Headed for Antigua
The plane has just landed and it is about noon in Guatemala city. The teams meet up by the luggage conveyor belt. It is pretty easy to tell the difference between the newcomers and seasoned veterans. All the newcomers walk around with the deer in the headlights look, while the seasoned vets rush to catch up with one another, bringing newcomers in with hugs, smiles, and handshakes. It didn't take long however, for us to run into a bit of a problem; the government has seized all our medical supplies. It baffles me that you can come to do the country a service and they seize the supplies you need to do it with, SMHID (shaking my head in disbelief). That didn't stop the Faith In Practice team though, we kept right on moving to accomplish the mission we came for; to give life changing surgeries and prayers to the people of Guatemala. When we made it outside to the bus we were greeted with ham sandwiches and cold bottled water. The bus ride to Antigua from Guatemala City was about 1 1/2 hours. It was definitely not the best ride I ever had, we felt every bump in the road, but at least we had air conditioning on the bus. I have heard in past years they were not so lucky. As soon as we entered the city of Antigua, the streets turned from pavement to cobblestone. I felt transported, back to the 16th century. The bus took us straight to Casa De Fe, a home for patients to go and recover. After getting a brief overview of the building, they laid down rules for us to follow for our own safety in the city. After that we were off to the hospital (Obras Sociales del Santo Hermano Pedro) where all the surgeries take place. This place is simply amazing. I have never seen a place so clean in my entire life. Every time you enter a hallway or room there is always someone cleaning with a mop or a broom. This is also the place where parents seem to abandon their kids. A great majority of the kids cared for here are found on the door steps, kids born with cleft palates, spina bifidia, and other deformities. The hospital is left with the burden of taking care of these beautiful kids, and they tackle that burden head on. All the kids are well fed and extremely clean. Our country could take a page or two out of Obras book. After we had our tour of this large hospital we headed toward our hotel: Quinta de la Flores to rest up for the day tomorrow!
Patience Is A Virtue
Its 4 am in the morning and I am awakened by what must be the chirping of a million of birds. Its one of the most peaceful sounds I have ever heard; especially when combined with the raindrops hitting the rooftop of the hotel room. Needless to say, getting out of bed is harder than expected, which isn't very good since the team is supposed to meet at 6:00 am for breakfast and 6:30 devotion. My wife and I hustle out the room to grab a few pieces of fruit and some yogurt that we scoff down during devotion led by pastor David Steane. We all huddle up and get our spiritual food needed for the day before heading over to Obras( the hospital). This is the day we would normally unload our medical supplies but since we have no supplies for now, thanks to the Guatemalan government, we'll just be meeting patients. So, while it was a pretty short day for most of the team, some had to stay and screen the patients for surgery. It was amazing, how patient these people were. There were 82 people that had to be screened for surgeries. As I look at these people waiting, they never got impatient once. If this were to happen back in America, whether the treatment was free or not, there definitely would have been some complaining going on. These people were just the opposite. The longer they waited it seemed like the more patient they became. While the people were waiting we were able to pass out coloring books to the kids. Wow! The parents and the kids were so excited to get the coloring books that it almost made me sad. They were so thankful to be able to color and one mother came up and asked if we had more books for her kids at home (talk about a tear jerker). I have quickly come to realize that the people here are probably helping us more than we are helping them. Pray with us and for us as we continue this week long journey. Pray that every individual on this trip's eyes be open to see how blessed we really are.
