Since I’ve been back from Guatemala, I’ve been busy catching up on life and laundry (not sleep yet). And really just missing all the people I met. I wanted to write a few entries about the trip to highlight different parts, but Sarah O. told me to post the email I sent to lots of friends. So here it is:
The trip was amazing, truly beyond my expectations. God is like that, ready to amaze us. I keep thinking about how little I did there…but then I’m reminded it’s not about me or what I can give, but what God is already doing in the lives of his children. Joy wells up when I recall the gratefulness of the Guatemalan people, the amazing beauty of the country, and the sharing of lives amongst the team I worked with.
So last Friday 25 Lipscomb students, myself and a professor left Nashville and ended up in Guatemala City. The next morning we went back to the airport and picked up the rest of the medical team, which included several nurses, techs, an ophthalmologist, optometrist, anesthesiologist, and orthopedic surgeon plus their families. We had some fun bus rides and pickup truck rides during the week. We went to the town of Montellano (Mont-E-‘a-no) to work at Clinica Ezell, which is run by Health Talents International. My friend Julie works for HTI and was there all week with us, and was invaluable to me personally as a translator. I am still very non-Spanish speaking!
The physicians got to work Saturday doing consults and deciding on surgical cases. Patients were lined up when we got there. The clinic has rooms behind the hospital area where teams stay…the water was drinkable, there were fans, and great food at every meal. I especially loved fried plantains for breakfast. We had tortillas at every meal and black beans at almost every one. And Guatemala has Diet Coke (Coca-Cola Light) plus incredible guacamole, which were my 2 big food questions before I went.
After church on Sunday, we started surgeries. The students were divided up into different teams every day to go with different doctors, on mobile medical clinics, or to the schools to do water filter education/delivery, eye exams, and a VBS. I was a pre-op nurse on Sunday…didn’t know what I was doing for a minute, but I picked up the eye drop drill quickly and had students doing it before no time. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday I spend going out with one of the two doctors who work there full-time on mobile medical clinics. We took boxes of supplies and would drive to villages and set up exam rooms in a church, home, or just outside somewhere. Men would tie up rope and drape sheets to make walls and we had an exam table, oto/ophthalmoscope, and some dressing supplies. They set up a pharmacy there and have an evangelist come to talk to the patients before they are seen. People were lined up when we got there every day and would wait several hours sometimes to be seen. We saw 40-80 a day, me seeing one for every 3 the doctor saw because I had to have translation and had never seen several some of the things before. We flicked off the ants and tried to stay hydrated (but not too much because bathroom facilities were not great). I saw babies, old people, pregnant women, a little of everything plus some. I treated several for parasites and saw what vitamin deficiencies do firsthand. .
There were several patients that I’ll always remember. One was a lady who was jaundiced (yellow eyes from liver disease) and who had had several abdominal surgeries. She lifted her shirt and the rolled up fabric on her abdomen, showing an open incision draining. She had been to the national hospital and was told she needed a test to determine what was wrong. We consulted with Dr. Walter and he told her he would looked into the cost. He can decide if the clinic would help her pay for it from their mercy fund. One student with us that day was so concerned that she took up a collection to help pay for half (the patient had about half collected). The last patient of the first day was heartbreaking. A 41-year-old man came in for depression and had a history of epilepsy and what sounds like Tourette’s (he said he had outbursts of anger and bad words). He had been forced to retire 17 years ago due to these problems and had been shunned by many churches. He said he felt useless and lived with his father who would tell him was worthless because he couldn’t work. His father would tell him he would be better off dead. With tears in my eyes I look at Julie, my friend who is translating, and talk to her about depression treatment (we didn’t have any meds). Then the Spirit used her to deliver words of hope to this man. The student in the room said all she could understand was Julie telling him about “life” and “living.”
One afternoon I saw 2 cataract removals and one morning saw them take off eye patches to check how much vision people had regained. Awesome. I worked in the dental clinic one morning. At the end of the week, 52 eye surgeries and 12 orthopedic surgeries were done at the clinic.
Thursday afternoon we went to a beautiful lake and had lunch; some people kayaked…I took pictures.Friday we headed off to Antigua which is an amazing place if you ever want to vacation. I went to the market and bought lots of great things, toured 2 cathedrals and a small Mayan ruin,plus had a massage at a spa. Before that I was hurting from my neck to waist with any movement so that was great.
The only sad part was that I had to leave at 4 a.m. on Saturday and go home by myself. I only said bye to 2 students the night before, so I’m having some withdrawals. Getting to know them better and see how much they connected with patients and loved the people in Guatemala was maybe my favorite part. Some of the students have faith so far beyond what I can imagine…it was refreshing and challenging.
Things I really loved about Guatemala: fried plantains, the colorful paint on buildings, the volcanoes, the FLOWERS and plants, worry dolls, Spanish architecture in Antigua, the older lady I saw who squeezed my nose when she left and told me to keep my “cute nose,” kids painting my face, faithfulness of the people, the cinnamon bread we bought, no cell phones, coffee, and the Love that shatters all barriers.