By Kathy Cameron, RN
The first full day at the Obras is always a bit chaotic. Several hundred patients and family members greet us as we walk in the door. Patiently they wait as we get our act together for triage. During triage we see patients in individual clinics, decide which patients are surgical candidates, and build an OR schedule for the week. This seemingly simple task involves many people coming together to do their jobs. Surgeons must examine patients and discuss findings. Anesthesiologists clear the patient physically for surgery. Nurses are preparing the OR and Recovery Room for the week’s surgical activity. Obras staff work to make sure the paperwork is on task and properly done. Our Guatemalan partners at the Obras help us find necessary equipment, clean the rooms and equipment we will use, feed us lunch and welcome us into their space. This is when we see a team come together. We begin to realize that each member of the team is essential to the success of the week. People engaging each other, helping each other and generally working together to see that our patients are well cared for is vital. You meet many people on triage day and hear as many stories.
I spent a little time in the ENT room this afternoon and was blessed to meet Ashly. Ashly is a nine year old girl who is profoundly deaf. She has hearing aids but tests showed that they were ineffective in helping her hear. Her parents brought her to the clinic hoping to find answers regarding her deafness, her inability to speak and read, and why the hearing aids weren’t working. As is sometimes the case, we had no answers for them. Sometimes deafness isn’t improved with hearing aids. It’s difficult for children that cannot hear and sound out letters to read. It’s sad and frustrating to be able to do nothing. As the doctors and translators gently explained these sad realities to Ashly’s parents she sat quietly watching and waiting. I was struck with how isolating it must be to watch others move their mouths and have no real understanding of what that even means. We were able to refer this sweet family to a foundation in Guatemala City that assists deaf children and their families. As they left the room they carefully thanked everyone in the room. Ashly hugged a doctor she had seen earlier in audiology. Her smile was beautiful and her world is silent.
After triage we returned to our hotel for dinner and here is where some very important team members had been working. Our cooks, Mary Card, Nancy and Jerry Blurton, toiled hard all day to feed us. They rise early in the morning to provide breakfast and (life sustaining) coffee. For dinner there are appetizers, main course and dessert as sustenance for our bodies but just as important is the conversation and fellowship we enjoy around the tables. We all have our stories to tell and the meals prepared by these wonderful team members provide time and space for us to learn about each other. Henri Nouwen said that we should “pay attention to the people God puts in your path if you want to discern what God is up to in your life”. I just want to thank God for putting this team of people in my path.