Today is an easier day for most of us, the exception being for those working in the OB/GYN services. Their surgeries tend to be more in number and and longer in duration than the rest. I so admire their team, their dedication and the competence they need for their frequently challenging work “surprises” and challenges. Witnessing them in action this week has been incredible.
This last day of surgeries is purposely scheduled with more openings in case there are any last minute emergencies. Many of the surgeons and their teams have been able to leave the hospital earlier than usual today. They are tired and ready for a break. At home they often don't do more than 3-10 surgeries per week, (depending on the specialty,) so given that their schedule here is more than double that number, Thursday afternoons are indeed welcome.
The hours here are long, beginning with a 5:00 am wake-up and sometimes not ending until 6:00 pm. Some of our surgical teams would be working even longer, but Las Obras Hospital is trying to limit the amount of overtime pay for their year round staff due to financial challenges and so they ask us to not schedule any surgeries past 3:30 pm.
This morning I had the pleasure of visiting the patients who are still in the hospital recovering. Most seem to be doing well and were their usual dignified, proud, but warm selves. It was such a pleasure to get to spend time with each one of them today and to ask how they were feeling and when they would be going home. There were some who admitted to discomfort from their surgeries, but there were also many who seemed to be feeling surprisingly well. I find their resilience amazing, especially given some of my own post-op experiences.
Our doctors and nurses tell me that these patients are courageous and dignified. They also are quite hardy. Most, including the elderly, lead lifestyles that are absent of junk food and that are still full of long and hard physical work, so many of them are in good to excellent condition when they arrive for their procedures.
My favorite Faith In Practice story of my husband's is of a patient he saw when he was here volunteering about 5 years ago. (My husband, Carlos is a urologist.) One of his patients was about 83-85 years old and due to an enlarged prostate he'd had a catheter in place for approximately three years so that he could pass urine. He lived far away from Antigua and had to first take a bus to Lake Atitlan, then a boat to cross the lake, and finally another bus to get to Antigua. This last bus dropped him off on a dark country road in the middle of the night somewhere outside of Antigua. His goal was to arrive at the hospital for Triage by Sunday morning so that he could be assessed and scheduled for his surgery. He walked through the rest of the night – without street lights - from where he was dropped off and until he arrived at Las Obras by 8:00 am. He seemed to be fine and was grateful to have gotten to the hospital on time. His surgery went well and he was able to go home a day or two post op.
Although his story is particularly memorable to me because of the walking through the night, it is not unusual to hear stories such as this one from others here as well. It is these kinds of encounters that keep volunteers coming back to work with Faith In Practice again and again. Some of them have been doing this kind of volunteer work either with Faith In Practice or with similar organizations for 20 years and beyond. I can certainly understand why they choose to now that I have experienced this place and these people for myself.
Brenda, John and Margaret finished preparing their last breakfast for us this morning followed by the kitchen clean-up and clean-out. I just saw the three of them pass by my room as they returned from their first afternoon as tourists in Antigua rather than as our chefs. It was delightful to see them out enjoying themselves! And tonight they and the rest of our group will all dine together at a beautiful local restaurant to celebrate and give thanks for our fulfilling week here.
It is hard to believe that tomorrow is our last day in Antigua. Doctors will be making final rounds on the post-op patients that are still in the hospital and the rest of us will be touring, shopping, relaxing and reminiscing together until they can join us. (Oh, and some of us will be blogging, of course ;-) Until then...Today is an easier day for most of us, the exception being for those working in the OB/GYN services. Their surgeries tend to be more in number and and longer in duration than the rest. I so admire their team, their dedication and the competence they need for their frequently challenging work “surprises” and challenges. Witnessing them in action this week has been incredible.