Friday, July 20, 2012

The things we do changes lives.

The boy in the video had cleft palate surgery with our SAGE team in 2011. His life has been changed by the surgery.  His mother was able to put him in school without him being teased!

Dios Lo Bendiga

Praying before Surgery

I was walking through the post op area this morning and many of the people that I had prayed for the previous day were there. As I walked around saying hello, several of them asked if I would pray for them again. When I finished praying for one woman, she said: “ Dios Lo Bendiga” which means God Bless you. I thought to myself:  Oh he does. One of my jobs on this team is to pray for people before they go into surgery. Often they chime in on the prayer and pray with great intensity for the surgeon, nurses and other people that will be caring for them. The end response is gratitude. … Gratitude for all the help they have received.
While waiting for patients to pray for, I was visiting with Dr. Saenz, the general surgeon on the trip. He is very excited and energetic. He exclaimed that: “this is real medicine.” He told me that in Guatemala he is able to focus on caring for the patient without the mounds of paper work. Oh, they have paper work to keep track of, but not the massive amount that they have in the U.S. “This is why I became a doctor” is the very common statement that I have heard from other doctors on the team this year and in past years. Even though they often put in twelve hour days, the doctors that come on the mission trip find themselves freed up and energized. Dr. Saenz commented that he was amazed by the amount of pathology that he had seen. “The things that people live with down here is unbelievable “ was his statement. He told of a woman coming in with a growth on the bottom of her foot the size of a grapefruit.
Last night during our devotional time Debbie Rose, one of our dental assistants, commented on two of the surgeries that were performed during the day. Dr. Saenz clipped the frenulum under the tongue releasing their tongues so that they could learn to speak. At home this would have been done at birth, but these children were considerably older. One girl was ten years old.
That is part of our task on this trip: setting the captives free…Free to thank God and bless other people.
Dios Los Bendiga God Bless all of you.

Mountain View

Mountains of Santa Avelina
As we grow up playing sports and living with our family, we inherently learn what teamwork is.  We don't usually get to an end result or goal without the assistance of others in some form and nothing brings that understanding to the surface more than a week in San Cristobal with the SAGE team.

The first two days were unbelievable, you can take that, in many ways but it was chaotic to say the least.  Finding things, fixing things and just getting it done was the mission and that's what the team did.  Yeah, maybe we complained a little (inside that is), but we had a goal this week and the team 
was not going to quit.
Children of Santa Avelina
Tuesday I was fortunate enough to observe a couple of surgeries and watching how the surgeons, nurses and staff work together is amazing.  The end result was a better life for two individuals who otherwise would suffer in one way or another for a long time if not for the rest of their lives.

Wednesday a team from HELPS went to a school in Santa Avelina to visit with the teachers and have fun meeting the children who have benefitted from the donations and support of many people.  Who could imagine a computer lab in the highlands of Guatemala, where the easiest way to get there is by single engine aircraft and then driving through the mountains on unpaved roads.  This school has a library and the kids are learning to be tri-lingual, so once again, it's amazing what teamwork can do.  Lastly, while the computer technicians were downloading Rosetta stone (I know right!) and fixing bugs in the system, a few of us walked the nearby street and found a home with a smoke stack sticking out.  We approached the lady of the house and asked if we could see the stove.  She was more than happy to show us and sure enough, a stove team had installed this eleven years ago according to her recollection.  As the pot of stew was heating up for their dinner, we realized this was probably one of the first ever installed in Guatemala.  Makes you just realize how anything is possible with teamwork!

Whether you're on the medical team, stove team or a supporting role (kitchen staff ROCKS by the way!), we're all here to help.  And although the week is not officially over, it is very apparent that all individuals here have a "stake in the game" or "steak in the game" for the kitchen staff (hint-hint) which makes for a memorable and incredible week for us all.
Submitted By Steve Eck

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Entertainment in the midst of Waiting

Jared Wong blows bubbles to entertain a child waiting for surgery.

