After a few years of COVID travel restrictions, I was excited to have the opportunity this year to go on another medical mission trip. Faith in Practice is an organization based in Houston, TX that has been sending teams to Guatemala since the 1990s to provide free medical care to the people of Guatemala. In April 2022, I went to Antigua, Guatemala with a team from Faith in Practice consisting of 3 other surgeons and 23 supporting personnel including anesthesiologists, CRNAs, pharmacists, nurses, scrub techs, clergy, interpreters, and administrators. Prior to our arrival other teams and employees from the organization had already screened patients that may need our services, and on the first day we saw and evaluated all the patients and made our surgery schedules for the week. Many of the patients had traveled from 3-6 hours away just to be seen. I was humbled by their calm, gentle demeanor and their immediate trust in our team.
Each day we would walk 30 minutes from our hotel through the narrow cobblestone streets of the old Spanish colonial city to Obras Sociales Del Santo Hermano Pedro were we did our surgeries. For the next four days, we did surgery from 7:30 in the morning until 5:00 in the evening. Our team did a total of 86 surgeries. I was able to help a variety of patients with problems including cleft lip and nasal deformities, burn contractures, lip deformities from trauma, webbed fingers, skin cancer, and keloid scars. We all worked hard and were tired by the end of the week, but we were able to spend some time the last day exploring the beautiful city of Antigua and the surrounding area.
The week was a great success, and I am grateful for the opportunity to work with such an amazing team and help such grateful patients. Returning to medical mission work after a few years hiatus only made me appreciate it that much more. We all went to Guatemala to change the lives of the patients, but in the process, we were also touched and changed by our teammates’ kindness and friendship and by our patients’ trust and gratitude. Volunteerism gives me perspective on how blessed I am and how much I have to give back. It reminds me why I became a physician. I look forward to more trips to Guatemala in the future!