HEALTH TALENTS INTERNATIONAL
Eye Surgery Clinic in Guatemala
and
ABC Celebration
November 29-December 6, 2008

Team Participants: Surgeon: Jeff Weeks; Family Practice: Chris Kennedy, Craig Wilson, Mark Young; Pharmacist: Debbie Gale; Nurses: Shannon Haworth, Theresa Henley, Wendy Root, Christy Weeks, Vicki Wilson, Michelle Young; Optician: Lucy Hudson; Chaplain: Aaron Chambers; Translators: Bina Sanchez, John Gale; Non-medical volunteers: Carter Kennedy, Bill Moxon, Lisa Moxon, Melissa Root, Mackenzie Young; Team Leader: Julie Wheetley

This trip got off to a bit of a slow start. Once at the airport in Guatemala the team waited for all of the pickup trucks to arrive and in Guatemalan fashion they were slow arriving. Someone had gotten their bus stuck under the roof of the parking garage at the airport. Needless to say they caused a traffic jam in the garage and we had to wait for them to dislodge their bus in order to get our vehicles out! We were able to get loaded up and head out for Montellano before too long. We were thankful that all of the boxes of supplies and luggage made it to Guatemala just fine!

Once we arrived at the clinic we started unpacking and getting things organized. Dr. Weeks was a very organized and prepared surgeon. He had brought down loads of donated supplies for the week so he and his nursing crew got things put in place and ready for surgery the following day. Dr. Weeks was also able to see a few patients that afternoon and scheduled four surgeries for the following day.

After dinner our chaplain Aaron Chambers lead us in a devotional time followed by a little orientation and get to know you session. Aaron used the scripture Luke 4:18-19, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, 19to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor,” and asked us to pay attention to the ways in which we were able to fulfill this call throughout the week. With that we wrapped up the night and headed to bed.

Sunday morning we woke early and finished preparing things in the pre op area and operating room. We walked across the road for the church service with the Montellano Church of Christ at 10am. Several of our patients and their family members were in attendance. Carlos led some songs in Spanish and then called on Dr. Young to lead the English speakers in a few songs. The team was impressed with the passion that was evident in the worship of our Guatemalan brethren. After church we started prepping the first surgery patient, had lunch and headed to the OR.

While Dr. Weeks operated on Sunday with the help of the nurses and sterilization crew, the family doctors and some of the non medical volunteers took a side trip to the cacao farm. It was handy for Dr. Weeks to have Debbie Gale around because she was able to help out with mixing some of the medicine they needed for surgery. She also helped out quite a bit in the pharmacy finding things and teaching us about what medicines to use in which cases. At the cacao farm they were shown all around the farm. A ripe pineapple was cut from the plant and sliced for them as they stood watching. They were all impressed to be eating a fruit as fresh as that! They returned to Montellano with other kinds of fruit and with a great deal of contentment for having spent a wonderful afternoon exploring more of Guatemala.
Dr. Weeks and his team worked till late on Sunday night. The surgeries were tough but Dr. Weeks was a trooper and was happy to be able to serve such sweet and patient people. At the end of the day we had our devotional time where Aaron asked us how God had been good to us that day. Aaron made this the “Question of the Week”. Every night we were able to share the special moments we witnessed or experienced during that day. Aaron was a thought provoking and encouraging chaplain. We were certainly blessed to have him leading our thoughts and hearts in worship throughout the week.

On Monday morning the team worked like busy bees to get surgery rolling, mobile clinic teams together and supplies divided up. Two groups went out with Dr. David and Dr. Walter to see patients. Surgery started right after breakfast and once again we had a long day of operating and seeing patients for the following day. Dr. Weeks was very patient as he coached his scrub nurses and circulators on how to prep for and assist during eye surgery. By the end of the week Dr. Weeks had three fabulous nurses trained in the OR and three other helpers trained in pre-op! For some of these assistants it was a step outside of their comfort zone but they were all such willing and attentive assistants.

The surgery couldn’t have happened without the help of the sterilization crew. It just so happened that Bill Moxon had helped build boilers similar to those we use down in Guatemala! He was our key sterilization man for the week along with Aaron and Dr. Mark Weeks who were both sterilization pro’s by the end of the week. The gentlemen in sterilization were each able to sneak out for a day to mobile clinics. They each took turns getting out and seeing a little more of what HTI does in the villages weekly. A secondary project which turned out to be an important task was also assigned to the sterilization crew. Dr. Weeks asked for a wrist rest he could use during surgery. He explained that it was something that would fit up close to the patient’s head and was level with the height of the patient’s eyes. Aaron and Julie came up with an original design which worked for people with smaller heads. Once Bill (the engineer) got back from the mobile clinic, he enlisted the help of Ruben to make another contraption that served as a wrist rest for patients with larger heads. Ruben said that he would be working on a new and improved model of the wrist rest for the March clinic!