All In A Days Work
It's 7:30 am and everyone is scrambling trying to find their scrubs to wear in order to prepare for the surgeries. Everyone is excited and the majority of the staff are wearing mismatch scrubs (lol) and its hilarious. Dr Hartline, who runs the surgery team, is wearing leopard / flower print scrubs. Despite their humor, the staff approach their surgeries with a seriousness I have never seen before. It is awesome to see the team pull together as I had the opportunity of sitting in on my first surgery ever! It was absolutely amazing despite the fact that the team was working with a monitor that was going in and out. The patient, who was only a 5 year old little girl was absolutely beautiful; she literally looked like an angel. I watched as they taped her eyes down; as some people are put under for surgery, their eyes might remain open, or they might close and pop back open. Therefore, the doctors always take extreme caution, protecting the patient from cornea abrasions and preventing their eyes from drying out. The surgery team consisted of John Hollingsworth (CRNA), Dr David Harrell (Surgeon), Sherri Loveday (First Assist), Christie Whitcomb ( Circulator) , and Luis from Guatemala. The surgery for the little girl was a success and her hernia was repaired. She is one of the lucky ones here; they were able to catch the hernia early in her life. A lot of people here in Guatemala do not have that luxury. I saw a man who's scrotum had swollen to the size of a cantaloupe from a hernia which he had been walking around with for years. All becuase he could not afford a simple 30 minute procedure. Thanks to God working through Faith In Practice he no longer has to walk around like that anymore. He now has the luxury of walking around with normal size jeans and underwear on, something we all take for granted. A problem we don't have to worry about because we have health insurance. This is all in a days work for the surgical team here in Guatemala. The next surgical team I watched was Alex Johnson (CRNA), Dr Michael Doody (Surgeon), Dr John McElligot, Jan Lamp (First Assist), and Maria Cruz from Guatemala. The patient was A middle aged woman, a very happy woman who I personally got a chance to pray for. She had a fibroid cyst in her uterus about the size of a basketball. As Alex put her to sleep with ease, Jan prepared the table for herself and Dr Moody and laid out the tools needed for the surgery. The patiebt looked like she was seven months pregnant as she laid on the table,but instead of bearing a child, she had a massive fibroid cyst. To picture the cyst, imagine cutting open a basketball but instead of being filled with air, it is packed with golf balls. The cyst, which grew and integrated with The patient's uterus, caused it to swell to the size of a basketball. The golfballs inside were tumors that had formed within the solid mass of the cyst. God is definitely working through this Faith in Practice organization. None of this would be possible without God working through the medical teams. Otherwise, these people would go on living in pain and possibly die because of their condition. With that being said, when it comes to donating to this organization I will definitely be first in line. I have no doubt in my mind Maria is feeling a lot lighter. The patient lost 20 pounds in 20 minutes. Wow! How is that for a weight loss program? SMHID ( shaking my head in disbelief). This place runs like a well oiled machine. Everyone knows their responsibility and does it extremely well. Did I mention God is allowing the team to accomplish this without the medical supplies they brought for the trip?The government changed their laws recently and would not let the teams supplies through. We are praying that everything is worked out now, and the trunks will arrive today. Thank God the team had extra supplies that was left over from the other teams, but I don't think they can make it through the week with the supplies they have now. So if you read this please say a prayer for the team that the supplies make it with everything intact.
Bang! Bang! Poof! Poof! It seems like something different wake us up every morning. This morning it was fireworks, and although we were told it would happen periodically, I was not expecting it at 5:00 am ( lol). After breakfast and devotion it was the normal 15 minute walk to Obras. We are greeted by the slew of Guatemalan marketers before entering the building. My wife learned that once you tell the people here you would buy from them they hold you to it, as she is reminded by a lady name Clara every morning. Clara says " Hello Shatrina you promise you buy from me before you leave! Don't forget me, my name is Clara" The team somehow seems even more upbeat this morning, I would have doubted that could be possible, than the last morning. Maybe it was the inspiring words by Dr Hartline this morning as he said " What trunks?! Even if the medical supplies don't show up we will complete the task we came for" and as he walked off the team was going crazy chanting his name ( Randy! Randy! Randy!). My first surgery to sit in on this morning is the removal of a gallbladder. The patient has been in severe pain every time she eats. That is pretty tough considering the average person eats three times a day. The surgical team consist of Bruce Bowen (CRNA), Dr Roland Weast ( Surgeon), Kelly McElligott ( Circulator ), Tammy Martin ( First Assist), Mirna Yanac ( Translator) and Juan Carlos from Guatemala. Watching this surgery was definitely incredible. We got to watch it on a high definition monitor, which I promise you, the coolest 3D movie doesn't even come close to this