|Team Members: Surgeons: Dr. Mark Crane, Dr. A.D. Smith, Dr. Scott Ballinger, Dr. Dwayne Fulks, Dr. Phillip Strawther, Dr. Larry Arnold, Dr. Kristina McCain; Anesthesia: Dr. Jeff Bennie, Christie Coker, Tiffany Horton, Dana Stevenson; Nurses: Vicki Bertrand, Jeannie Cagle, Sharon Depmore, Morgan Fox, Judy Hospelhorn, Jeni Huggins, Ronni Johnson, Lesli Shoemaker, Patsy Sikes, Charla Ann Smith, Kathryn Histed(student); PA: Luda Davies; Chaplain:Wes Gunn; Sterilization: Jesse Pettengill, Adam Cotter, David Depmore; Translators: Jason Fuller, Kathleen Fuller, Linda Carter; Dental Intern: Erin Fulks; Compassionate Volunteers: Jane Bennie, Sharron Smith, George Chapman, Joshua Crane, Cathy Duncan, Brittney Johnson, Machael Johnson, Rhonda Kinsfather, Matthew Lazenby, Sable Marzella, Kay Reiboldt, Lisa Watkins, Anna Dempsey, Lauren Pritchard; Team Leaders: Rick Harper, Julie Wheetley
The trip started off with few delays. Most of the group met in Houston and boarded the flight to Guatemala City. Dr. Strawther arrived at the airport first and met up with the team as they arrived. Julie, Anna and Lauren came to the capital from Antigua and met the group. Dr. Fulks flight was late so the bus was loaded and went on while Julie and Danny stayed back to wait on Dr. Fulks with his daughter Erin who was there to surprise him! He arrived shortly after the bus left and the van set out for the coast. The two groups met up at the gas station where we stop just before the toll booths.
Once the group arrived at Clinica Ezell, Rick gave out room assignments to assure that all team members had a place. We certainly had a full house! Once the luggage was unloaded the veterans began unpacking and preparing the OR as the first timers took tours of the property and the hospital. All the new members were pleasantly surprised with the lovely facility. Saturday continued on in this way as everyone got situated and had a nice dinner.
The plastic surgeons had arranged for patients to come in on Saturday afternoon so that they could get as many operations in on Sunday as possible. Everyone was happy to see the first of the patients coming in and to play with all the cleft lip/palate babies. Most of the plastics patients were seen on Sat. and scheduled for the week.
Wes Gunn led his first devotional where he asked us all a question. He wanted us to think about what our purpose was for being in Guatemala. Throughout the week Wes had us thinking about how we allow God to use us, how things we experience change us, and how we can be the best servants for God in Guatemala and at home. He did an excellent job of leading and directing our minds as well as our songs!
Sunday morning we participated with the Montellano Church of Christ and had a very full house! The regular church members mixed with our team and several patients and their families made for a church building packed to the gills! After church we met with all the medical staff and Dr. Walter and Rosario to fill everyone in on our protocol and procedures.
After lunch we hit the ground running and started bringing plastics patients back as the ENT and General surgeons started seeing their patients and lining them up for surgery. At the same time our GYN Kris McCain was getting one of the clinic rooms ready for a week of training on Colposcopy for our Guatemala based medical staff. She did an amazing work and helped our staff immensely through her training. The hope is that we will have several of our doctors and nurses comfortable enough to use the Colposcope regularly and help our patients catch cancerous cells before they grow.
Sunday was a little bumpy in the OR because we turned up with more recovery room nurses than OR nurses and had to improvise. The nurses were troopers throughout the whole week. We really appreciated them being willing to work out of their “comfort zone” and pitch in to make the week a success. As we rolled through Monday and Tuesday in the OR everyone found their routine and enjoyed working and learning from each other.
On Monday we had a full day of cleft lips and palates for the plastics guys as the general guys got to work on the hernias. ENT had a variety of different cases with everything from repairing eardrums to our first two thyroid surgeries. Throughout the week the surgeons preformed 20 plastic surgeries, 36 general surgeries and 8 ENT surgeries.
Monday started the mobile medical clinic experiences for team members as well. Each day nurses and PA’s were sent out to see patients with a translator. A large number of team members had the experience of visiting a local village and experiencing a bit more of the Guatemalan culture.
On Tuesday we had to say goodbye to two of our plastic surgeons Dr. Strawther and Dr. Arnold. We were sad to see them go but we kept trudging right along. Tuesday and Wednesday were full of surgeries for both the plastics and general surgeons but Dr. Scott Ballinger got a bit of a rest on Wednesday when he had a light patient load. Thursday was a shorter day of surgery for everyone and the team was mostly finished by lunch time.
In the recovery room the nurses twiddled their thumbs a bit on Sunday as they waited for their patients to come out of surgery but there was no sitting around after that! The nurses and nurses aids stayed very busy all week long cradling babies, walking people to the bathroom and managing medicines. The nurses and their helpers did an amazing job of keeping things together and helping things to run smoothly. The little recovery unit with the four gurney’s has turned out to be a hit for many team members. It is easier to pay closer to the recovering patients right after surgery when they are all close together.
Many team members had their hearts touched several times when the babies with cleft lips would be brought out from the OR. They were placed directly into the open arms of the overjoyed parents. No one who witnessed the flowing tears of gratitude shed by these parents walked away unchanged.
Several side trips were taken throughout the week as well. Two different groups were able to visit the Cacao farm and meet the sweet family of Don Agusto. They saw the GIANT Ceiba tree, tasted pineapple freshly picked and sliced for them out in the field! Roni Johnson was even brave enough to help the ladies of the house make their chocolate patties! On the last day at Ezell the family brought by a bag of their homemade chocolate to sell to our team members and this was a HUGE hit! The other side trips were taken to the beautiful waterfall just beyond Xejuyup. The water was really flowing this time due to the rainfall during this season of the year. All in all the team had some great opportunities to see some of Guatemala and even taste a little bit of what so many of our patients call home.
On Thursday evening we gathered together in the courtyard around the fountain to share with each other about the week. This is always a special time for the groups that come to Ezell and this night was no exception. Everyone had the opportunity to share with the group how God had worked on them or what they had learned throughout the week. It was a truly beautiful time of sharing.
Friday morning we packed up the bus and headed off to Antigua. Many of the team members were new and ooh-ed and ahhh-ed as we passed through the beautiful countryside. Once in Antigua the team headed out to explore. Everyone got back together for a nice dinner at Hotel Antigua and turned in for the night. Early Saturday morning people emerged from their rooms, packed and ready to go. We made it to the airport and onto the plane without any trouble. God was certainly watching over throughout us this entire trip!!!
By: Julie Wheetley