Surgical Mission to San Raymundo, Guatemala by Kristine Willis



IMG_9507Every time I go to San Raymundo, Guatemala I come back more appreciative, humble and blessed.  Although this year was no different I did find myself looking for that special moment instead of letting the moment find me.

I had been in San Raymundo for approximately four days, three of them performing work in the OR.  This particular day I was in the Urology room with one of my favorite doctors. We had successfully performed many procedures by this time including hydroceles, circumcisions, and cyst removals among many others yet, a part of me was feeling a little down.  It felt like I was running on auto pilot and didn’t necessarily feel like I was fulfilling my goal as a humanitarian nurse. I of course was the one with  these thoughts as all of us as a team were continuing to profoundly touch the lives of so many people in ways they could never imagine.
The rest of the team was in a different room and the excitement was building because there was a baby that needed to be delivered via C-Section. I had previously had the privilege of being a part of several C-Section births in San Raymundo so I understood the enthusiasm the team was experiencing. While that was going on my Urologist came in to tell us we would be performing one more surgery for the day. A man had been waiting all day for a Urological consult because he had been diagnosed with testicular cancer. In a country like Guatemala there is no expert help for these people except for what is provided by medical professionals who volunteer for these missions. In our country testicular cancer has an approximately 95-99% survival rate. In Guatemala the rate is much lower because of a lack of surgical and follow-up care. The best we could do for this elderly man was a Transurethral Resection of the Prostate (TURP) and an Orchiectomy. This surgery, just like a Mastectomy on woman, has always been one of my least favorite. Though taking away these body parts can enhance one’s life they also take away a very definable part of who and what we are.
My heart sank for this man as I knew this would be a very invasive surgery for him and that the language barrier and explanation of benefits to him would be difficult. I took my time with the gentle old soul trying to let him know through human contact and an interpreter that we would take care of him and do our best to augment his life. The people of Guatemala are so trusting, humble and appreciative. Just looking into their eyes you can see the hard lives they’ve lived and how trusting they are to put their care into your hands. As the procedure got underway my heart was downtrodden knowing there would be no further follow up chemotherapy care for this patient.
 As I sat there watching the doctor and his assistant through the procedure I suddenly heard the cry of a IMG_9508new born baby. A little girl had just been born next door. Tears filled my eyes. Here I had been waiting for that blessing. I realized what I had just witnessed was almost a circle of life event. While one was fighting for what quality of life he may have left, one was taking her first breath into a world yet to be discovered. I found myself sharing this experience, thoughts and feelings with my crew in the OR. Who am I to keep such a profound experience to myself and so I share it with all of you.
I’m so thankful for the lives that touch me while doing mission work. My heart yearns for my experiences and opportunities to continue to fill my Humanitarian Nurse missions. I thank One Nurse at a Time for the opportunity to share this experience with ones who have the same giving hearts.