The Vice President of Guatemala, Dr. Rafael Espada, came to the hospital today amid heavy security and media attention. Dr. Espada is a renown cardiac surgeon who practiced in Houston for 40 years. He met with Rotaplast’s international team of surgeons pictured with him below – Dr. Jitka Vritskova (Czech Republic), Dr. Carlos Beltran (Argentina), Dr. Debra Johnson (USA), the Vice President, and Dr. Milton Solis (Guatemala).

Dr. Espada was amazed to learn that from this mission, 105 Guatemalan children have had corrective surgery as of last night. He took a moment to meet and thank volunteers from the medical mission before touring the ward with head surgeon, Dr. Johnson. The doctors discussed the various theories about the cause of clefting. Dr. Espada showed obvious interest and compassion for the children as he visited each ward room.
As the tour wound down, Dr. Espada expressed regret for the “bumps” we had incurred in the first few days of our mission. He spoke to local Rotarians and pledged direct communication with Rotaplast for future missions. Our dedicated team of surgeons bid the Vice President adios and then hurried back to their operating rooms to begin their day.

The Vice President and his staff were particularly smitten with Ana and her beautiful eyes. Ana’s mother, Claudia, lives in Guatemala City with her mother. The media returned this afternoon to follow Ana’s medical journey from ward room, to surgery, to recovery. Ana’s father has left them and gone to Washington State. Claudia heard about the Rotaplast mission on television…..and now her daughter will be featured on the evening television news. As soon as mother and grandmother were united with Ana after her surgery, tears and cell phones came out.

Seems like a day wouldn’t be complete in Guatemala City without a new patient showing up. Today Dr. Johnson made room on the surgery schedule for three-month-old Julian. Julian’s mother is a housekeeper here in Guatemala. Earlier today her employer had taken her to a clinic so that Julian’s mouth could be examed. The clinic staff told Julian’s mother that Rotaplast was currently set up at the military hospital. The family is familiar with cleft problems; Julian’s six-year-old sister has had surgeries for a cleft lip and palate. Julian was our last patient of the day and looked perfect when we left the hospital at 7 p.m. (our earliest exit time yet).
At this stage of the mission, when we are feeling a sense of satisfaction with 123 surgeries completed by the team, we also sense the end of the mission; it is amazing how quickly time has passed. Tomorrow is our last day of surgeries. We ended today by thanking the enthusiastic hospital staff for their assistance throughout our stay. Please visit the team website at to see more photographs and meet the team members.