Today, the last full day of this mission, went by in a flash. Fifteen surgeries were conducted but none was complex. Because we will be traveling tomorrow, Dr. Johnson only scheduled the simplest procedures for this final day of surgery, which require minimal recovery.
Now that there have been a few confirmed cases of swine flu in Guatemala, the hospital was very strict about everyone wearing face masks….or at least trying to make everyone wear one.

Dr. Paul Quintana gave his daily departing-nutrition and post-surgery talk to parents and children this morning. Dr. Quintana patiently described to the mothers and fathers (in fluent Spanish) how to take care of their children following surgery–wound care, diet, etc. He used the opportunity to instruct the parents on basic nutrition (balanced diets, less Coca Cola), wean children from the bottle, and so forth. When he had answered the last question, the children (and the parents) were ready for discharge.
On Day Six, we posted a photo of Hilda, a courageous 17 year-old single mother, and her darling daughter while telling their story. Now we can tell the rest of the story. Cyndie George first spotted Hilda in the ward and took special care of her, as Hilda was the youngest mother and had traveled three hours with her daughter by bus. Cyndie and the webmaster talked about how beautiful Hilda was and what a shame it was that she was missing her front three teeth. Cyndie and the webmaster wished that Dr. Dugoni could fashion teeth for Hilda. Cyndie set the wheels in motion and explained Hilda’s plight to our dentist. Dr. Dugoni examined Hilda and decided that he could fashion something with the equipment he had brought from San Francisco. Hilda refuses to explain why several of her teeth are missing; the remainder of her teeth are very healthy. Cyndie slipped Hilda a small sum that would cover a return bus ride. Between Day Six and today, Dr. Dugoni worked his magic and created a retainer-type device with teeth.

This morning we nervously awaited her arrival. Paola Ferrate called and confirmed that Hilda and her baby were enroute. The bus ride normally takes three hours, but today it took Hilda five hours. She arrived at 3 p.m. just as the mission team was finishing packing. So Paola Ferrate, Jennifer Lindberg, Cyndie George, Dr. Dugoni (now known as the tooth fairy) and photojournalist stayed behind to see Hilda fitted with her new teeth. As Dr. Dugani said: “No patient left behind.” And just look how beautiful Hilda and her daughter Kristel now look. Mother and daughter both face a more optimistic future.

Our last evening concluded with a farewell ceremony hosted by local Rotarians. This is a standard and valued part of every Rotaplast mission. The success of the missions depends upon close cooperation and mutual support between the host Rotary club and the mission team. This celebration was notable for a slide show of our mission that brought the entire team to tears.
We will leave the hotel for the airport Friday morning at 5:00 a.m. Thank you for following our journey to Guatemala City. We experienced a strong earthquake, pouring rains and swine flu. We are proud that surgical procedures were performed on 137 patients.
Our team leaves Guatemala with several important lessons learned.  One has to do with team dynamics-this was an exceptionally cohesive team.  We worked hard and smoothly and accomplished a great deal. Another lesson has to do with the Guatemalan people–their pride, diversity and rich tradition.  Yet another lesson, universal in many Rotaplast missions, has to do with the fierce determination of parents, especially mothers, to protect their children and make their children’s lives better. Our team feels honored to have played a role in helping these Guatemalan families have a brighter future.
For more information about the team and more photographs, please go to the team's entire website –