask Dr. Walter to arrange an appointment with a retina specialist in Guatemala City for further evaluation.

Each morning presented joy as Drs. Lee and Brett went from bed to bed untaping eyes and holding up a hand with a finger or fingers extended saying, “How many fingers can you see?” In most cases, the patients saw correctly and were very happy. We laughed about the elderly woman who said with great enthusiasm that she saw six fingers!

Visiting dentist, Dr. Jim Haller, provided the following report of the dental clinic:

On this trip we had only two dentists, myself from North America and Dra. Sylvia from Guatemala. We held clinics at three different locations on three different days. The first day we traveled up past Chicacao over cobblestone roads, wide enough for only one vehicle, to the remote village of Mixpilla in the middle of a rubber tree forest. It continues to amaze me how large buses and trucks are able to make it up and down those narrow roads.

Wednesday was the most difficult day of the trip. Sylvia and I treated seventy-five patients, including three- and four-year-old screaming youngsters to very mature grandmothers. Seems everyone had teeth rotted or broken off at or below the gum line. One grandmother came to me with only four remaining maxillary teeth, which she wanted removed. Three of those teeth had only roots remaining. After getting good anesthesia using Lidocaine with epinephrine, I started the extraction process with the most posterior "tooth.” To my surprise, it had a large bulb on the root. I then proceed to the second molar, only to find it also had a bulb fused to the three roots. It turned out that all four of these teeth had bulbous roots. Fortunately, the lady had bone lose due to severe periodontal disease; otherwise we might not have been able to remove these teeth under these primitive conditions.


The ACU students were such a great group. They were excited about being there and were to a person cooperative and willing to do whatever needed to be done. It was sheer joy to work with them. It was clear that Dr. Tony had done a good job preparing them for the experience.

I must also give credit to the team physicians and dentist and their wives who were so willing to work with the students. Drs. Rector, Coleman, Teague, Gilliam, and Haller were wonderful role models for them. They each took a turn presenting the devotional thoughts at night and in doing so, presented to the students as beautiful a model of a dedicated Christian servant as was possible.

The ACU group went home a day earlier than the rest of the team. We missed them after they left. Within a minute or two of our pulling up to the Hotel Antigua on Friday morning, the Harding group pulled in, having returned from the Chichicastenango clinic week!

A total of 53 patients walked out of the clinic, having been touched by the compassionate care of Jesus Christ so lovingly reflected by the team.