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Our team members arrived on Saturday by airline into Guatemala city. The team members traveled from Florida, Georgia, Connecticut, in California among other regions. We then travelled by bus to Antigua, a beautiful colonial city about two hours away. We settled into our accommodations at the Quinta de las Flores. The accommodations were entirely satisfactory. That evening we had dinner  at the Quinta and then  spent time getting acquainted with each other. A third of our team we’re new members and the other 2/3 had been on previous mission trips with Faith in Practice. We had a total of 28 members on our team.

On Sunday we had an early breakfast at 5:30 and then devotional time followed by a brief administrative meeting. The team then walked 15 minutes to our hospital which is located in a church called Las Obras Socialis del Santo Hermano Pedro. We had an orientation with the local hospital staff as well as the local Faith in Practice staff. The nurses and technicians then went to the OR to organize the equipment and supplies for the coming week. The surgeons and anesthesiologists went to the clinic and evaluated over 100 patients and scheduled approximately 80 patients for surgery over the next four days.

Monday was our first day of surgery. After breakfast at 5:30 and our devotional time we walked to the hospital. Our team was split into five  operating room teams ; two general surgery rooms, two orthopedic rooms, and one urology room.. Our patients started in the pre op area and then were taken to the respective operating rooms followed by post anesthesia recovery room. They were then transported to either the men’s ward or the woman’s ward. Each ward accommodated about 15 patients. All of the patients are admitted overnight and most are discharged the next day. When all of the surgical cases are completed and the patients are transferred to the wards the team members can walk back to the Quinta for dinner and some time for socializing before bed.

This routine is repeated on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Thursday night is our celebration dinner where we take the opportunity to share a very special meal. Certificates are awarded to the staff members by the physicians. Individual comments are made by the physicians about each team  member. These tend to be colorful and funny but all are heartfelt. On  Friday the physicians will make rounds and see the patients that are still in the hospital. Most patients are discharged at that time. If any need to stay for another night then our physicians will sign out to the local hospital physicians to ensure appropriate follow up care. The rest of the day is a free day in Antigua. Many of our team spent time exploring the city. One group hiked up an active volcano. Another group went deep sea fishing and brought fresh fish back for dinner.

Special bonding occurred among the team members over the course of the week. A special bond built around a mutual desire to use special skills to provide special care to special people. These people otherwise may never have had the opportunity to access healthcare to regain their health. The consensus of the team members was that everyone hoped to be able to return next year for another special trip.

-Dr. James Bruce