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About the author: I am a premed student who joined Faith in Practice for my first time ever! My initial intent was to use this mission as a medical learning experience, but I ended up learning much more.

On Sunday, the work began. A steady stream of patients were flowing through different offices, learning which procedures they needed and when they were to occur. Children busied themselves with games in the common area while the adults around them talked in hushed voices of what was to come.

After meeting the team and setting up supplies on Sunday, I felt nervous as the first operation day approached. Since I’ve never seen open surgery before, my mind ran through the many scenarios in which I could make a fool of myself. Luckily, all went smoothly and I watched the surgeons work in awe. Dr. Boutros and his surgical team were able to remove a tumor from a young woman’s jaw and successfully reconstruct the area using the patient’s skin and bone grafts. In the next room Dr. Weiner worked meticulously to remove a patient’s ulcer. These are just a couple examples of the many, many cases that were taken on by the team, just on the first day!

Tuesday moved forward efficiently, now that the team became a bit more familiar with the set up and provided equipment. Many of the operations that day focused on treating pediatric patients. When I see the children, my mind fills with images of my own siblings and cousins. It warms my heart to see them receive the same high quality and dedicated care I would expect for my own family. A little girl, about seven, had her polydactyly removed. Despite the fear and anxiety felt by almost all of the other child patients, she sat there bravely and faced the procedure with calmness.

Wednesday continued with much of the same that filled up the previous days. However, there was a bit of a panic in the PACU (Post-Anesthesia Intensive Care Unit). A young woman had a build-up of cerebrospinal fluid which was released using a shunt inserted by Dr. Cochran. Since the procedure affected the upper spine, the patient was having severe difficulty breathing. It was only through the committed efforts of the PACU nurses that she was able to be stabilized and sent home with no further issues.

Thursday marked our last operation day, as well as the celebration of Corpus Christi, a tradition that has origins dating all the way back to the 1200s. In Italy, a priest was holding mass when the consecrated host began to bleed, producing 83 drops of blood. This was seen as a miracle, so every year it is celebrated. I feel very lucky to have observed the procession, since the holiday changes dates each year.

After watching the procession, another young child had his polydactyly removed. At only three years old, all he could cry for as he woke up was his mother. Alone after such a procedure, I could only imagine the fear and confusion he felt in that moment. Bethania, a PACU nurse, held him as I caressed his hair, trying our hardest to soothe his nerves. That child — along with many other patients, received amazing care at the hands of the Boutros team. Here is one of their stories:

Juan Carlos is a 46 year old man from Villa Nueva, Guatemala. He came to Faith in Practice to have a tumor removed from his left lung. The tumor began growing about a year ago, and at first he thought it was simply a lung infection. When it didn’t go away with antibiotics, he sought to find the deeper cause of his illness. It took many months of searching through clinics for the right doctor, but those efforts failed. Through Faith in Practice, he was finally able to receive the proper treatment he needed. Currently, he is waiting on the biopsy results of his tumor to determine whether or not it is cancerous.

Focusing on staff, here are some testimonials from team members:

Dr. Barry Fairchild (plastic surgeon) joined Faith in Practice for the first time this year and was recruited by her husband, Dr. (John?) Cochran (neurosurgeon). She works alongside the head of the team, Dr. Boutros. Like many others in Faith in Practice her main motivation is the Guatemalan people, saying “to whom much is given, much is expected”. As a physician, her want to help others in need is a constant one, so when Faith in Practice gave her an opportunity she took charge. This became even more clear to her after seeing how limited resources are in Guatemala, as well as giving her perspective on her own privileges. Dr. Fairchild is also a new mother to a two year old daughter, which she says “is an incredible challenge, but also an incredible blessing”. As a mother, treating child patients is a significant emotional challenge for her, saying she “fought back tears all day during [her] first clinic”. Despite this, she keeps in mind that she has the opportunity to give these children high quality care they wouldn’t receive otherwise, and that is what truly motivates her to keep going.

Robert “Bob” Malinsky has been a long time volunteer with Faith in Practice, serving as a nurse on the recovery team. Bob worked with Dr. Boutros in Houston and was recruited by him several years ago. Dr. Boutros as well as helping others with limited resources are the reasons why he continues to serve after 17 missions. Not only is Bob a long time member, but he has recruited many volunteers over the course of his career. When asked how Faith in Practice impacts the Guatemalan community, he claimed it gave them hope, especially with the knowledge that someone is looking out for them. Helping the Guatemalan people alongside Faith in Practice has allowed his own faith to become stronger and deeper. If you decide to join in Faith in Practice, Bob says “come expecting to work hard, help others, and become addicted to volunteering”.

-Jade Bravo