Susan Dean, RN, is a nurse manager at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Medical Center. She’s currently in Antigua, Guatemala, as part of a medical team with Faith In Practice, a nonprofit organization that provides continuity of medical care to the poorest of Guatemala. This is Susan’s sixth consecutive year serving on a Faith In Practice surgical mission; last fall she wrote several dispatches for this blog. We’ll publish subsequent dispatches from her mission this spring as she has time to send them.
March 14, 2012
The majority of the group flew into Guatemala City on Friday, March 9, and then traveled by bus to Antigua, where the work would take place. The trip took all day. Saturday was spent touring the hospital and Casa De Fe (a place to stay for post surgical care before returning home to the villages). Sunday was a day for triaging patients and setting up the operating rooms with the medical supplies brought from home. Eighty patients were scheduled for surgery, approximately 10 patients could not be scheduled for lack of operating room space/time and another 50 were helped on the spot!
…And the team was ready to go. The team was made up of translators, cooks, the pastor, doctors/surgeons/anesthesiologists, pharmacy person, patient advocate, group journalist/photographer, scrub techs and nurses. There will be pictures posted on the Faith In Practice website. Please look under volunteer missions – group 315. Thirteen of our team’s 38 members are from Kaiser Permanente.
Kaiser Permanente San Rafael Medical Center
Brian Bane, MD, Director of Anesthesia
Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Medical Center
Bonnie Souva, RN (OR)
Rae Ann Gustafson, RN (OR)
Paul Preston MD, Department of Anesthesia
Robert Karoukian MD Department of Anesthesia
Susan Dean RN, Manager, Medicine Department
Kaiser Permanente San Mateo Medical Center
Karen Preston, Physical Therapist
Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara Medical Center
Brenda Gips, Admin, Department of Anesthesia
Gordon Haddow, MD, Chief of Anesthesia
Rachel Scheuring, MD, Dept of Anesthesia
Sharon Rose RN, CVICU
Johny Zapanta RN, CVICU
Kaiser Permanente Vallejo Medical Center
Anatole (Tolak) Besman, MD, General Surgeon
We were able to help 79 patients with surgery. We ran four rooms: two general surgery, one Gyn surgery, and one plastic surgery room. There were 21 children, most of whom had cleft lips and cleft palates repaired. Two kids had hernias repaired. The adults had gall bladders removed, hysterectomies, and hernias repaired…One patient had an infected mass across the top of his shoulders removed. He had this mass for 10 years and tried to cover it up by growing his hair long. He felt ostracized. When his surgery was scheduled he felt relieved. The first words out of his mouth following his surgery were, “Thank you.”
Our week had words and feelings repeating themselves. Some of these were “blessed,” “connected,” and “team.” The team felt blessed to be here. That the Guatemalan people would allow us to enter their lives. They trusted us and did not even know us. The feeling of being connected… We felt so fortunate to meet these patients. We felt connected and yet could not even speak the same language. I had a patient who spoke Mayan. Her husband was able to speak Mayan and Spanish. He spoke with one of our wonderful translators in Spanish. The translator conveyed all of the information to me in English. We had a long, productive, and informative communication. We had a group of 38 volunteers who became a team. We had a team of cooks who made amazing meals for all, at the beginning and end of long work days. We had many teams in the operating room, all working closely to help patients, some who were in very difficult situations. Since care is at a minimum, the surgeries seem to be more difficult. Patients have had to wait longer for care and had to endure more suffering. One of the surgeons shared his thoughts…”At home if you do not provide the care someone else will do the work. Here, no one else will do it and it won’t get done. The patient will not be taken care of.”
The team felt that being here was such a privilege and an opportunity. We are so lucky. The gift of knowing that you are helping someone who might not otherwise get help is fulfilling as well as overwhelming.
In conclusion for now, I would like to share a story. The cooks went to the marketplace. They wore their badges, which included our group name. The woman in the textile stall got excited when she saw our Faith in Practice name. She ran down the hallway to another stall and introduced the cooks to her daughter who had a cleft lip repaired by Faith in Practice many years ago. She went on and on about how thankful she was. All she could say was “Gracias” over and over.
…And this is why we come to Guatemala.
Susan Dean, RN
Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Medical Center