experience. After Bruce stabilized the patient Dr Weast and Tammy Martin took over. Dr Weast, who said he was a little out of comfort zone with missing tools and short a scrub tech, definitely didn't look it. Tammy and he looked like they had been working together for years as she constantly kept giving him the tools to work with. Dr Weast was even kind enough to give us a tour of the abdomen. The tiny camera moved from the stomach, to the small intestines, up to the liver and finally to the gallbladder. After a bit of a struggle getting the gallbladder out of the tiny hole he made in the abdomen because of the marble sized gallstones, he finally sprung it free and the surgery was a success. I love the way everyone around here adapts. Despite things, tools , and staff being different the team perseveres surgery after surgery! I'm so excited for this patient , as after a few days she will be able to enjoy her food again. Thanks to God working through the Faith In Practice team another successful surgery was completed, and another life saved. Dr. Weast's second case was equally successful but he found some nodules against the wall of the abdomen that concerned him. So please in your prayers tonight lift up this patient and pray that what Dr Weast saw was nothing serious! Pray for a clean pathology report and her safe return to her family. After those mind boggling surgeries I decided to go where the patients wait before surgery, The Pre Op ward. The Pre Op team consists of Toni Doody ( Pre Op Nurse), Jenny Wallace ( Pre Op Nurse), Sandra Coffe ( Pre Op / Translator), Samantha Jones ( Translator), and Jose from Guatemala. This room is very important to the surgery going well, it allows staff to help calm down any anxious patients, administer I.V.'s and pray for the patients. It’s amazing how prayer change things and people, you can see the peace of God enter some of these patients after they have been prayed for. They calm and their fidgeting and nervousness drops away, but their gratefulness remains unwavering. Whenever you enter the Pre Op room you are greeted with a smile by the staff, they don’t have to where the surgical masks there (lol). I love it there, they are always ready to exercise prayer in a situation. Right next to the Pre Op ward is the Recovery ward. There you will find Rowena Castilaw (Recovery Nurse), Janet Vasquez ( Recovery Nurse), and Brenda Anderson ( Recovery Nurse). These ladies are extremely upbeat for never being able to leave the patients side and being the last ones to leave at the end of each day. They have to make sure that the patient oxygen level remains at 90 percent at all times. Janet said " The other things like blood pressure and heart rate they can work with if there is a problem, but the oxygen can never go below 90 percent". While I am hanging out in the recovery room I got to see my first trophy. A patient had their newly removed gallstones lying beside them on the bed in a jar. They love to keep whatever is causing them to have their surgery. I wish I could have saw what the patient with the fibroid cyst took her trophy home in, SMHID (shaking my head in disbelief). As I'm shaking my head our team mother / doctor ( Dr. Kathy Sims) walks into the room. She seems to be involved in every single surgery. I don't know how she does it; I think she cloned herself (lol). But she manages to help everyone including the team members who are sick and keep a smile on her face. Wow!
A Bag Of Apples
As I'm headed to my first surgery of the day, I could not help but notice our team father George Uthalt ( Papa George) at work as usual. George is the one who works behind the scenes, making sure everything runs smooth and keeping track of where everyone is. He coordinates the travel of the team and makes sure everyone is safe. George is superb at making sure the doctors have what they need, so you can imagine the pressure he's feeling as we wait still for our medical trunks. Speaking of trunks, they should be here at noon today. Which Papa already has worked out: where they are to be delivered and which ones are to be unloaded first. Great Job Papa George! The surgery team I'm sitting in with today is Suzi Stevens( CRNA), Dr Jimmy Harrell ( Surgeon), Dr Randy Hartline (Surgeon), Sandy Wells (First Assist), and Shatrina Wolf ( Circulator). This surgery is intriguing in so many ways. This lady that is being operated on is K’iche’ (Quiché in Spanish), which is an ancient Mayan group with their own language that only 7 percent of the people here speak. She traveled 8-10 hours from a rural village here in Guatemala and she did not come emptied handed. She arrived with her daughter, who translates for her, and a bag of apples. Mirna, who was translating for Dr Hartline, during the patient interviews discovered how far she had came. Once Dr. Hartline found out; combined with the type of surgery she had to have, he instantly tried to get her surgery moved up so she would have more time to recover before heading back on that long bumpy ride. When the patient found out, she told him" Dont worry about it I'm just grateful to be able to have this surgery." She said " I don't have any money to give you, but I brought you a bag of apples to show my appreciation." Wow! This lady, who's insides were coming out of her body, and who was in immense pain, said it was ok she could wait. Amazing how grateful these people are! Dr Hartline said " If he could not make her feel better he would give her apples back (smiling)." We don't have to worry about that because the surgery was a huge success and if she recovers fast enough; Dr Hartline promises to sit down and eat an apple with her.
