Team Hartz has arrived at Hospital Hilario Galindo after being gone for over a year and a half and we are so glad to be back!
We have a lot of changes on this trip, too. Tom Hecht retired as our team leader this year and I am here trying to fill his shoes, not an easy job! As the pandemic raged through Guatemala, it took with it several who dedicated their lives to serving the most needy, members of the Hilario Galindo Board and FIP representatives: Leonel Borja, Ana Esther Garcia, Mark Schomer and Julio Figueroa. Covid protocol measures required that Team Hartz be reduced by 1/3 and the operating rooms have been scaled back by closing one, impacting the number of patients that would receive life changing surgeries, we are down by 25% – we don’t have our dental or wheel chair team either. Our gatherings are affected as well, although everyone is vaccinated and all patients are tested for Covid, we don PPE in all areas of the hospital and that means we lose the pleasure of greeting our patients and hospital staff with a smile! We will need to become very proficient at the SMIZE*!
*A neologism coined by supermodel Tyra Banks in 2009 on the television show “America’s Next Top Model,” smizing means smiling with your eyes. It involves bringing life to your eyes while keeping the rest of the face neutral.
On our first day travel was expected to be exhausting, but we weren’t quite ready for the day that was to come! The travel day started very early with 2 early flights, first flight Chicago to Houston, second flight Houston to Guatemala and then a grueling diesel exhaust filled 6 hour bus ride straight to Retalhuleu! This year there was no overnight rest for the team. The traffic was not going to cooperate either since we landed on a holiday weekend – All Saint’s Day is celebrated November 1, 2021 and it seems EVERYONE hits the one road out of town to celebrate! But we made it to Retalhuleu Los Hostales del IRTRA and as expected we were greeted by the amazing staff and dinner was waiting!
Tomorrow we prepare the Hospital and meet the patients.