Health Talents International

Surgical Clinic Trip Report (20000212)
February 12-19, 2000

submitted by Marie Agee

Participants: Drs. William Bailey, Grady Bruce, Philip Strawther, John Knight, Colleen Murphy, Mike Revelle, Jeff Bennie and Ernest Kistler; CRNA Rod Hyatt; Nurses Neva Berkey, Leisa Cox, Carolyn Freeman, Lynea Hollis, Vicki Ratts, and Brenda Vencill; Harding University nursing students Brenda Graham, Shanon Gump, Monica Hile, Garret Myhan, Elizabeth Root, and Ryan Parsons; paramedic Jerry Ervin; Translators Marilyn Knight and John Wright; Chaplain Dennis Randall; and Chantel Ervin and Marie Agee.

Assisted by: Dr. Sergio and Veronica Castillo and Marco Diaz. Also assisted by health promoters Maruca, Dina, Diego of Xejuyup and Diego of Maxanija, and Hermalindo, the minister from La Florida.

Surgical Clinic Statistics:
Vaginal Hysterectomies 19
Hernia Repair 33
Plastic Surgery Cases 4
Cyst Removal 2
Total: 58

Review of Activities:

Our flight arrived late Saturday evening, February 12. The TSI office again arranged for us to bypass customs and go out the back door of the airport. That is so cool! Amazingly enough, all our luggage arrived with us. Because of the late arrival of the flight, we decided to delay our morning departure until 6 a.m., rather than our customary 5:00 a.m. Everyone was grateful!


We arrived in Chocola just before 9, unloaded the bus, had breakfast, then had an orientation meeting in the supply room to orient everyone to where they could find critical items. Vicki Ratts, our designated head nurse, reviewed the schedule with the nurses and nursing students. The students would prove critical to the success of the clinic this time since some of the nurses had had to drop out at the last minute. The surgeons examined waiting patients, then began operating. By the end of that first day, they had operated on 9 patients. By the end of the week,
we provided care for a total of 58 patients.

Amazingly enough, the electricity was not a problem at all this time. We never even had to turn the portable generator on! This was a first-and a blessing for which we were very grateful!

Surgical Patients:

Dr. Sergio Castillo had scheduled patients for each day. As usual, there were lots of hernias and prolapsed uteri. Because Dr. Philip Strawther, a plastic surgeon who has ten years experience with the Operation Smile ministry, was on the team, Sergio had scheduled several burn patients. Dr. Strawther ended up operating on three of them. He performed burn stricture release on a 7-year-old girl's badly burned fingers, removed scar tissue from the face of another burned little girl, and created an earlobe and removed scar tissue on a 2-year-old boy who had fallen head first into scalding water. Dr. Strawther also repaired a cleft lip on a young boy.

It was amazing to all of us how quickly and how well everything seemed to come together. We have no surgical packs now, so each case necessitates a pulling together of all the various items needed for that particular surgery. This is quite different from what is routinely done in hospitals here, so everyone had to remember to plan ahead and gather everything before they began.

The Harding students did their share, as well, and learned quickly. There were plenty of opportunities for experiencing different aspects of the clinic, from starting IV's in pre-op to assisting in surgery to working in the recovery room and ward. All six of the students gave it their all, stayed focused, and worked hard. In addition, their high level of excitement and enthusiasm made it fun for everyone around them! We were truly grateful to have them along.

Marco Diaz, our Guatemalan group coordinator, and Jerry Ervin, our Spanish-speaking paramedic from Iuka, Mississippi, could be found outdoors every afternoon preaching to the waiting family members. Other times Marco ministered individually, Bible in hand, with prayer and kind words. Hermalindo, the Quiche-speaking evangelist from La Florida, was usually found in the pre-op room, comforting and praying with patients before surgery. Throughout the day he worked his way among the beds speaking softly and praying with the mostly Quiche- speaking women patients.

The great excitement of the week came in the form of new life! Late one afternoon, a man showed up at the clinic asking if he could bring his daughter in. She had been in labor for 24 hours, he said, and didn't seem to be able to deliver her baby. It was our good fortune to have on the team a Spanish-speaking Ob/Gyn, Dr. Ana Maria Gordon from Roanoke, Virginia. She and several of us loaded into the truck to go check on the young woman. We drove as far as we could, parked the pickup, got out and walked down a steep, rocky dirt path to the bamboo house where the woman was. As we entered into the dark hut, we couldn't help but notice the "cleanly swept" dirt floor and bamboo walls you could see light through. In the far corner of the room was an area cordoned-off with sheets that provided some degree of privacy for the woman in labor.

Dr. Gordon immediately went to the young woman and after examining her decided that it would be safe to transport her to the clinic. The immediate problem then was how to get her there since she was obviously in no condition to walk. After some discussion, the four men with us literally carried her up that same step rocky path we had just come down. Each holding a corner of the blanket on which she lay, they resolutely got her to the truck, without dropping her or dragging her on the rocks. They placed her gently on the mattress we had laid in the pickup, and we drove off. Within an hour, Dr. Gordon delivered a beautiful black-haired baby girl! The mother seemed to be both thrilled and exhausted. When I asked her what she would name the baby, she pointed to Dr. Gordon, and said, "Ana Mariaâ¦like her." It was so wonderful!

When the time came to leave, it was bittersweet as always. Several patients would be remaining in the hospital for a day or two longer, but the majority had gone home and all appeared to be doing well. We knew that Dr. Castillo would be providing the necessary follow up. We give thanks and praise to God for His allowing us another opportunity to minister in His name to people from whom we gain so much.