Always Right On Time
Finally the trunks have been released, but one slight problem remains: while they are in Guatemala City, we are in Antigua. The hour and a half bus ride over the mountains between the two cities is beautiful, but it also is an hour and a half. I guess I should have expected this, at least the difficulties with the trunks is consistent! So Doug and I are headed to Guatemala City in a Isuzu Box truck. It rides a lot smoother than the bus and the other vehicles I have rode in. Our driver's name is Lionel, and somewhat unsurprisingly, he doesn't speak a lick of English. He appears to fit in quite well with the other drivers here in Antigua though as he passes everyone on the road. It is raining cats and dogs as he flies over what look like a mudslide at one of the corners we went around. My heart skipped at least two beats SMHID ( shaking my head in disbelief ). I shouted no me gusta, after which we all broke out in laughter. There is always a sense of truth to every joke, and I think he got the hint because he is definitely driving a bit better. We finally made it to the airport only to find out I needed my passport. Nothing seem to be easy when your trying to do a good thing. We left straight from the hospital, we don't carry our passports to work. Thank God I keep my wallet, in which I had my driver license. They were a little reluctant but they went a head and excepted it. Doug had to wait outside as me and Evelyn had To bring all 25 trunks outside to the truck by ourselves. None of that really mattered as we were all just happy to get trunks. Thank you Jesus! Always right on time. Before we could sit down and relax, the power goes out in the hospital while patients were being operated on. God smiled on us again as the multiple power outages lasted only a couple of minutes. I can't wait to get back to the hotel and eat dinner tonight. Ray and Barbara, our cooks for the trip, are absolutely amazing. They go buy food fresh everyday with Howe Wallace, who Barbara teasingly says is her bodyguard / pycharist. Whenever you sit down at the table you always are in for a treat! I think tonight they have prepared Mahi Mahi and bacon wrapped shrimp, that's right; eat your heart out. I am not sure what they will prepare for dessert as it is always a surprise. So far we have had homemade banana pudding, ice cream and brownies, strawberry cheesecake, and tres leches. I don't know how they do it but they do a wonderful job, and not to mention the foods are prepared with tons of love. I personally think that is their secret ingredient.
Our time in Antigua is rapidly coming to an end. The team has managed to do an total of 82 total surgeries. They have done 10 Cholecystectomy, laparoscopic (Gallbladder removals), 9 Excision/Resection ( Mass Removals), 26 Herniaplasty ( removal of hernias), 1 Laparotomy( exploratory), 1 repair, anal fistula ( self explanatory) lol, 2 general surgeries, 1 Conization ( take cervix out), 1 Dialation & Cutterage of uterus( clean out uterus from miscarriage etc.) 1 Mid-Urethral Sling ( lifting of bladder), 19 Hysterectomy ( removal of uterus), 1 Myomectomy ( remove fibroids), 1 Paravaginal Defect Repair ( Bladder Lifting), 1 Retropubic Urethropexy ( bladder repair), 5 Sacral Colopexy ( lifting of bladder and repair), 2 Salpingo Colpopexy ( Removal of Fallopian Tubes), and last but not least 1 Diagnostic Laparoscopy ( to see what's going on in the abdomen). The age ranges of the patients are from 18 months to 72 years old. As you can see there was no rest for the weary, but this team is energized by their mission to help make peoples lives better. Thank God the lights did not go out today! Also, I almost forgot to tell you guys about Doug. Doug has been very important to this trip. He's has been responsible for the photos, and editing my blogs. I personally don't know what I would have done without him. As you would probably be reading a bunch of run on sentences, bad punctuation, and a plethora of other the things. Tonight is suppose to be the teams final dinner together as we just finished the last surgery. We all get to dress up a little and go out to a nice restaurant, thank God because they all deserve it. Congratulation Team 327!!!!! God give you all safe passage home.