Guatemala (Day 2)

I don’t recall falling asleep last night.  I am rooming with a young man named Daniel, and I remember laying down on my bed and talking a little sports.  I don’t recall the conversation ending.  The next thing I remember was my alarm was going off at six.  I jumped out of bed and made my way to where we meet to run each day.  Adam had already put in two laps (yea, I can’t believe it either).  Dr. Grady Bruce also ran with us (general surgeon who I have run with before in Guatemala), and Courtney was a trooper and joined us for a couple laps as well.  We were an impressive ensemble, teeming with athletic prowess.  Actually we all sort of hobbled along, but we did it, and sometimes that is all that matters.  I only ran eight laps (2 miles–no laughing Rebecca!).  I had to run in scrubs since all my running gear is in my lost suitcase.  I’ll regroup and double up my efforts tomorrow.

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs, salsa, sour cream sauce, fried plantains (think bananas on steroids), black beans, FRESH pineapple, flower tortillas, and a kind of thin cream of wheat that you topped with cinnamon.  The thin cream of wheat was a new item I had not seen before.  It was AMAZING.

Courtney’s first shift went well.  She commented that the difference between nursing here and nursing in the states is that you actually get to spend time with your patients here instead of spending ninety percent of your time at a computer typing in everything you did so that the hospital’s liability is decreased.  She enjoyed the one-on-one patient time.  During one of her bedside moments with her patients she had a translator assisting her.  The patient was a young boy and the mother of the child, a thin short woman, was next to him.  The mother was missing an eye.  The translator asked the woman about her injury.  The woman answered that she received it from the end of a pistol grip when she was hit on the head by assailants the day her husband was shot and killed.  The stories of suffering seem endless here.

The surgery load was light today.  Two patients were sent home because they failed pre-surgery screenings.  The general surgeries were finished before lunch.  The OBGYN surgeons had a full day however, and we were tied to the sterilization room to make sure they had what they needed and of course to scrub and sterilize their instruments.

No day is complete without a few minor emergencies.  We usually expect these emergencies to originate with our patients, but whenever 50 plus people are gathered together from all parts of the U.S. and put into new environs there is bound to be a few glitches that cause tense moments even in the helping staff.  Today one of our nurses who was allergic to peanuts ate a sauce that was made with peanut oil and had a reaction.  She was treated for the allergy and sent to her room with two people (one to stay with her at all times, and one to go for help if needed).

Lunch: Chicken with an orange sauce (it also had peanut oil in it), rice with mixed vegetables, FRESH watermelon, flower tortillas and hibiscus juice.

After lunch a woman came in for surgery who could not eat any solid foods.  They were doing exploratory work so they could determine what was the matter.  They tried to discover the problem with cystoscopic (sp?) instruments.  That did not work so they opened up the patient and found she was filled with cancer. They did what they could to remove the infected tissue and will give her a referral to a cancer clinic.  However, the odds of her receiving the medical care she needs in a timely and economically viable way are slim to none.  To make matters worse the cancer seemed advanced.  These are sad moments.

We were able at the end of the day to schedule a few more patients which allowed us to work until Supper (7 PM [9PM Eastern]). 

Supper: Pork roast, mashed potatoes, mixed veggies, gravy, flower tortillas, cantaloupe juice, and carrot cake (carrot cake is my favorite).

After supper we gathered for devotional.  We were reminded that “doing good” is a higher way than merely “not doing harm.”  After our devotional time we went into the recovery room and sang hymns for the patients.  In the middle of our songs two of our team members spontaneously walked over and held the hands of a little girl recovering from hernia surgery.  She erupted in a smile.  It was a very human moment, and it was beautiful.

Adam and I worked the rest of the night on a crossword puzzle.  He was dead in the water without me.

BTW, the internet is VERY spotty.  Worse than ever.  I type out my blog post on Microsoft word and then cut and paste it to wordpress, but it takes many attempts.  Loading Gmail is very difficult and I have only managed to get on once, and when I tried to send stuff it would not let me.

Here are the days outtakes:


Surgical Nurse: Where is that L.M.A. that we gave you to wash?

Steve: L.M.A.?

Jesse: I think it is that thingy they stick down your throat.  Ah, here it is [hands over the correct instrument].  What does L.M.A. stand for anyway Rick?

Rick: It stands for laryngeal mask airway.

Jesse: Lary…um…L.M.A it is then.


Rick (to Adam): I just hope that medical school works out and I see you down here doing surgeries someday.

Adam: That’s my dream.

Jesse (whispered to Adam): Yea, and your patient’s nightmare.


[After Adam wadded up and threw a paper wrapper at my head…]

Mike: Good thing that wasn’t a weighted speculum–eight pounds of solid steel.

Adam: Ha, you’d be a unicorn.


[Adam is attempting to choose a wrap that is the right size to wrap a large stainless steel kidney bowl for sterilization.  Adam is out of practice because he doesn’t slum with the sterilization crew anymore.]

Adam: Is this the right size? 

[It wasn’t]

Jesse: That’s what happens when you don’t hang out anymore in the sterilization room.

Adam: I’m rusty.

Jesse: Yea, you are like Rocky in Rocky III when he loses the eye of the tiger.


Gary (to Adam at the end of the day): Thanks Adam, I really enjoyed working with you in the operating room today.

[Gary exits]

Adam (to me): Did you hear that?  Why didn’t I ever get that when I worked in here?

Jesse: The short answer: it wasn’t true.



Gary (to Jaquie the surgical nurse in the same O.R. as Adam): I really enjoyed working with you in the operating room today.

Jesse (to Adam in a whisper): See, he says that to everybody.


[Jesse is sitting working on his final sermon for the W.I. Church of Christ]

Steve (to Adam): Have you seen how they have been labeling the trees outside in the courtyard so you know what they are?

Adam: Yea.

[Steve points to me.  I am sitting next to a sign that reads “Basura Comun”]


Jesse: I’m basically an icon in Montellano.  I’m surprised they haven’t built a statue of me already.

Adam: They can’t find stones round enough.

Jesse: Shut up, I’m not chubby anymore.

Courtney: “Chubby” is not the word for what you were.

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1 Response to Guatemala (Day 2)

  1. Debbi basini-Herman says:

    Keep writing. We love hearing from you! Giants play tomorrow night. Do you want to know the score or leave it up to your imagination?

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