On Monday night we worked all the way up to dinner time, had a devotional and then headed off to bed. Tuesday came early and the mobile clinic crew all went off to clinic with Dr. David to San Jose where they not only held clinic but also had a VBS for the children at the church building. About thirty children showed up for the fun and learning. Everyone returned from their day out looking rather tired! They had to hike a ways up a hill to get to the church building so they got their exercise that day. Bina Sanchez was the head of the VBS extravaganza. She had planned out the school and was a great teacher and translator. Bina worked hard all week as she was pulled in different directions to translate and help out. On Wednesday the team did their main VBS at the church in Montellano. They had about sixty children attend the Bible school! It was a busy day for all involved. The surgical team members were also able to run across the street and take a peek at the events taking place at the church. The children were delighted to have such an exciting event and to receive so much attention. The VBS was a great success.

All week long the four teenagers on the team were hard at work. Carter Kennedy attended clinic with his dad Dr. Chris. Mackenzie, Lisa and Melissa worked hard at VBS, helped out on the mobile medical clinics and popped their heads into the OR every now and then to observe surgery. All of these teens were self motivated servants. They were never idle and were a joy to have around.

Wednesday rolled around and the surgical team had gotten into the hang of things. Lucy Hudson was able to see each patient and get them dilated and ready for Dr. Weeks to decide if they were surgical candidates or not. She offered great cheer and fun to all of the patients in the waiting area through her contagious laugh and joyful attitude. Dr. Weeks scheduled patients for surgery, his wife Christy along with Wendy Root and Debbie Gale took care of the patients’ drops and anesthesia before surgery. Once they wheeled the patient in for surgery Michelle, Theresa and Shannon were in charge and on top of things in the OR.

On Thursday breakfast was at 5:30am so that the mobile clinic group could get an early start out to the clinic at Pasaquijuyup. They left Clinica Ezell at 6am. The medical team didn’t have as much activity at the clinic as the dental so Dr. Craig Wilson jumped in and pulled teeth with Dr. Jessica Romano. He said that it was his first time pulling teeth but he saw the need for help and dove right in! I know that Jessica was VERY appreciative because they had a great need for the dentist in that village and she couldn’t have done it on her own.

Thursday at Clinica Ezell was a shorter day for surgery. After all the surgeries were done, the OR and pre-op crew were able to go and visit the cacao farm. It was an extra special trip because the great grandfather Don Augusto who owns the farm had come in for an appointment with Dr. Weeks earlier in the week. Don Augusto was pleased to see Dr. Weeks and the surgical team members show up at his home. They were lead all throughout the property and were relieved to be out of the four walls of OR 2!!!

When the team was all together on Thursday night we had devotional time and talked about the following day in Antigua. Friday morning was busy with activity as Dr. Weeks discharged his last patients, everyone packed up the pickup trucks with luggage, a group picture was taken and we said our last goodbyes to the staff at Ezell. The team headed out for Antigua around 9am and arrived at the Hotel Real Plaza shortly after that. Everyone spread out to eat and shop in Antigua. Dinner was at the hotel that evening, followed by a short devotional time where Aaron shared with the group how appreciative he was for the opportunity to come with many of his fellow church members to serve in Guatemala. He asked Dr. Young to come to the center of the circle where he proceeded to wash his feet while quoting scripture and talking about the impact that Dr. Young and Michelle had on his and on the team’s lives. It was a powerful devotional and a wonderful way to wrap up the week.

Early Saturday morning the team awoke, loaded into the pickups and minivan and headed for the airport. Everyone got off without trouble except for Debbie and John who had stayed behind in Montellano for the ABC celebration. Danny and Julie headed back to Montellano from the airport and got there in time for the celebration. The day was beautiful and there were something like 1800 people in attendance. The festivities started off with song followed by a lesson from Baldemar Ruiz and another brother. After the preaching several students got up to perform songs and poems they had memorized. Two of the daughters of our health promoter Manuel from the Chichi area sang the song “This is the Day” in both Spanish and English! It was great fun to watch the children stand before their peers and demonstrate their skills.

After the morning activities the children received their prizes for doing well in the program. First place this year was a bicycle! The children were thrilled to receive such a special and fun gift. Lunch was then served and people started loading up and heading off for their villages once again.

That night Debbie, Jon, Julie and Carlos cooked a spaghetti dinner for the cooks and gave them a little rest. The next morning we attended church across the street with the Montellano Church of Christ again and then headed for Antigua. We spent a day and a half in Antigua being tourists before returning to the States.

Trip Report by: Julie