Tag Archives: surgery

The End of the Mission to Guatemala

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 seventh consecutive year serving on a Faith In Practice surgical mission.

The surgeries have been completed.  Seventy-nine patients have been served.  Many lives have changed – especially ours.

We saw 9-year-old Luis on our last day. He’s looking forward to going back home to his village, but his journey is not finished. His nose has been reconstructed, but he still needs more oral surgery at a later date. His speech has not been helped, but his looks have changed. Maybe the bullying will stop.

As for the team, we have reconnected with other people, other cultures, and why we went into the health care field. We looked out for our patients, and we looked out for fellow team members. There was always an offer of help from someone near by.

If you hear of a medical mission trip or a volunteer opportunity that interests you, take the extra moment and check it out. Your life might be changed forever! This team will go again next year. We need OR nurses, Recovery Room nurses, translators, assistant surgeons, and surgeons. This year, the specialties covered were plastics, gynecology, urology, and general. There is always a need for an assistant surgeon with other skills.

Come join us.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A Growing Number of Surgeries

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 seventh consecutive year serving on a Faith In Practice surgical mission.

The days and numbers of procedures continue to grow.  We find that there are more people that need surgeries, which we hope to fulfill.

Some of the happiest patients are a group of four men that all had urological surgeries.  They are all recovering on the same floor and enjoy joking about their foley bags.  They call them

Gordon Haddow, MD, works with a patient in the local hospital.

Gordon Haddow, MD, works with a patient in the local hospital.

their purses, although one called it his suitcase while holding a urine-filled foley bag.

Another patient, Mariana, had a hysterectomy. She reported before surgery that she didn’t care what had to be done or removed. She just wanted to be able to go gather firewood without her insides falling out.

The world down here is very different.  As we check patients in we find that many of them are not able to read or write. In order to get their consent, they’re using their thumb prints as opposed to a signature.

The team performs surgery on an infant with a cleft palette.

The team performs surgery on an infant with a cleft palette.

Also, many patients that we treat are coming from villages that are hours and hours away, so the doctors take this into consideration when deciding on post-op and discharge orders.  Most of these patients will stay in the hospital longer simply because they cannot make the long journey back to their homes. And, in the case of a complication, it would be difficult for them to return to the Obras–or hospital.

The lives of many children are being changed dramatically by surgeries to help their appearance after many previous cleft lip and palate surgeries.  Their parents come to their bedside after surgery and just break down with emotion.  Most of them reported that their kids were being bullied at school because of their appearance.

The mom of Jocelyn, a 14-year old female in for rhinoplasty, while in tears of joy reported that this surgery is just in time for her Quinceanera.

Susan Dean, RN, and a Dozen Kaiser Permanente Colleagues Return to Guatemala

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.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


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