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This past week the 796 Raymer Surgery team concluded a very successful week in Retalhuleu Guatemala after nearly a year’s worth of planning, obtaining supplies, assembling a team, fundraising, coordinating travel (and much more) with the support of Faith in Practice.
We began the week coming together as a group in the lobby of the hotel. Much of the team knew each other from previous missions. There were many smiles and hugs as one would expect when you only see each other once a year, and with open hearts the novices were welcomed into the fold.

We loaded our luggage into the belly of the bus and found our seats for a 5-hour bus ride to Retalhuleu. It was a scenic drive flanked by farmland and mountains and a few volcanoes. Apon reaching Retalhuleu, we went directly to the hospital for a quick tour/orientation and lunch. We then checked into our hotel and had some time to relax, unpack and prepare for an exciting week.

Although an early start (6AM), the mornings began with a gathering for coffee, a heartfelt devotional, a prayer followed by breakfast, before loading up on a bus to the hospital. The first day was a day of preparation, the halls of the hospital buzzing with activity, half of the team was unpacking medical supplies and donations, identifying what tools and facilities are available and staging the operating rooms. The other half of the team was meeting with patients, reviewing files and test results, assessing, and communicating with the patients and preparing them for their procedures.

This first day you could really feel the positive impact we would have on the lives of our patients. Many of the patients had been living with their ailment for many years, having to endure much pain and discomfort due to the local healthcare systems inability to support the population. Many of the patients traveled great distances from all around Guatemala and stayed in the hospital dormitories. Many of the local patients were accompanied by their family which added to the positive impact we had, not only on the patients’ lives but their communities.

The following 4 days started off the same with our morning coffee, devotional and off to the hospital- but those were surgery packed days. If you showed up on any of those days one would think that the team had been working together for much longer. Everyone was moving with purpose, coordinating patients/operating rooms and supplies with efficiently. The team had an impressive level of cohesion, without a doubt, an incredible group of professionals; a truly inspirational example of how the overall team well exceeds the sum of the parts.
All said and done, this team of 22 volunteers from all around the United States, with the support of the local staff at the Hilario Galindo Hospital and the Faith in Practice team, performed surgeries on 60 patients (65 procedures) ranging from 16 to 87 years of age. Most of the surgeries were laparoscopic cholecystectomies and hernia repairs.

We wrapped up the week with a wonderful dinner/ceremony hosted by the local Faith in Practice team and had a wonderful evening with our friends on the team.
Thank you, Faith in Practice and team leader/coordinator Dr Jordan Raymer, for making this trip a success and providing this experience for the team and the patients.

-Cory Flint