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Our team’s time in Antigua can be summed up in a few words: a trust that transcends fear and uncertainty. Before arriving in Guatemala, we faced delayed and canceled flights, lost luggage, and almost half of our team arriving two days later. The first day at Hospital Obras Sociales del Hermano Pedro was designated Triage Day. Patients who traveled to Antigua to be seen by our team moved through stations for vitals, medical history, discussions with specialists and anesthesia, and ultimately received a scheduled day for their operation. To ensure each patient was seen, some of our team members took over triage for those still stuck in airports trying to get to Guatemala. Uncertainty filled conversations among team members as the first day of surgery quickly approached.

For the patients, who were trusting doctors with ailments that had caused them pain and discomfort for months, years, or even decades, their minds and conversations were filled with only gratitude. We met patients who had traveled over 10 hours by bus to be seen by our team of specialists in general surgery, gynecology, and plastic surgery. Some had to wait hours before their name was called over the loudspeaker, but they waited with patience and again, gratitude. The complexities of cases varied, as did the ages and life stories; we met single mothers who traveled with their only child to seek help from strangers, sons who would be having surgery at the same time their mothers would be, and young children who were brought to an unfamiliar place with promises of feeling better.

An elderly woman, Telma, sat in a room to discuss her medical history and what general anesthesia would feel like on the day of her operation. Telma traveled to the hospital for a gynecological procedure that had caused her pain for years. She was accompanied by her only daughter, Velvet, who was just as nervous as her mother. In between answering questions about what brought her to Antigua, Telma shared that Velvet was her only, and subsequently favorite, child. The pair laughed with the nurse and translator in the room and could not stop sharing how thankful they were for God allowing our team to be there at the same time she was. Telma said that in a room with only five people, angels were all around us. Her trust in God transcended any fear and uncertainty she had about her operation that would take place two days later.

After delays and cancellations, the rest of our team was able to join us in Antigua. They arrived after midnight, slept for a couple of hours, and were up at 5:00 am to welcome the first day of surgery. As patients waited to be called back to the Pre-Op area, hospital staff members were in the waiting area making sure each patient was prepared. They walked each patient through what would take place during their operation and made sure that last-minute questions were answered. As their names were called and patients made their way to the room, our Pre-Op nurse prepared each patient with the first medication orders prior to surgery. Patients were getting the first feel of what undergoing an operation would be like, and thanks to our Pre-Op nurse, each patient was welcomed and kept comfortable until their surgeon was ready for them. Operations took place throughout the day, each one its own symphony of hospital staff, nurses, scrub techs, and doctors. We met patients ranging in age from 1 to over 70; each one feeling a mixture of readiness, nerves, and fear, but ultimately trusting their doctors when they were taken into the Operating Room.

Tuesday and Wednesday brought the next rounds of surgeries while some team members were able to visit Casa de Fe (House of Faith), a supportive home-away-from-home for patients and families. Converted to hold 80 people before and after their operation, with the flexibility of adding more beds in the chapel if needed, patients and a companion can stay close to the hospital prior to their operation and rest before making the journey home. Casa de Fe prepares five meals every day for patients, reimburses them for travel fees to Antigua, and facilitates activities to ensure patients of all ages are entertained during their stay. On average, Casa de Fe houses 250 people a month and around 3,000 to 4,000 a year. As Casa de Fe requires no payment from patients, they rely on the support of others to ensure they can continue serving the people of Guatemala.

At Casa de Fe, we had the opportunity to meet Aiden. Aiden was a one-year-old boy with a birth defect called Syndactyly; two of his fingers on his left hand were fused together. His mom brought him to Antigua to be seen by the plastic surgeons with the hope that they could free both of his fingers by using a skin graft from his hip. Aiden was in surgery for over two hours while the plastic surgeons worked to separate his very small fingers. He woke up from surgery scared and confused, as he was in an unfamiliar room with strangers that were gowned in scrubs and masks. Once his mom walked into the room and held him, we got a glimpse of his calm and inquisitive personality. Hours later at dinner, our team was still in awe of the immense courage and trust it takes for a mother to leave her one-year-old child in the care of strangers.

Thursday morning, we woke up with mixed emotions as new friendships had formed, and our last days in Guatemala were quickly approaching. During our devotional, our Chaplain shared how wonderful it is to be able to witness first-hand the gifts bestowed by God being used to change the lives of our patients. It has been a privilege to play even a small part to bring much-needed healthcare to communities without. The last day of surgeries involved mass removals, hysterectomies, and a combination hysterectomy and gallbladder removal. Our PACU (Post Anesthesia Care Unit) nurses were welcoming the last patients into their room as they assisted them in waking up from their procedure and made sure they were ready to be sent to the convalescent ward. During their stay in the convalescent ward, patients would be monitored by hospital staff during their recovery.

As our week came to an end, it was evident that our time in Guatemala was the embodiment of a trust that transcends fear and uncertainty. A trust in Christ, a trust in people, and a love of serving others. In just one week, each person on our team not only changed the lives of over 60 people, but the lives of their families, their friends, and their communities.

“Christ has no body now but yours, no hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world; yours are the feet with which he walks to do good; yours are the hands through which he blesses the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”- St. Teresa of Avila

-Meghan Griggs