It was an honor to be a part of Surgicorps International’s maiden voyage to Hospital de San Lorenzo in Valle, Honduras. San Lorenzo is located 60 miles south and a two hour bus ride from the country’s capital, Tegucigalpa. Our 8 member team became the first Surgical Brigade that the non-profit organization, Global Brigades hosted in Honduras. By partnering with Global Brigades, Surgicorps was able to reach a large number of patients from the rural communities already being served by their public health and mobile medical clinics.
With over 40 patients on the schedule following clinic on Sunday, we knew we had our work cut out for us as we were limited to one operating room. Hospital de San Lorenzo has two operating rooms, one of which is used around the clock for emergency c-sections and other emergency surgeries. When I inquired about the number of “emergency” c-sections being done, I was given a very good explanation. Some women travel by bus or by walking for several days to reach the hospital. It is their practice to do a c-section as soon as the women arrive because they have nowhere to stay until they go in to labor. This makes the trip more manageable as they can deliver their baby and be back home in a shorter amount of time.
With one OR and an 8 member team, we faced some long days to complete as many surgeries as possible. Each day, we greeted new patients at the hospital after they heard about our services. Everyone was evaluated and accommodated as possible into the surgery schedule. The surgeries ran the gamut from extra fingers and toes, cleft lip and palates, syndactylies, burn scar contractures, disfiguring neurofibromatosis of the face and scalp, and broken bones that had not healed correctly.
One very patient gentleman named Mario has been battling a lower leg infection for nearly four years. He was full of smiles and blessings for our team after we completed a wound debridement on Monday followed by skin grafts from multiple donor sites on his opposite leg on Friday. We have given him hope and a chance to heal which is so much better than the alternative of an amputation.
A young man named Oscar, working as a barber, was already suffering from a severe case of kyphoscoliosis when he was in an accident involving paint thinner. The accident left him with multiple burn scar contractures, including the axilla, and unable to raise or fully extend his left arm. In addition to a scar release and skin graft he also received a muscle flap involving the entire left side of his torso. He left us on Friday, after a painful but necessary dressing change requiring sedation, with a smile on his face and many thanks. Knowing he has several weeks of healing and multiple dressing changes to come he still has a positive outlook with the hopes of being able to get back to his job at the barber shop.
Karen is a 14 month old beautiful baby girl who has the appearance of an 8 month old malnourished baby. She came to us seeking a bilateral cleft lip repair. Upon further examination and review of her past medical records it was confirmed that she also suffers from Wolf Hirschorn’s Disease. This disease leaves a child with very distinct facial features, failure to thrive, intellectual disabilities, weak muscle tone leading to delayed sitting, standing and walking and even seizures. The repair of her bilateral cleft lip left her mother incredibly happy. She sent the team a message on Friday expressing how grateful the entire family was. Even more important than her cosmetic appearance, is that the repair should lead to improved feeding and nutritional status giving Karen an increased chance of survival.
These are just a few of the stories and beautiful memories that we will carry with us in our hearts. It is always humbling and an honor to be graciously welcomed and appreciated by the underprivileged communities of our world. As a team, we give many thanks to Global Brigades for hosting us in Honduras and allowing us to be a part of the beautiful community of San Lorenzo Valle, Honduras.