Remember waiting at the doctor's office when you were young.  Not only did it take a long time, but you were uncertain what kind of pain awaited you.  When you add a prolonged fast on top of the waiting, a little distraction can help.  Blowing bubbles is a quick and easy way to distract them.  When a child starts to get wrong, someone grabs the bubble jar and fills the air creating instant delight and the necessary distraction.
The same thing happens out front and outside the gate.  People wait outside the gate to get into the triage area and then they wait in the triage area.  Food vendors have set up inside and outside the gate to take care of the needs of the people as they wait, but waiting is the key word. The people are very gracious in their waiting and thankful when they have been cared for.  It is not the thing that you often see in the U.S.:  people graciously waiting.  I am reminded of how different the attitudes of people were that came to San Antonio after hurricane Katrina.

Triage Line

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Timing is Everything

Christine Ledder, Nursing student on the right saved the
life of the woman sitting in the middle.
Last night I was going from surgery to recovery to post op. to see if anyone needed or wanted prayer before I went to bed.  I walked into the recovery area and Janis Rice had her group of student nurses in training in a side room doing a little debrief of the days events.  For the last few years Janis has brought a group of about five nursing students from UT Health Science Center where she is faculty.  The students receive course credit for their hard work.  They help in the post operative area under Janis’ supervision where they gain valuable experience under circumstances that they would not normally see at UT.
As I walked into the room I could see that there was a great deal of emotion.  During the day there had been a close call.  A young woman had gone through surgery and recovery then moved to Post Op.  One of the student nurses went to check her vital signs and realized that she was not breathing.  The previous evening a very young child was brought into the hospital with breathing problems which had prompted Janis to take her students through the proper procedures in such an event.  This young nursing student was able to take appropriate action and ask for help.  Since there are no monitors for the people in post op. the woman would have died if this student had not discovered her.
The patient was revived and is doing great.

Some of the younger members of the team have a pick up game with some local children.

The eye team keeps some of the children happy by handing out shades.

Monday, July 16, 2012

2012 Sage Mission Day One

SAGE HELPS Team 2012

We arrived Sunday afternoon in San Cristobal.  Our first miracle actually happened on Saturday evening at the airport in Guatemala City; all our bags arrived on the flight with us.  This was the first time that has happened in the nine year history of this team.   
San Cristobal is a new location for this team.  It is a small community near the city of Coban which is located about 4 hours from Guatemala City.  This makes it a much shorter driving time than our usual  10 hour trip to Uspantan.  We head out of Guatemala City to the south and drive through a dryer part of the country then head back northeast into the mountains.  This is the rainy season and we were rained on as soon as we arrived.  Actually it was the people that were standing in line that were rained on.  We were told that some people have been standing in line for a couple of days awaiting our arrival.   
We started to set up about 2:00pm which was nearly 3 hours earlier than usual.  We often work late into the evening especially in the Pharmacy, Kitchen and Surgery areas.  The only thing that slowed us down is that the state of repairs in this hospital is worse than the hospital in Uspantan.  The MacGyver’s had to do more than we normally would to get things like lights working well enough.
This year we again sent an advance team that arrived on Thursday and began to get things organized.  Karen Evers, Scott Young, John Brougher and Jane Shaffer volunteered to spend two more nights on cots and without hot water to get this Jornada off to a smooth start.  Jornada is the local term for this Medical Mission trip.   That’s right the pump to the boiler is not working so we do not have hot water.  There is some talk of bringing in shower heads known as widow makers.  These shower heads have electricity coming to the head to heat the water as it comes through the head.  At 110 volts it will take the chill off the water and 220 volts will make it hot.  The widow part comes when the wiring is done incorrectly.  There is nothing like making your shower a shocking experience.
People seeking medical attention come from surrounding communities as well as San Cristobal to receive the care of our doctors, dentist and vision team.  They start arriving early in the morning and wait patiently in line to be screened by our triage team that then sends them to the appropriate area.
Our team is smaller this year totaling about 65 people, normally 75 or more, from the U.S. with about 25 people from Guatemala offering support in various areas.  One area is the group of translators that comes from exclusive schools in Guatemala City.  These young people have often traveled the world but have not spent any time in the mountains of their own country.   They often find this a life changing experience.  Several have gone on to medical school vowing to help their fellow citizens after spending a week with this team.  Two of our translators were with us in previous years and jumped at the chance to come back again this year.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Community Development Team or Stoves Team

The stoves team finished pouring the concrete floors, white washing the walls and began the stove installation on Wednesday. The concrete is mixed by pouring the water, sand and rock in large buckets with an electric mixer and carried in buckets into the house and poured on the floor or, the preference of the Guatemalans, the rock, water and sand is piled on to the floor and mixed that way. The mix is then spread by masons from the community who are exchanging work for having their own homes being “remodeled”. One homeowner completed the floor of the other room in his home by himself before the team came back to put in the stove.

