Guatemala Medical Mission Trip
R.N. Experience by Terri Aldriedge
I had the honor to travel to Guatemala with 27 pre health students from ACU over spring break. I had concerns about going through customs due to us packing supplies for the clinic in Guatemala. I had my prayer warriors to pray about our safety and that there would be no problems as we were checked at customs. Not one plane was late, arrived on time or early each time we flew, not one student got sick, and not one single person in our group was stopped at customs. It was amazing to see every prayer answered and how I felt the many praying for us.
I have worked at ACU for over 11 years and each time I have gone to Guatemala I think I have the very best students and I said that again this time. The students taught me to see the glory in all that we did. Never one complaint the entire trip. Was it hot....They said the week had been the hottest....It was so hot and the high humidity was something I had never experienced.... Still the students never complained. The days started at 7:00 am and ended around 10:00 every evening. For the ones that were not in the surgery, the others traveled to villages and had mobile clinics. I love how each student grew in their spiritual walk and also how they got to see how another part of the world practiced healthcare. I am so thankful I am able to be part of their journey while at ACU. Our theme for the week was "the blind can see, the lame can walk and the Good News was spread." Praise the Lord for an incredible week.
Translator Perspective by Stephanie Sariles
I had seen this before. The poverty the Guatemalans live in each and everyday describes my parents’ childhood. I had visited my parents’ childhood homes in El Salvador and noticed the hardships the people in Central America are faced with on a daily basis. As a native Spanish speaker, I knew I would be translating during the spring break medical mission trip and would hear the many heartbreaking stories the people would tell me. I was well aware of what I was getting myself into, or so I thought.
By the end of the first night in Guatemala, I found myself on my knees weeping. I had to tell the father of a four year old that his son would most likely be blind for the rest of his life. I had to explain to many that they would never recover their sight because the damage was irreversible. Yet the reason why I was on my knees was due to the unfaltering faith of the Guatemalans. They opened my eyes to the true definition of relying on the Lord. They taught me what faith is in the midst of uncertainty.
I went in to this trip with the mindset that I would be the one pouring out to others, but now that I have had the time to reflect on the trip, I realized I received more than what I gave. I would do it all over again including the hot nights, sticky scrubs, aching feet, and the numerous occasions in which neither English nor Spanish would register. Being a translator on the 2016 medical mission trip revived my faith and reinforced my desire to be a Spanish-speaking physician.
Translator Perspective by Sussan Talamas
Guatemala is one of the most beautiful and humble places I have ever visited in my life. It is full of life and extraordinary Mayan ruins, just as the history books have described. Guatemala was like coming back home, where everyone greets you with a kiss on the cheek and Spanish is spoken all the time. A team of healthcare students and I planned on going on a Medical Mission Trip to this wonderful country that has a high percentage of poverty. As we arrived to Guatemala City, my job as a translator began right after we got off the airplane. Whenever we arrived at Clinic Ezell in Montellano, Suchitepéquez, I immediately wanted to greet the patients and assist the doctors as much as possible, but our first job was to sort out and organize the medicines. It was very interesting to see how much medication was brought from the United Stated into Guatemala with the sole purpose to help the Guatemalan people. After sorting them out, we had delicious Guatemalan food for dinner. We kindly thanked the ladies of the kitchen for cooking for us and we helped them clean dishes.
Throughout the week, there were three ophthalmologists, two orthopedic surgeons, and one dentist who we helped with translation and shadowed at the same time. For Monday and Tuesday, I spent most of the time serving in the consultation rooms and the operation room with the orthopedic surgeons. I translated for one of the orthopedic surgeons during consultations to find out the patient’s concerns. Most of them needed knee replacements because of the appearance of arthritis in their knees, which still would not allow them to walk pain-free. There were many times that the surgeon instructed me to translate to the patient that they did not have the materials to perform knee replacements, but we could offer prayers and some information to where they could get a possible knee replacement in Guatemala. This most certainly broke my heart many times because of the fact that the Guatemalan people come with the hope that God will help them to be pain-free. I was constantly striving to think of any possible ways to help them, but most of the options that I had in mind were simply out of my control. This came as a great realization for me to recognize that I am very blessed with everything that God has given me, and I should be even more conscious and aware of everything I have. These occurrences definitely put into perspective what I should really worry about.
Luckily, we were still capable of helping other people. We had patients who could have surgeries done in the clinic we were shadowing, so they were scheduled for surgery within the next day or two. On the day of the surgeries, before a patient was taken into the OR, we would ask if we could pray with them. After a prayer that consisted in constant back and forth translation, we would take the patient to the OR room and the doctors would sedate them with propofol and begin the surgery. Specifically, there was a patient who needed an ACL surgery, and she made an impact on me with her positive attitude as she exclaimed that she was very happy, excited, and thankful that the Lord was giving her the opportunity to have an ACL surgery done. Her name was Teresa, and she was the sweetest lady that I have ever met. She smiled all the time and it always satisfies my heart to see the smiles of joy in people who have struggled throughout life.
On Wednesday, I helped translate and shadowed for the ophthalmologists. We first began by adding drops to the patients’ eyes an hour or so before the doctors performed any surgery to their eyes. The doctors would mostly do cataract surgery for the elderly or young people who had diabetes. It was very interesting to see how these microsurgeries could help a patient to see light and his/her surroundings more clearly. As a translator, I would usually tell the patient to breathe in deeply while the doctors applied the anesthesia underneath their eye with a syringe. Then I would translate anything else the doctors wanted to tell the patient. It mostly consisted of explaining the procedures the doctors were about to do in their eyes and providing encouraging words for the patients who were very excited, but very nervous at the same time. As for Thursday, I had the opportunity to translate at the dentist clinic. The dentists had brought equipment for the hygienist and nurses to keep at this dental clinic in Guatemala. The dentists were showing them how to use the equipment and they were all very intrigued by this beautiful and helpful equipment that would improve and equip their little clinic to help people as much as possible with any dental problems they might have. Plus, I really enjoyed seeing how the doctor handled communicating with the nurses and the hygienist. I translated for him all of the steps for the use of this equipment, and I would just translate any questions that they had back to the dentist.
Throughout the week spent in Guatemala, I felt very honored to aid in breaking the language barrier between the Guatemalan patients and the American doctors and caregivers that were helping in Guatemala with pure hearts. I intentionally served with the purpose of not only helping them with medical problems, but also by showing them who God is. It was a pleasure to be able to help the Guatemalan people, and I am very grateful to be able to learn from them. For instance, I learned that I am very blessed by God, and I need to think about placing others before me even more. I found it very important to remember that everyone has a different worldview, and we have so many advantages that other people like the people from Guatemala do not have. In the same way, the Guatemalans have rare hope and cheerfulness in the face of calamity that can be hard to find sometimes in other places. Therefore, I would love to go on another medical mission trip for a longer period of time because God showed me his wonders and used me in ways that I would never have thought possible. God fulfilled and granted me one of my biggest dreams: to be able to help people medically and through the communication of languages and religion.