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San Lucas Toliman 2015 – Monday

Today was Operating Room Day 1. We completed thirteen surgeries! The team worked together beautifully and everyone remarked how effortless it seemed to work with each other. From the grounds outside the hospital where the families waited for their loved ones, making crafts and playing Frisbee, the pre-operative area where they were prepped for surgery, the operating room itself, and the post-operative recovery, everything ran smoothly and went well. The team showed amazing flexibility, coming together so well when they had never worked together before. We have several people who have been here several years and love to come back, but with the amount of new people and old alike, it was really wonderful to see them coming together so well and working together. In Dr. Alley’s words, it was “OUTSTANDING”!


Judy, Katie, and myself (Kelly) went with Heather from the local parish up to tour the Women’s Center. This is a community center, but it’s really the community that was started and is growing around the center that is remarkable. We met with Francisca (otherwise known as “Guicha”, which sounds like “wee-cha”), who runs the center and teaches cooking classes and baking at the center. In December, Francisca became the director. She came to San Lucas when she was just ten years old. Orphaned after the death of her mother and father from illnesses, she and her baby sister (only a year old) came to the Mission. At the age of just sixteen, she began attending first grade. This is her objective of the community center, and why it is so important to her for the women at the center to learn a trade, such as baking, cooking, and sewing. It is very difficult for men and women both to find work here. Some men work in the fields, and some have odd jobs they do on the side. They usually only make about 35Q per day, which is about the equivalent of a mere $5/day American. The women help make up the needs for the family as best they can, if they are able. They learn how to do these things for their own families, but also in order to start a business for themselves, selling what they produce so their children can go to school and they can help provide in addition to their husbands. They not only teach them the trades and skills, but also the women get to feel a sense of self-worth and gain higher self-esteem. Women at the center also get to fellowship with other women while they are there. There are usually 50-60 women during the day, after dropping off children at school, and even more numbers on the weekends. It made me realize just how debilitating having someone in the home unable to work because of illness or malady, and what it means to them if they can get access to quality care like Medical Missions Foundation is providing here.


While at the center, we met a woman who was in the kitchen baking a cake for her brother’s 18th birthday. She is a single mother who lives with her parents. The women do not have ovens of their own, so they can either pay to use ones in town or come to the mission and use the ovens and kitchen. She mentioned that she is thankful to have the mission to teach her to do these things and have the means to provide for her family. She has a sponsor who donates money to help her. This helps provide the money for her children to go to school, which is $1.50/mo. (They do not pay tuition, per se, but they have costs for activities and uniforms that they have to pay.) This is very close to my own heart (Kelly), as my family sponsors a little Guatemalan girl. I mentioned her, we cried, we hugged, and it was very emotional. I’m getting choked up now, just thinking about it.


It is for THIS reason that the donation of our time and money is so vital to this area and ones like it. The people here are so grateful for the kindness of those willing to step in and help them. Especially with medical care and training. If they are well, they can care for their families and their children can go to school. If a parent or head of household is sick or injured, it can devastate the household. By performing surgeries like were performed yesterday, and will be performed all week long, the people can either go back to work (if they’ve been unable) or at least return feeling much better and able to work more efficiently. That is huge for this region, as we’ve seen. While a hernia surgery is considered a very simple surgery in the United States, here this means one more person on the fields working for their families, harvesting crops, planting, harvesting coffee, corn, etc. A family equals an entire household of approximately ten people, which is multiple generations living together. Therefore a simple hernia repair gives the entire household the ability to be provided for.


The remarkable thing about these procedures, that we consider “elective” or “simple” in the States, is that here these are major. Plus, people here do not understand the concept of having the possibility of feeling better and being relieved of pain until we come. This means a better quality of life for those who didn’t even know they could find it.


Late last evening, after dinner, Dr. Alley saw a young child that was brought to the hotel. Her mother, Lucy, works at the hotel. They were concerned because she had been told by another doctor in Guatemala City that they thought she may have a mass in her lung. They brought the reports to Dr. Alley and he was able to view them, read them, and ascertain that she did not have a mass after all. She has only a right lung, which is enlarged and reaches across her chest. This has pushed her heart over to the side and appeared as a mass. The family was so relieved! It was a happy end to a successful day.