As the year draws to a close, I would like to summarize our accomplishments in this project during 2016. With our Guatemalan sister organization, Asociacion Companero para Cirugia (ACPC), we supported 18 surgical teams with patients and for 5 of these teams we also provided the in-country logistics support. Altogether, 680 patients received surgical care and more than 6,000 received medical attention.
I would like to use the experience of several patients to describe how we provide the surgical care. In October, we scheduled patients with the Hernia Society which would be volunteering in Antigua that month and this team provided 65 of our patients with surgical care. One of these patients was Kennet who was born with an inguinal hernia in La Tinta, Alta Verapaz. His mother and his father had travelled every week to a local hospital to get the much needed surgery, but the hospital didn’t have medical supplies. His mother, Otilia, was afraid of having more children, thinking that they would also be born with a hernia and the family would not be able to do anything about it.
Fortunately, Kennet and his family were told about our medical mission to a nearby community and we were able to schedule him with the Hernia Society team. Kennet was very lovely and many volunteers fell in love with him and with his smile. After the surgery, Kennet’s mother said she was “very thankful to all volunteers and encouraged them to keep coming to Guatemala”.
In addition to those patients receiving surgery, another seven had to return home because their major incisional hernias required more advanced planning by a team. Since we have the capability to follow up on all our patients, ACPC was able to reschedule five of the patients with incisional hernias with the Canadian Health for Humanity team that came for three weeks in November. Alicia Risso was one of these incisional hernia patients and she said after her surgery: “I want to thank Partner for Surgery and ACPC for not giving up on us and for finding the support we needed. We felt sad when we were told in October that we would not get our surgeries, but ACPC found another team for us. Thanks to the teams and to the people who made this possible”.
We are making a renewed effort to encourage non-medical volunteers to join us on a medical mission in Guatemala and also visit some of the patients in their rural homes. If you know of anyone who might have an interest in learning more, please contact me at 703 893-4335.
From all of us in Partner for Surgery and ACPC, we thank you for your support of our project Medical Care for 2,000 Rural Guatemalan Families (18508).
The Cleft Infant Nutrition Program Partner for Surgery started with our sister organization in Guatemala six years ago has become a critical part of health care in rural Guatemala for children born with this defect. Eighty per cent of the children in the program are referred to us by midwives and local health promoters which means children and families get attention in lactation assistance, nutrition education and the care and feeding of cleft children shortly after the child is born. However, when children are not enrolled within a few days after birth, dehydration, malnutrition, and illness are the norm.
Ruth Arias and her family live in the very small rural village of El Remolino 75 miles from a regional hospital. When Ruth’s mother, Herly, saw Ruth at birth, she became distraught and developed emotional and physical problems. Ruth has a cousin with a cleft and no one imagined another child would be born in the family with a similar problem. Ruth was not well cared for and her life was in danger. She was almost one month old before Julio, a health promoter with our Guatemalan sister organization, Asociacion Companero para Cirugia, learned of Ruth and enrolled her in the Nutrition Program and assisted Ruth’s mother. Because of the support provided by the program, both Ruth and Herly’s health improved and Ruth was able to qualify for surgery when she was 10 months old. Under the guidance and support of Julio, Ruth has had her lip repaired and within a few months we hope she will be ready for surgery on her palate and start speech therapy. Herly was almost speechless after Ruth’s surgery, but managed to say, “The help provided by Companero para Cirugia made this miracle possible - thank you, thank you, thank you.”
Since our report to you three months ago, 60 children from this program have received corrective surgery from the San Francisco Bay Area Faces of Hope team. This experience of the Arias family is similar to the other 165 children who already received corrective surgery this year in large part because of your financial support. Please encourage your friends to be a part of this unique program that helps children and their families to better health.
Marcelo lives near the village of Purula in the Guatemalan department of Alta Verapaz. He is basically a subsistence farmer who supports his family of eight by growing corn, beans and broccoli. In 2014 he became concerned about a growing mass on the side of his neck and went to a nearby medical evaluation clinic organized by our Guatemalan partner, Companero para Cirugia. He needed surgery but unfortunately no team was available in 2014 or 2015 with the required surgical capabilities to deal with his complex tumor.
Everyone could see Marcelo was becoming desperate since the movement of his head was now significantly affected. He knew that soon he would not be able to work in his field and provide for his family. Fortunately, Dr. Elwood McMullin agreed that his 2016 Cape Breton Nova Scotia team could provide the surgery when they came to Guatemala. With the skills of this Canadian volunteer team and the support we provided for Marcelo’s transportation, lodging and post-operative care, the procedure was a big success. Immediately after the surgery he looked in a mirror and said “IT HAS BEEN A LONG TIME SINCE I HAD A SMILE ON MY FACE. TODAY I CAN SMILE AGAIN. I AM THE MARCELINO FROM BEFORE THIS MASS”.
There have been 201 other examples of individuals receiving needed critical surgical care since our report three months ago. Of these, 50 patients received a corrective procedure for a cleft defect by the Faces of Hope surgical team and, once again, the team commented on how healthy the children were because of our Cleft Infant Nutrition program. Over these last three months two teams of medical volunteers went to eight rural villages and, from 1021 medical evaluations, 434 individuals were identified who needed surgery. Also during these village clinics, 481 cervical cancer prevention exams and 144 breast mass evaluations were provided.
All these rural evaluations and surgical procedures are done by volunteer doctors from the USA and Canada who pay their own expenses. However, preparations for rural clinics, scheduling and escorting patients, post-operative care, team logistics and record keeping is done with your financial support. This medical care allowing thousands of individuals to be independent is only possible when we combine financial resources with the willing volunteerism of so many in North America. We hope you will consider continuing your support. More information can be found on our website: www.partnerforsurgery.org.