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Antigua Day By Day

Antigua Day 1 — Sunday


Today was the first day of work at the Obras Sociales del Hermano Pedro, the hospital and church that has welcomed in our Medical Missions Foundation teams for the past 11 years. After a tour around the facilities and a brief message from Annabella and Odra, the two wonderful women who make our stays at the Obras possible, the teams separated and went to work.


For the Antigua trip, Sunday is famous for being the long day, the exhausting day. Not this year. Under many experienced team leaders, the Pharmacy and Post-Op team finished their days work in three hours, and the Urology trio saw 32 patients in the same time. Not to be outdone, the ENT team saw over 150 patients and scheduled all of the available hours for surgery. On a day known for chaos, an environment of peaceful efficiency was found around the Obras.A hospital can be a scary place for many, and even more so when your doctor doesn’t speak your language.


The Art team is here to calm the minds of the nervous, and bring entertainment to everyone else. And over the years, a message from Annabella herself, the Art team is what sets our missions apart. It’s one thing to physically treat a patient, but something else to boost the mental vitality of everyone at the hospital.


This year’s Art team is exceptional. With several veteran members, and the rest very quick learners, the team has not only captured the attention of almost of all of the patients, but has truly embraced the spirit of a “go-for”, and has become a wonderful addition for every other team on the trip.
Like every year, the first two days are rushed, and many stories will unfold over the course of the week, and we hope to bring those to you.


Andrew Simpson, Blogger Team Antigua 2013


Antigua 2013 – Day 2 Monday


Whether telling a patient they can never hear again, or watching a patient who now can hear for the first time, Audiology is always where some of the most extreme emotions can be found. This year is no excepti


One of the first patients of the day was six years old when he lost his hearing, most likely due to a virus or bacterial infection in his ear. But after a short 20 minute procedure, his face emotionless as with so many patients, he had two new hearing aids and was able to hear for the first time in over a decade. After that, he did nothing but smile.


In past years, patients would have to go home and return later in the week as a step in getting their hearing aids, which meant some patients didn’t get them because they couldn’t get back to the hospital. This year, this bureaucratic step has been abandoned and patients can now receive hearing aids on the same day they have their hearing tested. This gives our patients much quicker access to the life-changing treatment the Audiology team provides.


The Urology team was able to power through eight surgeries today, without the aid of a modern laser tool – missing for several days after not arriving with the rest of the luggage. Adding to that was a broken stone-breaking tool. According to Dr. Scott Montgomery, the word of the day was “adaptable”.


As the first days’ patients move from the OR to the recovery room, other team members headed to Casa de Fe, the Obras’ version of a Ronald McDonald House. While not many patients are there yet, the group has started to prep for the incoming patients by helping to cook meals and prepare beds. When patients begin to move into Casa de Fe, doctors and the Art team will follow quickly.


Andrew Simpson, 2013 Team Antigua Blogger


Antigua 2013 Days 3 & 4


The ENT team has performed an impressive 67 surgeries in the past three days, among them many tonsillectomies, adenoidectomies, and four parotid masses (a surgical procedure to remove a tumor in a salivary gland). While many of the patients are happily recovering as scheduled at Casa de Fe, there were two cases that our doctors couldn’t accomplish.


Every morning, an elderly woman arrives at the Obras and sits. She waits. And then waits more. She has a parotid mass like four other patients, but her mass extends danger
ously close to her skull and brain. It would be too dangerous to attempt and remove it at the Obras, which lacks an ICU and neurologist. So here she sits, with hope that a surgery can be arranged for her in Guatemala City.


Another patient has an unknown mass that stretches from his shoulder to his face. While our team was able to perform a biopsy on the mass, our team will have left by the time the pathology is finished. Whether it turns out to be a benign tumor or something more dangerous, he will have to seek help from another group.


While many of the patients that seek treatment at the Obras during our weeks stay have had a basic education, due to the lack of infrastructure in much of the country, a large number of patients can’t read or write.


As part of a continuing research project with Dr. Kevin Sykes, pharmacist Jessica Humphrey is trying to improve patients’ understanding of their medications instructions. Humphrey is using a new form of pictorial instructions – showing different times of day and the number of pills at each time – to see if more patients will remember how to take their medications.


Casa de Fe has been in full swing for the past two days. A group from the Art team arrives in the morning to distract children, help with laundry, and help prepare lunch. In rain or sunshine, a favorite of both patients and volunteers in playing soccer on the roof top patio.


Around lunch time, nurse practitioner Regan Jacobson and Dr. Kim Baker arrive for their early rounds at Casa de Fe. Parents and recovering patients quietly line up to be seen. After spending three days together, friendships form between patients. When several young boys approached the doctors without their own parents, other adults stepped up to help.


Maddie Weissend, a college freshman and Art team member, has always translated for our teams in Antigua during her three mission trips. But this year, working with the Audiology team has been able to give her a new perspective on a big part of her life. As a child, Maddie had multiple infections and partial hearing loss in her right ear. For her, working in Audiology shows the other side of a process Maddie had only previously seen as a patient, and has sparked an interest into becoming an Audiologist.



Antigua 2013 Day 5


After being told by several doctors that his prostate was too big to operate, a man had his life changed when Dr. Tom Herrick agreed to perform the surgery. For Herrick, this was the reason he chose to come to Antigua with Medical Missions Foundation, his first mission trip. On other trips, Herrick wouldn’t have been able to stick to his urology specialty, and he felt that he couldn’t have helped patients as much he wanted to. But his first trip to Antigua is a dream come true: Herrick gets to practice urology, help people who others wouldn’t be able to, and work with a long-time friend.


Dr. Herrick isn’t traveling alone – his whole family has joined him this year. His daughters Elizabeth, a trip photographer and aspiring doctor, and Katherine, an Art team member, came on the trip simply because they wanted to help others. His wife Julia joined our group to use her interpreting skills. Many families go on mission trips together, but the Herrick family brings the “Yes we can” attitude that helps change lives.


Another young man came to the Obras after a failed Rhinoplasty, with a warped rib graft sticking through the bridge of his nose. He struggled every day to hide his condition, and filled with embarrassment, he constantly wore a bandage over his nose. Dr. Clint Humphrey was tasked with reconstructing his nose, and did using a piece of the man’s ear and reconfiguring the old rib graft. When the 18 year old woke in Post-OP, he couldn’t stop crying. Without an interpreter, doctors and nurses believed the man to be in pain. Only after he was able to sob out “I’m so happy” in English did the atmosphere of confusion turn to a heartwarming moment.


While his story might not be as impressive as giving a person their hearing back, or saving a life from a mortal infection, a man was saved from a life of ridicule. At the end of the day, a smile is still a smile.


Andrew Simpson, 2013 Team Antigua Blogger