General/GYN Surgery Clinic
October 4-11, 2008

Trip Participants: General Surgeons: Benny Cleveland, George Haight III, Paul Humphrey, Gyn Surgeons: Ana-Maria Gray, Carolyn Harrington, Fred Mecklenburg, Stephen Parry, Lesly Warner, Anesthesiology: Brian Alexander, Al Jones, Nurses: Suzan Bell, Penny Brantley, Mike Caldwell, Susan Hasapis, Jennifer Henderson, Grace Jensen, Theora Lusk, Sherry Murray, Barbara Onofrio, Martha Oyston, Cheryl Winfield, Surgical Techs: Karen Althage, Don Holbert, Physical Therapist: Danielle Caples, Chaplain: Matt Huddleston, Translators: Olga Brazzel, Carly Donovan, Lily Guiterrez, Tony Martinez, Michael Martinez, Lucy Howard, Lester Jensen Sterilization Crew: David Bounds, Nurses’ Aides: Beverley Bosselman, Carol Fitzgerald, Carla Holbrook, Kayla Howard, Karen Morrison, Hannah Parry, Lacie Stafford, Team Leader: Rick Harper, Julie Wheetley

Most of the team arrived in Guatemala on Saturday afternoon, collected their bags and headed for the bus. Julie had a Saturday evening flight into Guatemala City and Dr. Lesly Warner missed her morning flight and did not arrive until Sunday afternoon. Julie and Silvia picked her up at the airport and together made their way to Montellano to join the rest of the team on Sunday.

On Saturday evening Rick led the group through orientation and the unpacking of supplies and preparation of the operating rooms. It was really nice and helpful to have many of our Sunday patients lined up for surgical screening on Saturday evening. It made for a smoother and quicker start on Sunday.

Sunday morning was nice as the group had breakfast and headed across the street to the Montellano Church of Christ. After worship the team meandered back across the street to Clinica Ezell and prepared for their orientation with Dr. Walter.

Dr. Walter and Rosario went over the patient charts and procedures followed at Clinica Ezell. After their informative session the day got much busier. Lunch was followed quickly by operation. Two GYN rooms and a General room were in full swing and it was smooth cruising in the OR with so many repeat trip participants working there.

Lesly, Silvia and Julie arrived mid afternoon and Lesly immediately hit the OR with Dr. Gray and Dr. Mecklenburg. They took great care in treating the many GYN cases as the General surgeons worked quickly and efficiently to treat a great many patients. All in all there were seventy-one operations, 17 GYN and 54 General. Unfortunately our lead nurse in recovery, Martha Oyston, became ill and concerned for her health. She decided it was best for her to return to the states. Marie worked out the flight details and Carlos took her to Guatemala City on Monday and she arrived home safely that same day. She later contacted Rick to let everyone know that she was doing much better and was glad to be at home recovering.

The new thing for the week was the reusable sterile gowns, mayo covers and back table drapes. Theora Lusk and Mike Caldwell helped train Rosario and Cata how to fold the drapes so that we can have them cleaned, packaged and sterilized before each surgical trip. The reusable materials will be a great help in the OR over time in saving on the cost of single use items and trash. Each trip we take to Guatemala things are better organized and more efficient. The staff in Guatemala has received many compliments on their hard work and good organizational skills.

Throughout the week Matt Huddleston, the chaplain from Cordova Church of Christ in California led the team’s devotional time. He drew his talks from the book of Philippians and did a marvelous job of involving team members in discussion about God’s hopes for us as Christians in the world today. Everyone really appreciated Matt’s evening devotionals as well as his scripture reading and thoughts for the day each morning. The team enriched by Matt’s thoughtful and honest devotionals.

As the week went on several people had the opportunity to go out on mobile medical clinics with Dr. Walter and Dr. David. Everyone who went out came back happy to have seen the mobile clinics and to have served there as well. Danielle, the physical therapist was especially excited to have gone to the mobile clinic where she was able to offer patients new ways in which to relieve their pain and strengthen their bodies. She was pleased that her skill set was useful even in a rural Guatemalan village.

On Monday the GYN team had a difficult time removing an overly large uterus and decided to open up one of our cell savers for the patient. The cell saver was used effectively and the patient came out of surgery with no further complications. Within a day or so she was walking around and felling much better. This proves just how important these cell saver units are for the cases that turn out to be more difficult than originally anticipated.

In the recovery room the nurses were a little short staffed due to the departure of Martha who was taken ill, but they took everything in stride. Sheri Kretzschmar decided to stay for the whole week and Dr. Lisa took over her clinics in Chichi for her. With Sheri added into the mix and all the nurses willing to work and wanting to be there things were relatively smooth. The nurses also had several people always willing to lend a hand and pitch in where they could. The young girls Kayla and Hannah who each came with their parents were taught how to take temperatures and blood pressures. They went around helping the nurses by charting and also making sure that patients were well looked after. They were delightful young ladies and brought many smiles to the patient’s faces as they helped in recovery.

On Wednesday the GYN team had a light day and several of them were able to take a trip to the Cacao farm in the afternoon. The Cacao farm is always fun and an adventure! People were happy to be outside the walls of Ezell to get a look at a little more of Guatemala. On Thursday the waterfall trip was canceled because the road was blocked off so instead Sheri K. led a couple of trips to Chicacao for ice cream. While in Chicacao the group stumbled across a Marimba school and was able to watch the students and their teacher play the Marimba. It is hard not to be fascinated by the beautiful Guatemalan instrument!

On Thursday Rick headed home for the States and left Julie to wrap up the week with the team. He let us know that he made it onto the plane safe and sound as we wrapped up the last day of surgery. The general surgeons were done with all the surgeries by lunch time and the recovery nurses were starting to relax knowing that all their patients were situated and stable.

Thursday night we went around the room and allowed everyone a chance to share something about their week. Despite the fact that many of the team members were veterans and had been through many Thursday night share sessions, everyone seemed happy to talk and be together. As the night came to a close Julie gave the team some instructions about the following day in Antigua and we said goodnight.

Friday morning the group said goodbye to the patients and staff and headed for Antigua. The weather was perfect for walking through the cobblestone streets and enjoying the charm of Antigua. Everyone came to dinner that evening and had a chance to say goodbye to those on a later flight. Once the coffee was distributed we all said goodnight and tried to get some sleep before the 4am departure.

The bus arrived at 3:30am and was packed up with luggage and team members and by 4 we were on our way to the airport. Once we got to Houston there was one last goodbye as we picked up luggage. The time together was finally at an end and we were all sad to say farewell and were hoping to see each other again soon.