Today is May Day, a national holiday in Guatemala. It is equivalent to the American Labor Day. So the roads were much less crowded during our 30 minute commute to the hospital. A visit to the pediatric clinic proved that yesterday’s surgeries had been very successful.
Many of our patients do not have any outward signs of needing surgery. But without corrections to the mouth and palate, these patients with hidden problems will not be able to eat properly or to communicate effectively.
Marlen is a beautiful eleven year old girl from La Florida in rural Guatemala. She is the oldest of five children. Marlen has already had two surgeries. Today she received a bone graft on the alveolar ridge – a surgery that involves taking a small bone graft from the hip area and placing it in the bony palate, to promote good bone growth in the area of the jaw. Her speech is clear and she is on the sixth-grade honor roll at her school. Marlen’s dream is to be a paleontologist; we believe she will achieve her dream.
Fifteen-year-old Mario, who gave a speech to us on Day One, had surgery today to repair a pharyngeal flap in order to be fitted with an obturator. In other words, although his lip had been repaired by an earlier Rotaplast mission; he still had three visible holes in his mouth that needed closure. The obturator is a plate that will cover the holes. Kathi Hoffer, our speech therapist, had a long session Mario’s father about speech exercises that Mario will need. Mario’s father will work with him ten minutes a day for the next six months, changing his habitual speech patterns which are hyper-nasal. Mario’s dream is to be a dentist; we believe he will achieve his dream.
There were all sorts of hidden treasures in the hospital this morning. Maria, who was quarantined after coming in from Mexico, was cleared for surgery today. She awaited surgery in a little hammock that her mother fashioned under one of the ward cribs. And Dr. Beltran found a little blue bird in the pre-op area.
Late in the afternoon, we experienced a different twist to the meaning of our medical mission. A distraught Guatemalan father rushed into the Rotaplast area. His five-year-old son had been bitten in the neck by a rattlesnake several hours ago. The father first took his son to a public hospital, which did not have the proper anti-venom medication. The father was directed to a private hospital that did have the proper medicine. However, that hospital quoted a fee for the medication (approximately $70 U.S.) that the father did not have. The father had somehow heard that an American medical mission was at Centro Medico Militar, so he came here seeking help. Dr. Paul Quintana, one of our talented – and bilingual – pediatricians, talked to the father. A quick passing of the hat raised the money, and the father left to get the medication. Our entire team is hoping and praying for a happy ending to this story.
We are fortunate to have experienced another amazing day. Please visit www.guatemala2009.com to see more photos and meet the team members.