After you have mixed concrete for three day putting in stoves seems easy. Of course, the home owner has to get all the parts to his home. That means that sand gravel and cement for the floor and concrete blocks along with parts for the stove have to be hauled up the hill one back-load at a time. You read it right: one back load at a time. Many of these families live well away from the nearest road where the parts and supplies for the stove and floors can be conveniently dropped off.

Part of what goes on with the team is that they interact with the family. This interaction may be more important than the home transformation and is why HELPS has gone through the process of doing these home makeovers. It doesn’t seem logical to have accountants, college graduates, successful real estate executives and lawyers work in rural. Certainly you could organize the people in each community to do this work and install stoves, but part of the transforming process takes place in the hearts and minds of the people that come to work and the people that live in the homes that are being remodeled. Perhaps the most important transformation takes place in the lives of our interpreters. Each year we have interpreters from schools in Guatemala City. These young people are from upper class families and have never been to this part of their own country and seen the circumstances in which most of their countrymen live. Last year our group of interpreters was so struck by their experience that they made raising money for stoves their senior class project. John Brougher found out the last night of our trip this year that they had exceeded their goal and raised nearly $5000.00.

One family that John Brougher’s team worked with this year had five boys between the ages of three to thirteen. John’s team fell in love with this family and spent as much time as they could with them. Whenever John would take a break the youngest boy would crawl into John’s lap and sit quietly just soaking it in.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Monday July 11, 2011

The kitchen crew is up before 5:00AM to start getting breakfast ready, which has to be served starting at 6:30AM. People are in line waiting to get into the hospital before daylight and as they go through the gate that are taken to the triage area to have their vital taken and determine their particular needs. They are then taken to surgeries begin at 7:30AM. Shortly after that the community development team leaves to start doing their version of complete home makeover. (Concrete Floors, Whitewash Walls, and Install Stoves)

In the clinic area there is a crush of people waiting to be seen. It can be frustrating for the Doctors working in that area because the needs are so great and it is harder to feel like you are making a big difference in people’s lives. I am not sure that the people being cared for see it that way. They seem very grateful for the care that they receive and are quite willing to sit quietly for hours to get it.

We traveled two days to get here but some of our patients traveled over much rougher terrain to get the care that we bring. One man brought his wife from Coban for surgery. The road from Coban runs through a very rough mountainous area where one thousand feet of mountain side collapsed two years ago, sending boulders trees and mud cascading down. The only road that exists in that area is a two lane track hardly suitable for mules. Other patients hike in from the mountains and others stand for hours packed in the back of pickup trucks just to get to the hospital for what they call the Jornada Medica.

The community development teams began their work pouring concrete for floor and white washing wall. They will return to each home later in the week and install stove and give them water filters. One family had five boys from the ages of 3 to 13. The 3 year old boy climbed into the lap of the team leader and sat quietly just enjoying the attention.

2011 SAGE Mission to Uspantan

Saturday and Sunday

Our SAGE Mission team of 75 travels from different parts of the U.S. to Guatemala City the main airport in Guatemala. It takes two days of travel to get to the hospital that is the base of operations for the team. Six members of the team came down on Wednesday to get a jump start on the process of setting up the hospital. The rest of the team traveled on Saturday, July 9th We carry 60 plus bags of medical supplies as part of our checked luggage. Sixteen of these along with 12 personal bags missed the connection in Dallas.

We spend the night in Guatemala City and get up early on Sunday to drive eight hours up into the mountains to the hospital in Uspantan. Trust me you have to want to get to the little community in the mountains. As the crow flies it is only about 100 miles from Guatemala City but the road winds through the mountains making it more like 250 miles. When we arrive the scramble begins; everyone grabs their luggage and finds a cot to call home for the next eight days. Then we find our team captain and finish the job, started by our advance team, of setting up the hospital. The kitchen has to be set so that the kitchen crew can keep us well fed, because just like the army this team moves on its stomach. To keep the team healthy we establish a protocol for entering the cafeteria/kitchen. Everyone must wash their hands and then dip them in a mild bleach solution. Even the food that we eat is dipped in this solution all in an effort to keep the team healthy.

