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Our travel day yesterday may be described as “bifurcated.” For the first time that I can remember, roughly half of the team arrived in Guatemala City a little before noon (the Houston contingent), while the other half (the Dallas and Colorado contingent) didn’t land in Guatemala City until around 9:30 pm which eventuated in their arrival in Antigua around 11:30 pm. What a long, tiring day for all the dedicated souls who made that trip!


Sundays for FIP ortho teams in Antigua nearly always entail two activities. First, the surgeons and anesthesiologists, working together with the interpreters, meet with the patients for a final clinical screening, and if surgery and anesthesiology agree, are placed on the 4-day surgery schedule (Monday through Thursday).


The other important activity, which involves many of the team members, is the preparation of the OR suite for the surgeries that will take place throughout the week. This pre-week prep requires a great deal of organization, forethought, knowledge, and attention to detail so that the week ahead might go as it should, allowing for the delivery of surgical care to as many patients as possible in a compressed period of time.


Today’s triage clinic went like so many others. Still, it did not go “as usual” for a 13-year-old girl lying conspicuously on a gurney in the middle of the courtyard area, humbly and anxiously awaiting her time to be seen by the doctors. Roughly two months ago, Evelyn developed a small, raised area on her left knee that began to grow rapidly. By the time she came to see us today, the mass had grown to the size of a football, making it painful for her to bend the knee or put any weight on it. Fortunately, a Faith In Practice village team visited her area near Retaluleu (“Reu”) in southwestern coastal Guatemala. They screened her on Wednesday, sent her to have tests performed on Thursday, and directed her to come to our clinic today.


She, her mom, and her uncle all traveled to “Las Obras,” so our surgical team could see her. Dinora, one of the faithful FIP directors from the Reu area, helped her navigate the seemingly inscrutable bureaucratic maze inherent to most all healthcare systems, whether here or in the States.


At around 10:00 am, Dr. “Chappie” Conrad, an orthopedic oncologist with over 40 years of experience, came to see Evelyn, a tender and scared little girl. He came to evaluate her case, one that turned out to be life-threatening. What he found was an osteosarcoma, a fast-growing, malignant tumor that started in her bone and grew outward into the surrounding muscle. Though Evelyn and her mom were expecting to have the mass surgically removed this week, they learned that she would have to undergo three months of chemotherapy before having any surgery. As Dr. Conrad explained to her and her mom, the chemotherapy would reduce the tumor’s size and, more importantly, help prevent the tumor from metastasizing to her lungs. Fortunately, Dr. Conrad had visited a children’s hospital in Guatemala City a few years ago and thought that they would be able to help young Evelyn. Dr. Conrad, the FIP staff, working in concert with a local doctor and longstanding friend of FIP, Dr. Patti, would collaborate to do everything possible to get Evelyn to the children’s hospital for a three-month course of chemotherapy. I personally don’t know how difficult or complicated attaining such treatment might be, but I know that Evelyn and her family would greatly appreciate our fervent prayers on her behalf in the coming weeks and months. You can see little Evelyn in the photos section of this blog. Thank you in advance for your prayers!

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