Missions and Volunteer Work
Faith in Practice Mission Trip – Antigua, Guatemala
Faith In Practice is a non-profit, ecumenical Christian organization that seeks to improve the physical, spiritual, and economic conditions of the poor in Guatemala through short-term surgical, medical and dental mission trips and health-related educational programs.
The majority of the Guatemalan population lives in extreme poverty and has virtually no access to medical care. Guatemala has only nine hospitals for a population of ~15 million people. Faith In Practice sends multiple teams of around 40 volunteers to Guatemala each year and utilizes two of these hospitals, Las Obras and Hilario Galindo Hospital. Each volunteer is responsible for their travel and lodging expenses.
In preparation for the surgical teams arrival, there are ~100 community workers (network directors) who go to villages to identify people who are suffering from conditions that could be treated by surgical procedures. Faith in Practice evaluates the patients to see if they are the right candidates for surgery, and if so, they schedule the patients to come to the hospital when one of the foreign surgical teams is in country.
In some cases, patients have to travel eight to ten hours to get to the hospital, so they work with their network director weeks and months in advance on their travel plans.
My team “Surgery Boutros Antigua #497” included seven surgeons: two urologists, two general surgeons, two plastic surgeons and a craniofacial trained ENT facial plastic surgeon. As a team we operated on 90 patients.
The surgery on one patient in particular was definitely a team collaboration. She is a three-year-old little girl with Treacher Collins syndrome weighing only 8Kg. She is very small for her age as she is not able to eat solid food or oxygenate her body properly. Her mother provides nutrition by using a bottle to put drops of milk and water on her tongue. She has never eaten solid food. During this visit, we gave her a tracheostomy to help her breathe, a gastrostomy tube to provide access for nutrition, placed mandibular distraction devices in order to expand her jaw, and did an anterior lateral thigh free flap, taking skin and soft tissue from her thigh to build a “chin”/ soft tissue envelope to support her growing mandible. Without these surgeries, this patient would have eventually passed away with failure to thrive, literally starving to death.
The plastic surgery team also operated on a 26-year-old man who had cancer that required excision of his nose and upper lip including his medial and lateral incisors. For two years he has used a surgical mask to cover this defect. During this mission, we took a radial forearm free flap from his non-dominant arm and created an upper lip. Next year, we will rebuild his nose using soft tissue from his forehead.
For more information about this life-changing program, you can visit www.faithinpractice.org or click on the links below.
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