The OR, Post-Op and recovery areas are set up centered around the OR for efficient patient flow. Some of the surgeons go and begin seeing prospective surgery patients so that surgeries can begin first thing in the morning. The pharmacy, eye clinic and clinic areas also have to be set up and it takes everyone well into the night to get things setup. Those who could paused about 9pm for evening devotional where we pray, sing and share about the day.

Monday, July 26, 2010

R&R and Celebration

The mission trip concludes with a couple of days of R&R in Antigua. Antigua is an old colonial city about 25 miles from Guatemala City. It used to be the capital of Guatemala that is until it was destroyed by an earthquake in the 1700’s. It sits in a valley and on a clear day you can see the peaks of volcanoes that keep things interesting for this old city. We descended through the clouds as we drove down the mountain and drove over the cobble stone streets to arrive at our destination the Hotel Antigua. The hotel is so beautiful with its gardens, wonderful beds with clean sheets and our own private bathrooms it almost seems decadent.

While In Antigua, some folks took the flight to Tikal to see the ancient Mayan ruins, some folks went to beautiful Lake Atitlan, some folks toured. A coffee plantation or went on a walking tour of Antigua, some went on the zip line, some went biking and some just enjoyed the shopping in Antigua.

We spent our last evening in a celebratory banquet in the setting of beautiful old church ruins and were greeted at the entrance by characters dressed in legends of Guatemala. Many of the interpreters brought their parents from Guatemala City to introduce to us. House of Jade as always had drawings for prizes that were key chains or bracelets or necklaces or letter openers. HELPS topped the evening with releasing two hot air balloons of thanks into the air. Such a wonderful ending to the trip.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Worship and Heading to Antigua

Sunday morning we rise at five am to finish packing and head to Antigua for a couple of days of well deserved R&R. After we disassemble our cots and stuff our luggage we haul everything to waiting trucks. The halls of the hospital are clogged first with people hurrying this way and that and then with bags and luggage.

Everyone puts their personal packs on one of four buses and then assembles on the porch at the front of the hospital for a parting worship service.

We have spent a week working very hard. 55 general surgeries, 30 OB/GYN related surgeries and 1 dental surgery were performed for a total of 86 surgeries in 5 days. In the clinic section 117 people were seen by the dentist and 387 by the vision team and 851 by the internal medicine group for a total of 1355 patients seen in the clinic.

The community development teams remodeled 15 homes putting in a concrete floor, washing the walls and installing 2 stoves in every home. Each home is now brighter, cleaner and smoke free and will use 75% less wood than the normal open fire cooking arrangement.

After the worship service we board the buses and head down the mountains toward Antigua. As we ride down the mountain we realize that even though the rain has let up for us this week in our area it has rained hard in other the places. We drive around mud slides that have occurred since we came up the mountain last Sunday. We mirror the stops we made on the way up the mountain with the exception of stopping for lunch in Chichicastenago. It is market day in Chi Chi and we are able to wander around the market before the buffet opens at the hotel Santa Tomas to buy treasures and gifts for you at home. It seems much less crowded than it was last year and I believe that business is down for the vendors. Last year you could barely walk down the main street of the market but today it is an easy stroll until we take a side street to look for table runners to be used for table decorations at the team Gala/Fundraiser on September 10th at the St Anthony hotel in San Antonio.

We are all tired, but enjoy the relaxed trip down the mountain and the lavish buffet of local dishes in Chi Chi. One difference in this trip is the soldiers that escorted us up the mountain and stood guard at the hospital now ride on the buses with us. They get off the buses just before we get to Katok, our final stop, where we pick up another group of soldiers in the usual army green vehicle only this time the jeep has a 50 caliber machine gun mounted on it. Despite this protection, we feel safe on our journey.

