Paul Preston, MD, is an anesthesiologist with Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Medical Center. Dr. Preston left San Francisco earlier this month to take a one-week trip to Guatemala with Faith in Practice, a Houston-based organization that coordinates doctors to provide free medical services for those in need.
We set out on a one-week trip to provide surgical care to the economically deprived in Guatemala. This is a very beautiful country, but with a huge gap in medical care.
We are part of an organization called Faith in Practice that is based in Houston. Faith in Practice has been providing care to those in need in Guatemala for 20 years now. At this time they are the second-largest provider of care in the country, not because they are very big, but because so little care is available.
We arrived June 6 after a pretty routine trip. More than 30 trunks of medical supplies made it through customs! This is always a bit dicey… we need this to do our work, and sometimes there are issues. June 7 was a group orientation to Antigua and get over jet lag, then we started screening on June 8.
Screening was remarkable. Folks knew what kind of surgeries we would be able to do, and very closely matched our capabilities with the folks who showed up. More than 100 patients arrived, and we booked the entire week with very few folks put on hold for another week. A long but very satisfying day.
Monday through Thursday we got into our routine. Up really early with a breakfast and organizational meeting at the hotel, occasionally interrupted by the eruption of the volcano Fuego off in the distance (mostly clouds of gas and ash, but always amazing to watch!). Then we walked to the hospital over the cobbled streets (no high heels on this trip) and get to work.
This is routine for us, but these patients have been waiting years for these surgeries. For them, it is truly life changing. The quiet dignity and gratitude they show is an amazing blessing to all of us.
At the end of the week, we set a new record: 109 procedures on 82 patients!
At the end of the day, we’re all a bit jet lagged (and probably behind on a few projects), but maybe a bit more in touch with why we went in to medicine and nursing. We have amazing people at Kaiser Permanente: talented, giving, patient and hard working. It is a blessing to travel, work, laugh and cry together.