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Authored by Mariana Montes

As a newbie on my first medical mission trip with Faith in Practice, I am learning that we start every morning with a team devotional. It’s a motivational pep talk that helps set the tone for each day. Today’s devotional was led by our Chaplain, Flavio, recounting Brené Brown’s research on vulnerability as the most accurate measure of courage. Our team passed around a candle as we dedicated our day to empathy and compassion, not only for the patients we have come to Guatemala to serve, but also for humility in the work that we do.

I am a pediatric anesthesiologist, and today as I met with my patients in the pre-operative area, I was struck by the courage and vulnerability of the families here this week. Some children had traveled as far as 10 hours to be seen in surgical triage yesterday, and now their long-anticipated surgical date had finally come. I watched as one mother, who had tears streaming down her face, carefully gave her toddler a blessing and a kiss knowing that moments later she would entrust us in the care of her most precious daughter. Like any parent, this mother courageously did everything in her power to help her child get medical care, including being vulnerable enough to trust strangers from a foreign country to see her child through something as terrifying as surgery.

Like this mother, I am also here in Guatemala to find courage through vulnerability. And maybe a little bit of healing for myself as well. Earlier this year, my son Thomas and my daughter Josephine died. Like the mother I saw today, I did everything in my power to love and protect my children. While it is still hard to talk about my children’s death, it is my hope that in this moment of vulnerability I have the courage to honor my children through this work, the work of loving the children of Guatemala entrusted into my care this week.

Authored by Sue Stringer

“Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.”

I am Sue Stringer, serving this week as a recovery nurse in the PACU. Being my first trip to Reu with a new team, I was a little apprehensive, but not vulnerable by any means! Flavio’s words spoke to me and Monday put me to the test. I needed to be open and vulnerable this week at Hilario Galindo. I was going to SHOW UP even though I had no control over the outcome! (Yes, for those of you who know me, “CONTROL” is my middle name!)

Today was the first full day of surgeries after yesterday’s chaotic day of triage and pre-op assessments. It was inspiring to witness the teamwork that accomplished 23 surgeries in our 4 operating rooms; how everyone interacts for the benefit of the patients and not in their own self-interest. It was heartwarming to see the smiles on our kids’ faces when they received a gift bag and socks in pre-op. It was touching to see the gratitude on their mothers’ faces when their children were in post-op . . . no words were needed . . . a hug from a mother was all I needed to be thankful I showed up today.

Today was the second full day of activity for our mobility clinic. We distributed 22 wheelchairs and 6 mobility aids to patients who previously may have been carried from one room to the next, perhaps lifted with a kitchen chair, or otherwise transported in ways that robbed them of any semblance of independence. This was eight fewer people than expected because one group of potential wheelchair recipients could not make the trip, a consequence of torrential rains that flooded the roads. Regardless, all the planned chairs were assembled to give us a head start on Tuesday.

The mobility clinic continues to inspire us in profound ways. On the first visit the atmosphere can feel overwhelming and sad. The lives of the individuals and especially those of their caregivers overwhelms us with their hardship. And yet when we see the determination in their eyes, sense the love by and for their family members, and watch as our team members provide the gift of small moments of independence to our patients and tools to ease their caregivers’ back-breaking daily burden, we are inspired by the beauty and resilience of the Guatemalan people and the skill and passion of all eight members of the wheelchair team who act as a cohesive team, supporting each other regardless of a defined role, to change people’s lives.

Thank you, Team Mann, for an extraordinary day.

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