Skit Night and Packing Day

As of Friday night it looked as if we were going to get by without any of the team getting sick but that was not the case. Perhaps it was the meal that evening provided by the hospital administrator as a thank you for our time and hard work in his hospital or perhaps it was a combination of being tired and a week of exposure but that night we ended up with a few team members ill. I should have known what was happening when I rounded the corner on my way to the shower and found one of the young men on our team on his knees reviewing what he had for dinner the night before. Thanks to the aggressive care, IV and a cocktail of drugs, by members of the medical team everyone was back on their feet in less than 24 hours.

Saturday is pack up day all surgeries are finished on Friday and any patients remaining in recovery are checked out of the hospital early Saturday morning. The team begins the task of packing up which includes a thorough inventory of every item that is packed. The kitchen equipment is cleaned and packed. We bring our own stoves, pots and pans, refrigerator, shelving, toasters and..... The surgery area, pharmacy, vision, clinics, dental, community development team equipment all have to be packed up. This takes the people in the surgery area and the pharmacy most of the day to complete. Two bobtail trucks are loaded with all the equipment and made ready to drive to the HELPS warehouse in Guatemala City to be stored till the next trip. Some of the equipment belongs to HELPS and is used by other teams and some belongs to our team. As the packing winds down in each department team members are free to wander into town which is a fifteen minute walk down the hill. This is the first time out of the hospital compound for many of the team and the first chance for them to see the nearest community of people that have come to the hospital for care this past week. The mayor told us that there are 80 communities that surround this one from which people come to the hospital for care. This helps explain the long lines at the gate day after day of people waiting to get in to see a member of our medical team.

That night we are served Domino's pizza for dinner. I don't know where it came from. I have been all over this town and never seen anything resembling a fast food restaurant but there is apparently one in town. It is skit night and after dinner chairs are set up in the cafeteria and the performance begins. Each team has come up with a skit about some aspect of the week poking fun at our lack of understanding of the language or the culture or different people on the team who are caricatured (usually a team leader) in the skit. The room is filled with laughter with each skit performance and the evening concludes with the cot race; a contest to see which team can disassemble one of the sleeping cots the fastest. This is important because everyone has to know how to disassemble their cot when we get up at 5:00 am. to pack and leave.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Saturday Early

Saturday 7/17/10

At Breakfast I spoke to an internist who said in the last two days there have been four people on the team with gastro problems but nobody is on IVs…just problems. Some team members also have aches & pains from some of the work. But there is still enthusiasm and helping attitude in the team.

A medical student said that Friday worship was the first one he had been able to attend because they had been so busy in surgery each day with the first two days even going until midnight. He wished that we could arrange the schedule to make worship and sharing available to those that had to be in surgery until late the first few days since he enjoyed hearing what was happening in other areas and the worship. Logistically, we have to get all the surgeries in which the patients may need a few days recovery in the first 3 days so that our recovery room is still up.

At breakfast this morning, as a stoves member I exchanged information with the internist and we began to understand more of what is happening in this area of Guatemala. Patients report pain in the head and back(they carry 100 lbs of dirt, gravel and needed supplies on their backs or using straps that around their foreheads and load on their backs), knees and feet (they navigate these rolling mountains to get from their houses to other’s and to their fields that are often an hour away; there are small buses and tuk-tuks that provide public transportation but few have cars or motorcycles or bicycles), stomachs (they drink water that is not filtered from pipes that provide water at only certain times of the day. Because they do not know when the water will flow, they leave their faucets open so that the large basins can catch the water they need; much overflows and goes on down the mountain),and eyes and lungs (they have open fires in their homes burning constantly so that they inhale smoke in their daily lives. One man reported that he was depressed because he was driving a truck and was in an accident; he lost the product that he was carrying as a result; he is responsible to pay back 18,000 Q for the accident. He needs to feed and care for his family and sees no way to overcome this. They report that they are depressed but when asked if they have any suicidal thoughts, they do not, because they say: God will provide. What faith in the face of difficulty.

Phones are cheap and most families have one. They cost $20 and they renew the minutes by new chips. The signals are strong here. There are no home phones; in the areas where we are helping we seldom see a bathroom in a house, there is electricity in some houses but it would never pass codes that we are used too. There is no running water in the houses. There is mud all around. But the views are spectacular. After we finished putting in the stoves in each of the houses we asked if the family wanted to pray with us. We would bless their houses and the stoves that we had together installed and the food that will be cooked on the stoves. We thanked God for the opportunity to meet the family and play with the children. Many on the mothers and fathers cried and expressed their deep thanks for our coming to their community Guatemala and ask that we return.

