Mission to San Lucas — By the Numbers and From the Heart

We returned from Guatemala two weeks ago, which has given me time to reflect on our week in San Lucas Toliman.   The achievements are impressive -- 81 surgical procedures performed on 69 patients, 70 water filters distributed, countless medical consults by cardiologist Charlie Porter and the clinical staff, training (both informal and formal) of the local hospital team.   The numbers tell only part of the story. More relevant is the impact a mission has on the participants, patients and local community. Lives are transformed. Hope is restored. Special ...

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El Jefe de Agua

While Medical Missions Foundation’s core mission always will be to provide surgical and clinical services, we sometimes add complementary health programs. These programs are designed to address root causes of the medical cases we encounter. Missions to Uganda and Romania have added programs on burn prevention and women’s hygiene, for example.   In San Lucas Toliman, Denny Moser has spearheaded a multi-faceted effort to address clean water issues -- a common challenge throughout the developing world and a root cause for many of the clinical cases we encount...

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Like Father, Like Son

I met Daniel Castro (age 53) and his son Juan Danilo (age 18) on Thursday. Danilo was prepping for surgery that would remove a lipoma from his belly.   The father was no stranger to the MedMissions’ team. Daniel had a double hernia repaired during last year’s mission. For Daniel, it had truly been a life-changing event. Before the surgery, he had been in constant pain and was forced to reduce the time he worked on his farm. Because of Daniel’s disability, Juan Danilo had to pick up a larger portion of the farm work, which, in turn, reduced his time in ...

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Not Every Story is a Fairy Tale

I struggled with how (or whether) I should write this story…   On Wednesday, a 4-day-old boy was rushed to the Hospital Obras Sociales. He was not breathing and had turned blue. Members of our medical team joined Dr. Tun and his staff as they tried in vain to revive the infant boy.   As with any death, especially an infant, the team was devastated. The boy had been born by C-section in the nearest hospital with surgical capabilities -- in Solola, about 1 ½ hours away by car. He was released two days later and returned to San Lucas Toliman. &n...

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Reflections on World Health Day

As I sit in Guatemala, nearing the end of our mission to San Lucas Toliman, I am taking a break from my daily blogs to reflect on the small, but significant impact Medical Missions Foundation has on World Health.   We can’t solve all the health issues in the developing world; that is for sure. However, we can take pride in the tremendous benefits we deliver to the individuals and communities that we visit year after year.   Among the galaxy of organizations providing medical services in the developing world, MedMissions has developed the rare ...

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Scouting a new location in Quetzaltenango

While the rest of the team stayed in San Lucas Toliman to provide another full day of surgery and clinical services, a four-person scouting team went on a road trip on Tuesday.   Led by Carmen Gramajo-Moser, we drove three hours to Quetzaltenango, Guatemala’s second largest city, with a population 225,000. Located at 7,800 feet in the Guatemalan highlands, Quetzaltenango (also known as Xela) is an interesting colonial-era city surrounded by widely-scattered ethnic Mayan villages. For such a large city, Xela has a surprising shortage of medical services. &...

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Day 3 – Exciting… if you’re a medical professional

I have never seen a group so excited about poop. Then again, this is the same group that shares photos of gall stones. Not pleasant over the dinner table… and a bit twisted!   Yesterday’s big news was that Wilfredo pooped. As you will remember, Wilfredo is the two-year-old boy that the MedMissions surgical team reversed a previous ostomy procedure, “re-plumbing” his intestinal track so he could go the bathroom like anyone else.   Well, the big moment arrived the next morning. I was not there to see what apparently was a diaper parade through ...

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Day 2 – A Busy Day at the Hospital

Our first full day at Hospital Obras Sociales was a busy one, across all phases of the mission to San Lucas Toliman.   The highlight for the surgical team was a multi-faceted surgery performed on a two-year-old boy, reversing an ostomy performed a few days after birth due to intestinal inflamation. As Dr. John Alley described it, “We opened his belly, reversed his small bowel ostomy, repaired an abdominal wall hernia and removed his appendix.” Easy for him to say.   The net result: this young boy can now lead a normal life, discarding his ostomy ...

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Day 1 – Packing Party in Reverse

  24 hours into the mission and all is well.   The mission team and luggage arrived without incident in San Lucas Toliman late yesterday afternoon. It was a long day of travel -- a 6 AM departure from Kansas City, a tight connection in Houston, arrival in Guatemala City at noon and a three-hour bus trip to San Lucas.   We see our first patients at 7:30 Monday morning, so today was our opportunity to unpack and get organized. 30 suitcases packed three weeks ago with 1,500 pounds of medical equipment and supplies reappear in San Lucas ...

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Our bags are packed and we’re ready to go!

A team of 22 Medical Missions Foundation volunteers will depart April 2nd for a week-long mission to San Lucas Toliman, Guatemala. This will be our seventh annual mission to San Lucas, which is located on the shores of Lake Atitlan, about three hours west of Guatemala City.   Including missions to Antigua, MedMissions has organized and led 24 medical missions to Guatemala since 1998. We have performed nearly 2,000 surgeries and treated more than 12,000 clinical patients. This does not count other audiology and dental services, which have been part of many of ...

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