Victor Quintero, CRNA, APRN, Senior Partner of Excel Anesthesia, LLC recently returned from a medical mission in Antigua, Guatemala that was arranged through the Medical Mission Foundation (MMF) based in Kansas City. This would mark his 7th trip of voluntary service with this particular organization and his 12th overall Mission helping those in dire need of medical care. The group spent one week working at Obras Sociales del Santo Hermano Pedro, translated to mean, “Social Works of Brother Saint Peter”. The building in which these services are provided is as large as a city block, providing health care needs for the poor and homeless. In addition to surgical services, Obras Sociales also is an orphanage, and an extended care home for the elderly, and mentally/physically handicapped people. This trip consisted of a fairly large group of approximately fifty volunteers comprised of a mixture of non-medical volunteers, doctors, surgeons, residents, medical students, nurse anesthetist, anesthetist students, audiology team and translators. The non-medical volunteers bring joy to the children by providing and dispensing, art supplies as well as giving art lessons. Most of the children have never had crayons, watercolors, or any other kind of art supplies, so you can imagine this art lesson is a big hit with the kids; keeping them occupied while waiting for their or their relative’s turn in surgery. MMF travels the world 4-6 times a year and is unique from many other missions in the emphasis it places on medical services and providing art lessons/ supplies to each site and every child.
“This year we had three specialties”, Victor relates, “General Surgery, ENT and Urology. We ran five ORs doing forty!,… YES FORTY, tonsillectomies on Monday; mostly on children. Needless to say the PACU was very busy! For the week, we did 113 surgeries and the audiology clinic saw hundreds of patient and handed out over 100 hearing aids; pretty amazing when you consider that the patients and the staff don’t speak English and were usually finished by five o’clock. I can only dream that we could be so efficient in the US. The Guatemalan staff is excellent; with IV skills, hard work ethic and positive attitude! It’s a privilege to work alongside them in their O.R.” Victor describes a typical day as follows: “For most of the team our day begins at 06:30 by eating a fabulous Guatemalan style breakfast, then we walk a few blocks over to Obras to get ready for surgery and usually start surgery around 7:30, (imagine that). Between 11:30 12:30 we break for a Guatemalan lunch and hopefully are finishing up surgeries by 5:00 pm since most of the Guatemalan staff need to catch chicken buses to get back home. The American volunteer staff typically unwinds by walking a few blocks through this beautiful colonial town to a roof pub called the Sky bar. There we talk about our day while drinking “Gallo” (Guatemalan beer) or soda with fantastic views of the city and its distant volcanoes. Then its dinner and bed so that we can do it all over again for the next five days. There is no mistaking; it is hard work, but we have so much fun, make new friends, connect with old friends while helping people who are truly in need and appreciative of our efforts. Overall this was my 12th mission. Each one is unique and personally fulfilling. If you ever have the opportunity to participate, ..do so! You will not regret it.”