Where to begin....and where to end.
A week's worth of memories and experiences that can never be fully conveyed.
My Father-in-law has been on the board of Health Talents International for several years now. He has always provided an opportunity for his employees at The Coker Group to participate in surgical and mobile medical clinic trips once a year. With my background in nursing, they have always offered to send me but it has never worked out timing-wise. Last year, they asked again and this time I honestly had no reason to say "no"...Belle was at a good age for me to leave for a week, I am no longer working full-time, and I couldn't use pregnancy as an excuse. In all honesty, I signed up thinking..."I'll never actually go because I will be pregnant by then". Totally wrong attitude I know.
In retrospect, I can see God's timing in not being able to go on the past trips. The last two years of infertility have changed me in a way that nothing else could have. I have become a stronger and tougher person while being more in touch with God's overall plan for my life and others' lives. While I am sure that I would have been able to serve two years ago on these trips, I don't know if I would have seen the tangible hand of God in the work. I don't know if I would have witnessed the healing taking place for what it was...a gentle reminder that God is capable of healing my hurts and disappointments. So I know that when I signed up thinking I would never actually go, God let out a loving laugh and paved the way for a week I will never forget and plan to repeat every year!
Health Talents International is a non-profit Christian organization that promotes medical evangelism throughout developing countries. This means that the surgical trip that I got to be a part of was one small piece of the puzzle of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ through teaching and healing ministries. At the end of the day, I experienced one of the most well run and organized mission groups I have ever worked with.
Our trip was a Saturday to Saturday and involved around 43 health care professionals and support members (caregivers, translators, chaplain, etc.). We flew into Guatemala city and traveled by bus to the Clinica Ezell. Clinica Ezell is located in Western Guatemala and is the point of operation for the surgical teams. Located on the property is a dormitory and apartments as well as a dining hall for the visiting surgical teams. In my opinion, the accommodations were outstanding based on my past mission trip experiences. We slept well and were well fed every day we were there. The clinic on the property includes three surgical suites, a 50-bed ward, exam rooms for the clinic, a pharmacy, lab and x-ray room.
Courtyard of the dormitory.
One half of the recovery unit included the immediate post anesthesia recovery beds.
Other half of the recovery unit.
OR #3 that I worked in primarily.
One of the clinic exam rooms.
Saturday evening included dinner and inventory of the supplies we had brought with us. We were up the next morning and ready to start the day with breakfast and orientation to the different teams we would be working with. I was assigned to work with the surgical team (more specifically the GYN surgeries) and worked with some of the finest nurses, techs, surgeons and anesthesiologists. We spent a little time getting to know our OR's and the supply rooms. We left there and headed straight to the local church across the street. It was a phenomenal experience to worship in primarily Spanish with bits of English mixed in for us! No rest for the weary....as soon as lunch was finished we began operating that afternoon.
Sunday afternoon through Thursday we continued operating. My team performed vaginal and abdominal hysterectomies, cyst removals, and anterior and posterior repairs. Our patients waited for hours in preop with the biggest smiles on their faces. Their nerves rarely showed as they were so thankful that someone wanted to treat them and take care of them. You see these people are primarily of Mayan descent and have very little access to health care. Each patient I walked back to the operating room could not stop thanking us for taking care of them. It was so rewarding to take care of patients who were not skeptical of the care they were receiving, but rejoiced with thankfulness.
Look there... on the far left... proof that I actually got to scrub in on a case.
One of the most life changing experiences is witnessing healing firsthand. So many of our female patients had ailments that would be embarrassing (to our society) or even miserable to live with. They were rolled out of our OR a changed person. I felt a little bit of what it must have been like to witness Jesus' healing in Bible times.
In total I think that all three surgical teams performed 74 surgeries between Sunday and Thursday. We passed these patients on to an outstanding team of nurses that recovered these patients on the ward and gave them quality and compassionate care. Thursday afternoon we made a day trip to Lake Atitlan which was breathtakingly gorgeous. It was nice for once to be outside of the four, white tile walls of the OR and see the beautiful scenery of Guatemala.
We packed our belongings up and headed out Friday morning to spend the day exploring Antigua, a designated World Heritage Site. We spent the day venturing through the market and enjoyed a relaxing team dinner that evening at the Hotel Antigua.
The next morning it was off to the airport for everyone to return home. It was bittersweet...happy to be returning to my family, but sad to be leaving such amazing people I had the opportunity to meet. I enjoyed having a week to just be Rachel, the nurse. I didn't have to worry about a house to keep clean, errands to run, etc but was just able to focus on using my God given talents to serve God's people. I look forward to returning next year and hope that if any of you have interest in the work Health Talents is doing, you will contact me.
Just a few of the phenomenal people I had the opportunity to get to know on this trip!
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