Knowing the history of this area of Guatemala where many were killed and there was great fear among the people with the end of the revolution only in 1996, we are building bridges and trust among people and things are improving. This is my third year on this trip on the stoves team and I am struck by the improvement in the conditions of the animals and particularly the puppy dogs. My first trip the dogs were skin and bones and very scared. This year the dogs, cows and horses all looked healthier. In fact our van went by an area where there were several large, fat pigs grazing and enjoying the sun. One day the fattest pig was sound asleep with his head in a bucket. We missed the picture but the image remains. The Guatemalan people of this area are a long way from being as satisfied as that pig, but their situations and lives are improving with God’s help and our hands.

Dental, Downs, and Extractions by Mark Grimes

Our Dental Group had a long and demanding week. These professionals went about their work with the enthusiasm that all of us have. When I asked them what was meaningful to them during the week, it took them a few minutes to step out of the role of the professional and begin to let their hearts see and feel what they had actually contributed to this very needy society. As far as the statistics go, they saw more than a 125 patients and pulled more than 130 teeth. While the professional said, “we just did some extractions,” the heart of the dentist and her assistants was revealed as they started describing their many patients. As she told the story of the Downs syndrome patient that was so terrified no one could touch him, tears came to her eyes and rolled down her cheeks. She told about how they worked with the patient to calm his nerves and help him to stop crying and relax. Suddenly I was now talking to the person who happened to be a dentist. Once she made that transformation from her professional mode, I saw that she too began to realize the enormity of the contribution that she and her assistants had made to the lives of these people. Yes, maybe just an extraction to most, but an escape from pain for each of those patients.

Most of us have never experienced what it’s like to not be able to run to the dentist to get that tooth taken care of. To the people in this small, remote town, surviving seems to be more important than an aching tooth; that is until the pain becomes unbearable. Many become so desperate to ease the pain they end up pulling their own tooth with a rusty pair of pliers. Others will continue with the pain of an abscessed tooth until it becomes life threatening. Either way, they suffer enormously.

So, our little dental group made a tremendous difference in the lives of each of the patients they saw. That would be 125 lives changed in one week. A 125 people that can now sleep, eat and live without the pain that had been so persistent. A 125 people that may not have the most beautiful teeth but at least, they can now smile again, thanks to a few loving and caring people who happen to be in the dental field. Thanks for changing lives; thanks for putting a smile back on the face of these wonderful patients; you made a difference.

7/16/2010 Friday

Since the pipes are so small, we cannot put toilet paper in the commode. So the rule is that if you put toilet paper in the commode you have to “go fishing.” It happens, but toilet paper is sometimes hard to come by! One of the anesthesiologists told me that she forgot to take toilet paper to the bathroom and there was not any there, so she improvised and used her surgical mask. We do what we have to sometimes……

One of the pediatricians said a 10 year old little girl walked one hour by herself to come to the doctor without any shoes. She had small feet, of course, and upon observing that she had on shoes, one of the team members gave the young girl her flip flops to walk home.

The stovers rode the vans about 1 ½ from the hospital today to two schools. There we put in a stove and distributed water filters to the schoolrooms. The families and children drink unfiltered water that flows through pipes at only certain times during the day. They often get sick and have to take medicine from getting sick from drinking the water. At the first school, the 40 or so kindergarteners greeted us with signs that said: “Welcome” and “Buenas Dias”. They all yelled welcomes to us and sang us songs. We then went down to the field and played soccer and taught them the game of duck, duck, goose in a big circle. Our play was ended because the children needed to go back up to the building to be fed; as we walked them up, the children fought to be the ones to hold our hands. Our stovers walked back up the mountain hand and hand with these boys and girls in a whole line of children holding each others’ hands and giggling. Such blessed children who have so little and appreciate so much.

