I have made seven prior (self-funded) trips to Guatemala with this team of 115 volunteers to provide orthopedic surgical and orthotic care for the under-served children and women of Guatemala. I have averaged 31 surgical procedures for every four day "work" week each January. This is a 501c(3)b non-profit group that is highly efficient and organized, with year-round supply and donation collection, advance team and logistical help, international shipping and storage, and good relationship with the local government and health care authorities. These efficiencies allow me to function as a vey busy orthopedic surgeon when we take over a National Hospital for ten days to provide inpatient and outpatient orthopedic, gynecologic, plastic, dental, and general surgical and ambulatory care. I usually travel in January with the Team and then fly back (on my own dime) six weeks later to do a follow-up clinic and orthotic and prosthetic fitting.
Guatemalan health care is in shambles on a national basis. The needed monies and supplies rarely trickle down to where they are needed most. Women who are without a man in their lives - and their children - are terribly under-served and suffer the most. There is no floor below which their health care needs may fall. Birth rates are very high. We care primarily for the children of Guatemala and their mothers. Occasionally, to get access to an extra OR, I agree to care for the urgent needs of Guatemalan men with trauma, infection, deformity, etc.
Please visit www.childrenoftheamericas.org to see the high level of dedication, organization, and impact this group has had for the under-served in Central America since the 1980s. Since 2001, our group has donated over 1,100 major surgeries in Guatemala. It is one thing to go on a mission trip and provide vitamins or eyeglasses. This group allows me to function as a fully active orthopedic surgeon!
I am grateful to the Dox Foundation for the grant that helped me in my travel to Guatemala this past January with Children of the Americas, a non-profit organization that enhances the health and well-being of the underserved with annual medical and surgical mission trips. I truly believe that a physician receives more than he or she gives by participating in a mission such as this.
Our team of 105 volunteers staffed a rural hospital in Salama, Guatemala, for six days and provided the gifts of 165 orthopedic, plastic, gynecologic, and general surgeries as well as filled thousands of prescriptions and clinic visits. Our nurses provided around-the-clock inpatient care and preop and postop monitoring. Top-notch anesthesiologist kept our patients comfortable. Molds for 59 custom orthoses and prostheses were fabricated.
Nothing in my professional career compares to witnessing the joy of a previously crippled child walk for the first time in his life. Nothing touches my heart more than the tears in that child’s mother’s eyes as she blesses me for my efforts. To be great is to serve in those quiet opportunities when our hearts touch another’s!
By humbling ourselves to serve others, we fulfill our calling as physicians. I have found a deep, unshakable joy in the freedom that comes from knowing I am doing what I was called to do.
In his eulogy for his late father, President George W Bush stated that his father recognized that “serving others enriches the giver’s soul.” I hope that I may inspire others by presenting my experience here.