It’s not about the numbers

Once again, it was a very rewarding trip to the tiny town of San Raymundo, Guatemala.  Having been there last year, I pretty much new what to expect; long days, tired feet, less then ideal working conditions, and the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of some Guatemalans.  Our group of 43 nurses, NP’s, Dr’s, and helpers was less then what we had last year but we all expected to work just as hard.  As you can see in the first picture, “it wasn’t about the numbers” but they showed just how much we accomplished in such a short time. 43 surgeries were performed (orthopedic, GU, GI, and GYN), 580 patients were seen in the clinic, 1,444 medications were given out, 227 labs were performed, and 11 minor surgeries (mostly debreeding wounds) were performed. 

I worked in both the pre-op and the post-op areas on this trip.  Pre-op consisted of getting a brief medical history from the patient, getting an IV started, and answering any questions I could about the procedure.  I was also able to help intubate a couple of patients prior to their procedure.  Post-op consisted of making sure surgical sites were

clean and dry, the patient was kept comfortable and free of pain, and that they understood how to take care of themselves when they went home.  This of course was an excellent opportunity to teach good nutrition and the importance of cleanliness.  The biggest obstacle to overcome was the language barrier.  Although I speak a little spanish and some of the citizens understood a little english, the translators that accompanied us on the trip were invaluable.  Because of them, I knew my patients would be able to take care of their wounds and understood our discussions.  

Most memorable moments for me were helping a 77 year old hip surgery patient walk,  intubating a patient before surgery, and meeting some wonderful people from all over the country who, like me, believe in helping out their fellow man.

This mission has made me appreciate the benefits we have living in the USA.  From our hospitals to the latest technology and equipment, we have the best at out fingertips.  Working in a third-world country and seeing what they have is an eye opener.  That being said, I hope to continue to be a part of the Refuge International Team and travel with them each year to help the people of Guatemala. 

Susan Callen