At the second school they had a assembly of the 350-400 children, teachers and principals where we showed them how to put together the Helps water filters to use in the classrooms. They were all very excited and seemed to understand the importance of good water. They were also excited about seeing “gringos” from the U.S. The stovers took the water filters in each classroom and showed the class how to put it together. We then took their pictures with our cameras; many had never seen cameras and would laugh and want to have their picture taken again and again. I told them the English words for some of the Spanish words that were on the chalk board and they taught me Spanish words for other objects and things. Afterwards, the teachers treated us to delicious cake and coffee or tea in appreciation. Some of the translators and younger stovers went down on the field and played basketball and soccer with the children. The children loved the attention.

Last, we went to a Church in the community where we have been doing the remodeling and stoves all week and the mayor, secretary and officers of the community were there along with the women’s counsel and the women of the houses that we had worked on this week. The people were most gracious and appreciative for our coming and putting in the stoves and playing with the children. There were many smiles and handshakes all around. The women of the ladies’ counsel had prepared a meal of tortillas and a chicken soup that was delicious for all to eat. It was quite a banquet.

Thankfully, nobody on the team has gotten sick. Yea for the kitchen team and the Helps team and Praise God.

The nurses report that they laughed and laughed during the week and that is the what we hear a lot around here…lots of laughter. We have also seen tears of joy from the realizations and touching experiences. These Guatemalans claim that they do not show emotions publicly, but we have shared plenty of laughing and crying with them this week.

In recovery, the nurses talked to one man who had been in pain for a year and waited at the gate of our hospital for 24 hours before he was seen to get this gallbladder removed. His surgery went fine and he did well.

Our chaplain would approach people who were going to have surgery and ask if they wanted him to pray with them in the few Spanish words that he knew. The patients and their families would pray also and openly express emotion and cry at the prayers. They would call our chaplain to pray with them in recovery and in the hospital after surgery. Their faith and trust in us was so touching.

In clinic the Guatemalan teenage interpreters were handing out the little wooden cars that were left. One child received a car and then the interpreter saw him again and asked him where his car was. The little boy said that his little brother did not have a car, so he gave him his car. She asked him if he wanted another one and he said YES. He waited right there while she found him a car and was thrilled to have another since he had given his away.

Back at the hospital folks were winding up. They were performing the last of their surgeries and many were out shopping with the vendors who had come with their colorful Guatemalan wares including bed spreads, table cloths, jewelry, purses, knives, knickknacks, hair decoration, decorated bags, pants, embroidered blouses and shirts and many other wares.

The small hospital staff that takes care of the hospital when we are not here provided dinner tonight so that our kitchen team gets a break. It was a delicious Spanish dish with homemade tortillas and the mayor and the chief of the hospital graciously thanked us for the service. We gave them both SAGE shirts.

We have had a videographer/photographer here with us on the trip. He has been terrific in recording the experience and it will be up on web site soon.

Surgery reports that there were 60 general surgeries and 20 OB/GYN surgeries in five days with only three anesthesiologists. This may be a record!

As I write this blog, there is a group singing enthusiastically to the guitar including Ring of Fire, Beetles songs and Wild Thing and another group is playing cards or dominos in the cafeteria.

Worship tonight was awesome. The sharing was incredible. The eye team told of a man who see very little and they really could not do much for him. The man asked for crayons that we were giving the children. He drew an incredible picture of a flower even though he cannot see. What beauty. … We will post it to the website when we return.

The Guatemalan teenagers who were our translators talked about how patients have touched their lives and shown such love and appreciation for the little that we were able to do for them. It is clear that as important as the help we have given the folks with their homes and their health, this HELPS team was an instrument for these teenagers from Guatemala City who were our translators; through our HELPS organization, these teenagers have seen their country in a new way and feel a calling to care for and help their country. These 16 and 17 year olds of Guatemala are full of enthusiasm for making a difference in the lives of their fellow Guatemalans. God is Good.

And after worship at about 10:30 p.m., a man walked into the hospital having walked a long ways asking for help with his vision. The member of the vision team was not sure that the doctor would let him be seen since the clinic was closed and he was not working anymore, but she went ahead and asked the doctor and the doctor said: let’s get him taken care of and they did.

Saturday we will be packing up the hospital, the kitchen, the eye area, the pharmacy and our own stuff (our own stuff that has not been traded for something with the vendors). We end the day with a HELPS provided meal and a skit night that always loud and lots of laughing.

