Guatemala: Final Day of Surgery

We are in our last day of surgery in Guatemala.

It’s fun to watch a team come together. As we gather on Saturday, the opening hours are a bit awkward as people assess what’s up. On our team, 16 of 34 had worked together before. The rest of the folks were new.

So, the task is for the veterans to pull the new folks into the team and get ready to perform massive rounds of medical care. When you think of it, surgery in an operating room is one of the most synchronized events that occur. Consider that for many on our team, they will work with new people, in a new surrounding, with unfamiliar equipment and inferior lighting using donated medical supplies with the idea of achieving great results for the people they are treating. It puts the concept of “Faith in Practice” in a completely different context.

With the stakes being high (20+ surgeries a day), the team forms very quickly. These guys are pretty good at sizing each other up. All the tenets of good teamwork begin to come into play: The right surgeons get assigned to the surgeries that meet their skills and experiences. If we don’t have folks with the right skills on hand, the right person with the right ability to do the best for the patient raises their hand.

The level of trust grows by the hour with the team. Actually, you can see the confidence grow as nurses try things outside their routine responsibilities from home and “ace” it. I get the sense everyone who comes here leaves a better medical professional because of the things they saw that they don’t usually see and the things they did that they don’t usually do. They leave here a better person because they have been willing to try things they wouldn’t normally try and they learn that combining “faith” with the “trying” accomplishes great things.

As the team begins to function at a very high level, the stories begin to unfold. But, the stories aren’t about what they did. They are about how they have been blessed. Patients praying to God in gratitude for the fact that they came. Patients describing how their lives will be changed now that they have been healed. Patients who have been treated by other teams bringing their friends from far away to be cared for by the medical team.

Our leader Randy Hartline, a surgeon from Knoxville who had lead this team for over a decade, alerted us to this opportunity as we started the week on Sunday.

“We all come here to pour out our help to these underprivileged people,” he said. “But, let the Guatemalans pour themselves into you. Because they will. They come here to be helped but we will leave here with the greater blessing.”

Pretty cool to see a plan come together. It’s worked just like that.