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Day three. Our morning devotional today ended with the Prayer of St. Francis. Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon, where there is darkness, light. Where there is sorrow, joy, an apt description for the day ahead for our mission is to be instruments of peace, care, and concern, of kindness that turn sorrow and pain into joy and relief.

Yesterday, a few people were standing around the plaza in front of the hospital when we arrived. Today, Monday, the plaza was full of people waiting in line to receive care at the Los Obros clinic, with even more standing in lines and sitting in chairs when we stepped into the hospital, and it was only at 7 AM. The Guatemalan people are so patient, waiting quietly in these long lines for their name to be called, always offering a warm smile and “Buenos Dias” when you walk by.

Without delay, the day began. Two children were brought to pre-op for their cleft lip surgeries, a boy and a girl. A man was prepped for a hernia repair; a woman for a hysterectomy. Surgeons and nurses and anesthesiologists stepped right into their roles, efficient and knowing. They work cooperatively with Guatemalan medical staff here at Los Obros in pre-op, surgery, and recovery. Once the surgeries are done and the patient has recovered sufficiently, Los Obros staff provide care in the ward until patients are well enough to return home or to Casa de Fe (a home environment similar to Ronald McDonald House in the States) for further recuperation.

I do not swim in the medical/hospital world so my eyes have been wide with everything going on. I am very impressed with how efficient and calm and kind all the doctors and nurses are, how reassuring, how competent and knowing. The day ran smoothly with patients, young and old, moving from post-op to the operating room, to recovery, and finally to the ward. They are greeted with smiles and warmth and kindness everywhere along the way. Once one surgery is complete, the operating room is cleaned and resupplied for medical staff to begin again. By yesterday, four children had cleft lips repaired, and two had palates restored. For the adults, three hernias were repaired; four gallbladders removed; one mass and one ovary removed, and three hysterectomies were performed.

Being the early childhood educator that I am, my heart is particularly drawn to the wee ones and their mothers. How nervous these moms must be sending their children off to the operating room, very much into the unknown. You can see the concern in their eyes, the tears barely contained, and how they hold two opposing emotions: hope for the outcome and the fear and worry of letting go. And then they wait.

While they wait, they can’t see the caring hands and hearts at work, a story playing out that I feel privileged to witness. I have also had the even more incredible privilege of seeing the reunions this morning. When the children are ready, the mommas are brought to recovery. Someone helps them put on all the gear – the robe, the shoe covers, the hat. And then they hurry in to see their wee one, eager to hold them and soothe them as the babies are upset and crying. In a moment alone with her child, one mother rocked him in her arms, singing to him.

All the children are so precious, but one little boy, in particular, Sammir, an eight-month-old, captured many hearts with his quick and radiant smile despite a cleft lip. Such a ray of light! We tried to catch his journey today in photos before, after, and through the process.

Everyone was tired but smiling and happy with the day. We surprised Cindy for her birthday. I must shout out to the PAC-U staff (Amy, Guru, Carina, and Max), our pharmacist, Casey, and Tom, our team leader, for they were the last to roll in well into dinner time. Behind the scenes, Walter is doing a fantastic job keeping the supply shelves stocked and organized. This does take a village, and though there can be lots of downtime for certain roles, the “whole” of this operation wouldn’t be complete without them.

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