Health Talents International
Surgical Trip
September 5-12

Team List: Surgeons: Lisa Buckingham, Bob Elder, Gerald Jerkins, Monique Jones, Audrey Murray, Mike Trimble; Anesthesia: David Craig, Ken Beach, Walt Lee, Kelly Saylor, Kristen Walsh; Pharmacist: Sherry Newton; Radiology Tech: Rachel Brumbaugh; RN and LPN’s: Dodie Brumbaugh, Barb Burg, Mike Caldwell, Casey Hall, Katie Hitzing, Maryann Jozkowski, Olga Lutsyk, Lauren Moore, Lynn Rafferty, Lisa Saylor, Laura Stephens, Cynthia Tucker, Chris Zimpritsch; EMT: Cullen Copeland; Chaplain: Noel Whitlock; Translators: Kathy Buckingham, Dianne Martin, Petra Wirrell; Compassionate Caregivers: Tami Beach, John Davis, Cindi Lemmons, Beverly Milam; Sterilization: Alfred Anderson, Kelly Milam, Guy Martin; Team Leaders: Rick Harper, Julie Wheetley

This team was made up of a great group of veterans and newcomers to the HTI family. Many were excited to meet up at the gate in Houston to say hello to old friends and meet new ones. We arrived in Guatemala on time and only one team member was stopped at customs! Once we cleared customs we loaded onto the bus and started on the slow trek to Montellano.

A majority of the OR staff were veteran trip participants and they hit the ground running as soon as we got to Clinica Ezell. By the time dinner rolled around the surgeons had seen most of their pre-op consultations and the nurses had the OR almost ready for surgery the following day!

The sterilization room was a happy place all week long with the “dream team” hard at work. Alfred and Rick spent some time sorting through miscellaneous instruments and ordering needed instruments. Guy and Kelly also worked tirelessly to clean, wrap and sterilize all week long. They did their work with smiles on their faces and a hug or a joke for anyone who came to visit. They did have quite the flow of visitors too but we promised them it wasn’t just because of the yummy snacks!

Over in the recovery room Barb our head nurse had an easy job of making out the schedule because both Cynthia and Olga offered to take the night shift all week long! Those two ladies were a HUGE help and a serious blessing to the team as a whole. Their selfless servitude left its impression on the entire team. Not only did they stay awake all night taking care of our patients but they spent a couple of their days out at mobile clinics! They were just like a pair of energizer bunnies!

The rest of the recovery room nurses were also blessed with the experience of working with a Guatemalan nurse named Rut (Ruth in English). She worked with our team to make sure all of our patients were loved and provided for. She even told Rosario that she was greatly impressed with the level of care and individual attention our patients were given. She said that she could see Christ’s love at work!

Sunday morning we attended church across the street with the Montellano Iglesia de Cristo. After the service we visited with the church family for a while and then headed to Ezell for our medical orientation meeting. Dr. Walter and Rosario both introduced themselves and did a quick run through of our orientation for the team. The group had lunch and got the ball rolling. Everyone was so gung-ho about working and seeing patients that they worked straight through dinner and did a total of 11 surgeries! Due to the late hour, Noel provided us with an abbreviated devotional and sent us all to bed.

There were a few special team members that deserve some mention…we had two CRNA students from the Middle Tennessee School of Anesthesia with us. Walt and Kristen were eager to learn and dedicated to being in the OR helping out as much as they could. We appreciated their help and their flexibility and look forward to having more MTSA students with us in the future. Another team member we were able to plug in to a special place was Cindi Lemmons. She had worked as a dental assistant in the past and has a huge help in our dental clinic. She brightened the work day with her cheerful spirit and got along great will all our dental staff. They were so happy to have her working with them. Katie Hitzing also deserves special mention for a couple of reasons. Katie was a MET student a few summers ago and is now serving as an intern with HTI once again! She worked in the recovery room and helped encourage a great work environment between the native staff and the team members. The last team members we need to mention are Adrian and Marlene Larin from El Salvador. This couple came to join us from El Salvador to see how HTI functions and to get a feel for what we do during a surgical week. Their presence was enjoyed by all and Adrian’s translation skills were certainly a help! One day we hope to see HTI hosting mobile medical clinics in El Salvador and this week was great relationship building time which will allow us to work toward that goal.

Monday was another long day of surgery with 8 GYN cases and 13 general cases. By midday on Monday the team had found it’s “groove” and was rolling through surgeries with relative comfort. The nurses in recovery were kept VERY busy with a constant flow of new patients coming out of surgery. They were running around sometimes trying to keep up with all the patients but that didn’t stop them from taking the time to give those extra special touches and moments of comfort to the patients and their family members. Monday the whole team had another long day and the last case wasn’t finished until after dinner so we had another abbreviated devotional by Noel and headed off to bed to rest up for Tuesday.

Tuesday morning Noel started us off with a story and a challenge. He reminded us of the woman at the well who offered to water the 10 camels belonging to Abraham’s servant. This woman was remarkable, she went the extra mile and not only served the traveler but also his animals and we all know how much camels can drink! After reminding us of this story Noel asked us to think about what camels we needed to water. We spent the rest of the week thinking about what things we could do to “go the extra mile”. Noel had some well thought out talks and wrapped up each day with some deep thoughts for us to take home. We also really appreciated his talks each morning that challenged us to think about how we can serve and what we can do to grow closer to God as we serve Him.

Tuesday was a more average day of surgery. The patient total for the day was 23 and we were done in the OR right at dinner time and were able to have a devotional with everyone all together. On Wednesday we had a lighter day in surgery with only 14 cases. That afternoon we started the first of the side trips with a trip to the chocolate farm. The group had a great time but got rained on so they came back to Ezell a big soggy!

Thursday was a special and fun day for the team. Everyone who wanted to had a chance to go out on a side trip. We were able to send one large group with Rick to see Lake Atitlan and to have lunch at a lovely hotel overlooking the lake. Other groups headed out to mobile medical clinics, to see the waterfall, for walks in the village and once again to the chocolate farm. Everyone had an enjoyable day and we topped it off with a wonderful devotional and time of sharing around the fountain that night.

Friday morning we headed off to Antigua. Most patients were already home so we said goodbye to the few that remained and got ready for some shopping! Everyone split off to hit the markets or restaurants or jewelry stores. That night we shared a nice buffet dinner at the hotel and Alex showed up with the coffee. The Memphis and Little Rock contingent were headed out early in the morning so we said our farewell’s and headed off to sleep. The early crowd made it to the airport without any trouble as did those of us who enjoyed a full night’s sleep in our comfortable beds. This was a great week and a very special group!

Written by Julie