November 2007
Eye Surgery Trip and ABC Celebration

Team Members: Surgeon: Dr. Jerry Swale; General Practitioner: Dr. Dave Darrah; Nurse: Cristy Archer; Ophthalmic Tech: Jill Decker; Compassionate Volunteer: Laura Swale; Water Team: Paul and Pauline Little, Lonnie Hearne; ABC Sponsors: Dr. Dave Darrah, Dee Anderson; Team Leaders: Rick Harper, and Julie Wheetley

This was a small team with a lot of action! Everyone (with the exception of Dee Anderson) arrived in Guatemala with all luggage on Saturday, Nov. 24th. Alex and Nehemias met us at the airport with the van and a pick up. Once we had all of our luggage packed away we took off for Montellano.

The first evening was spent visiting and getting to know team members while preparing the operating rooms for the following day. Five of the team members were new to Health Talents and Dr. Dave Darrah had not been to Guatemala since Clinica Ezell was finished. We gave tours of the grounds, had dinner and enjoyed a devotional before heading off to bed.

The following morning we participated in service with the brothers and sisters at the Church of Christ in Montellano. After a nice lunch Dr. Swale and his Eye Team began to operate. The very first case proved to be a challenging one so Dr. Swale got his feet wet fairly quickly. The first day we operated on four cataracts.

Each consecutive day the operating was a little easier as the team familiarized themselves with the operating room and the way things were run. Nine patients a day was the magic number throughout the rest of the week until Thursday where we only had eight. This adds up to a total of 39 cataract and pterygium surgeries.

As the week progressed and many surgeries had been observed, Dr. Swale allowed his daughter to serve as his scrub technician with the assistance of the scrub, Cristy. Laura was thoroughly enjoying her time in Guatemala and was disappointed that she could only stay for one week. She and her father were both talking about the next opportunity they would have to return before the week was even over. Laura is a junior in high school and hopes to study medicine, like her father.

Our nurse Darling Ayerdis also started to study the names of instruments and the procedure for scrubbing in to assist for eye surgeries. It is often difficult to find surgical assistants for our eye surgery clinics. Our hope is that Darling will train in this role so that she can fill in for us in the future when we have problems bringing someone down from the USA. Darling did get to scrub in and assist on Thursday after working to learn the names of the instruments. She did a great job and we feel good about her continued training in this role.

Julio Cesar Rojas, one of our scholarship students, was also in attendance this week. Julio gleaned some excellent experiences from his week spent with HTI. Julio observed surgery, spent time in mobile clinics with Dr. Sierra and used the team as an outlet to practice his English. Julio is a bright and pleasant young man and we were happy to have him with us.

The eye team worked tirelessly evaluating patients, preparing them for surgery, operating and moving on to the next. Each morning it was a blessing to see the look on the faces of people who came in blind but could now see.

While the operations were taking place each day the water team was heading out into villages like La Fortuna. Paul, Pauline and Lonnie spend their time meeting with village leaders throughout the coast discussing the possibilities of initiating some water projects. They tested the e-coli levels of the already established water sources, and surveyed each village to decide what sort of system they may be able to put into place.

Their plan is to go back and meet with the elders at their home congregation to decide if this mission is something the church would like to undertake. Paul and Pauline are both retired. Paul has a background in plumbing and Pauline in nursing. They are hoping to find a way to serve in Guatemala through Health Talents for several months out of the year over the next few years. We are looking forward to the opportunities that their commitment to these water projects will open up for the communities in which we work.

Each day during the work week, Dr. Dave Darrah went out to the mobile clinics with either Dr. Walter or Dr. David. He was able to see patients along with our TSI doctors, and gain the experience once more of getting to know new villages and work with our TSI health promoter staff. We were fortunate to have his assistance especially for our Tuesday clinic in Samayac. Dr. Dave also stayed over in Montellano for the ABC Celebration to meet his ABC children.

Mrs. Dee Anderson arrived in Montellano on Nov. 29th to participate in the ABC celebration along with Dr. Dave. These sponsors, or Padrinos as they are called in Spanish, were a great help when we had a group La Palma show up by surprise on Friday evening in Montellano. Dr. Dave and Dee helped run through the dormitory preparing rooms for our guests. After the rooms were prepared dinner was served restaurant style. It was great fun serving plates and drinks to our Guatemalan brothers and sisters. Not long after dinner everyone retired to their rooms to rest up for the big day ahead.

There were a total of 25 school busses and minivans rented to transport all of our ABC families to Montellano for the ABC celebration. A group of about 15 brothers from the Montellano and Chicacao congregations spent a full day preparing a tent of bamboo and coconut tree fronds. The shady area was lovely and much appreciated by our ABC families.

Busses began to arrive around 6:30 or 7am Saturday morning. Children ran everywhere and families began to stake out their spot in the shade for the day. Both Dr. Darrah and Dee had the opportunity to spend some time with their ABC children. Their children were so excited to see them and were simply beaming with joy. Many hugs and kisses were exchanged amidst the taking of LOTS of pictures. Two of the children sponsored by Dr. Dave had recently lost their home to a mud slide. The glee on their faces when they received the gifts he brought them is not something that will be quickly forgotten.

The program began with singing and prayer. Brother Baldemar Ruiz offered a message to the group and then the kids’ favorite part…the clowns!!! This was the first year we had the clowns come and entertain the group. They were a HUGE hit! The children and their families all enjoyed the silly shenanigans of the three outrageous clowns. Children flocked to the front of the group and surrounded the clowns as they presented. This was an extraordinarily special treat for our children.

After the clowns departed the children were honored for getting good grades in school by receiving medals for first, second and third place. In addition to the medals, the children that did well in the ABC program throughout the year were awarded their prizes. The children beamed as they walked away with their gift wrapped comforter, shoes, or baby doll. Other children were awarded larger prizes such as beds and chests of drawers.

Our celebration day wrapped up with a lunch for all. People gathered by home town and everyone partook in the meal that our cooks and other sisters from local congregations spent two full days preparing. We certainly owe some big thanks to those ladies!

The day wrapped up happily as families loaded up into their busses once more with many smiles and goodbyes. One community was shuttled home by Carlos and Luis because their buss had broken down. Over all the celebration was a grand affair and happiness reigned all around.