On Sunday a.m. after communion we head out for a seven hour ride back toward Guatemala City but head on to Antigua which was once the capital of Guatemala. It is surrounded by volcanoes and quite picturesque. We will have excursions such as visiting the volcano, or taking a trip to the Lake Atitlan or going up the Mayan ruins or bike riding or shopping and site seeing. The night before we leave for the U.S., HELPS treats all 80 plus team members to a wonderful banquet in Antigua. It will be much needed and deserved R&R. We miss everyone at home but know that we have been touched and touched lives in this wonderful country.

As was said in Worship, our hands have done many things this week: they have performed surgeries, they have given anesthesia, they have cooked food, they have given hugs and handshakes, they have held little hands, they have played ball with the children, they have built stoves and put in cement floors so that wooden cars can be rolled on them instead of dirt, they have given medications, they have made music with the guitar for worship and they have broken bread.

Friday, July 16, 2010

What a Day

Thursday, 07/15/2010

What a day! Stoves put in 30 stoves in 15 houses today. Each Stoves team had five houses all over the countryside. The first house our team returned to was the family with a church right next to it. After putting the stoves in and outside the house, we gave the children little wooden cars supplied by one of the medical team and they were thrilled. We rolled the cars across the new cement floor that had dried from two days before and the children rolled them back giggling all the while. We also brought out the Proclaimer which is a voice recording of the New Testament in Spanish that is powered by solar, a little crank or electricity. We told them in our broken Spanish about the Proclaimer and we all went into the church and showed them how to plug it in. The five children of nine gather around and we showed them how to hold the “on” button” down for Uno, dos, tres, quatro ….and it came on saying “the book of “Luke” and the children and mother said “Luke” in Spanish. We showed them how to skip to the next book and it said “John” in Spanish and they exclaimed “John”. They knew that these were books of the bible and were thrilled to have it read to them. Such fun!

At the fourth house where we had been two days earlier putting in the floor and white washing the father had put red in the cement and spread it over the top of the floor. It had dried a beautiful red. We had referred the youngest of his three daughters who was a baby to our hospital so the husband was there but not the wife. We learned that she was still at the hospital and they were transferring the baby to another hospital. The little baby had dysentery and was not doing well. She and the family are in our prayers.

This area of Guatemala is so beautiful. Lush vegetation and mountains are ideal. Those in the United States pay a lot of money for the views that these people have from their mud or plank houses.

The OR had a high school interpreter from Guatemala holding a retractor and another interpreter was right next to her talking video of the entire surgery. Suddenly you see on the video that the retractor holding student falls away from the table and flat on the floor! She had fainted. This was a popular video at dinner. The videoing interpreter says she said to him right before she fainted that she could not hold the retractor anymore….he chose to keep videoing instead to relieving her….surprise to him…

The vendors were allowed in the gate of the hospital today for the first time and all the folks in the OR including nurses, doctors and students had time to go outside to purchase their Guatemalan surgery hats. They are all very colorful now and have been taking pictures in the OR not just of the interesting patients but also their new hats.

Surgeries today include hernias, gall bladders, and even an open gall bladder that the Guatemalan doctors tried to remove three months ago and they gave up. She has been suffering for the last four months after that surgery and our doctors were successful in removing the gall bladder and the patient is going home.

The Eye team broke 100 patients today. They have 55 lbs of eye drops thanks to Allergan and Alson for red eyes that they are giving out which is a good thing since the families of exposed to so much smoke from the open fires in their homes (one of the reason we do stoves with vents). There were 65 patients on Wednesday and 90 on Tuesday. But the eye team does not just give exams and give out glasses, they tend to have lots of children coming through their clinic so they have kid entertainment including bubbles and coloring books and singing with the guitar.

One of our nurses went downtown to get some minutes on her phone. She opened up her phone to show the vender the number of her phone and he could not read the numbers or the writing….so, our nurse sent one of the HELPS team back out to the vender with a pair of the readers from the eye team. The vender was very happy.

The kitchen has a strict rule that nobody can go back into the kitchen except the kitchen team. However, on the first evening when they were working late, beady eyes were out all over….the rats don't obey the rules and are probably thinking….GROCERIES!

Rob went out to see the woodworkers in Sicache today and brought back beautiful wood spoons that they had made with the equipment that he brought them in February. The ladies also made him their delicious fried green beans that they grow.