San Raymundo, Guatemala Update
- Created on Tuesday, 30 October 2007 08:41
Fifty seven surgeries later, we are all back with our photos stored in our cameras and memories secured in every corner of our hearts. Our team of forty two volunteers saw over 500 patients this week, dispensing about a thousand prescriptions and almost 500 lab tests! We always are quick to say that "it's not about the numbers" but the numbers are proof that the need is great and we went to the right place at the right time to bring health to a very sick population.
We never see the "worried well" down in San Raymundo. The number of labs requested and meds dispensed evidences that our patients arrive sick and suffering. Many of them have never been cared for by more than a village health worker or a tired and underpaid doctor at the rarely open health clinic in town. They arrive to wait sometimes most of the day with the hope that we might be able to do the surgery they desperately need or give them the medications that they could not otherwise afford.
The ignorance of our mostly indigenous patients about their bodies and the mechanism of disease required that our clinicians do a fair amount of education. I was impressed that these dedicated volunteers took the time to explain many aspects of illnesses and the solutions to their patients. Most Guatemalan doctors wouldn't take the time to do this. Our team showed our patients respect and compassion, dispensing along with medications medical, nutritional and hygiene knowledge that, hopefully, they will spread to their communities.
Each consult patient saw a minimum of 2 and sometimes as many as half a dozen doctors and nurses. They received vitamins for themselves and their children, worm pills for the entire family and in some cases, treatments to take home to loved ones too sick to come or suffering from the same ailment (like scabies or lice).
Our surgical patients spent a lot of time in our pre-op area being loved on and calmed by an excellent team of nurses. There is an assumption in Guatemala that being put to sleep for surgery often results in death, so our patients arrive anxious and scared. It was amazing how skillfully our team calmed their fears, putting not only the patient but the family members at ease. Most of our team didn't speak the language, but even without interpreters, the language of love was understood.
What could be said about our dedicated surgeons? Doing as many as 13 surgeries a day was an exhausting work load. For many patients we were their only hope for a prolapsed uterus or hernia or painful gallstones---if we didn't fit them into our surgery schedule they would suffer for many more months until we return again. Despite tired legs and aching backs, our surgeons operated until late at night to give the relief these patients desperately sought.
The recovery team was amazing! Working from early in the morning until late into the evening, our surgical patients received the most compassionate (but firm, right? Doris?) care speeding their recovery. It was a sad moment to say goodbye to Melvin at the end of the week, who arrived on Monday fresh from a motorcycle accident that mangled his left leg. Thanks to the doctors and nurses who administered excellent emergency surgery and post-op care, he will walk on two legs instead of suffer what would have likely been an amputation.
From the folks who counted pills, the men who worked on a water project for a local school, and the gals slaving away in the tiny lab testing all sorts of body fluids, every member of this team operated like a well-oiled machine, pitching in and doing their part to make sure that the highest quality of care we could administer was given to our patients.
As tears of gratitude spilled on the walkway out of the hospital, all of us felt like we were the ones who were the recipient of the blessing. We got to witness the look of hope dawning on a worried mother's face as we handed them some medication. We got to hug the scared child. We handed out the food and warm blankets. We sutured and measured and calmed. And for all that we did, we received back so much more.
On behalf of our whole team I want to thank everyone who supported this team financially and in prayer. We could not have gone without both. I hope that some of you who read this and have only thought about coming will consider joining us. It is a pleasure to be with a team of people who exhibit the best that humanity has to offer as they sacrificially reach out to "the least of these" with hope, compassion and healing.