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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.


By awful coincidence, a story appeared in the regional newspaper the day after the boy died. Headlined “Six Infants Die; Hospital in Solola Is Saturated,” the article documents that the pediatric unit has one doctor and two nurses handling an average of 30 patients per day.


Despite being underweight, the infant we tried to save apparently had been sent home due to lack of space and staff. The cruel irony is that this boy was not included among the totals of newborns that had died in the hospital.


With the benefit of further thought and a good night’s sleep, the team has drawn inspiration from this experience. It has reminded us of the important role we can play, working with our Guatemalan partners to avoid the tragedy that the team witnessed on Wednesday.


Our mission’s head nurse, Rachel Gunderson, eloquently wrote about her feelings:


“Today’s experience was a reminder of our humanity.  Working alongside Dr. Tun and his team, we tried to resuscitate that little one.  Despite everyone’s very best efforts, we were not successful.  It is a reminder of how precious life is, of how we take for granted a system that has literally instant response when we call 911.


We brought a pediatric emergency kit to leave for the hospital to use. Little did we anticipate we would use it while we were here.  We come to help, to try and make a positive difference for people.   Today was a reminder that we are not always able to do so.  A reminder of how much is still out there to be done.”