“The life you change may be your own.” This is the motto of Cascade Medical Team which organizes medical missions to Guatemala to serve the indigenous people in the mountain highlands.
In March, 2014 I had the wonderful opportunity to go on a trip to Guatemala with the Cascade Medical Team and fellow Women’s Care Employees Sue Trezona,CNM, and Monica Reynosa. On our team, (far left to right) Sue was the women’s clinic and indigenous village midwife educator, Monica was the translator, and I was the Gynecologist. Sue had been on ten previous missions, but this was my first time.
We arrived at the community site, “Intervida” on Sunday afternoon. The 8,000 foot altitude provided warm sunny afternoons and chilly nights. The Guatemalan women traveled many hours from distant villages for medical care, waiting in long lines outside the compound in the afternoon sun. Sue, Monica, and I immediately went to the clinic to triage patients for possible surgery the coming week. The Helps Team triages patients into an Adult Medical Clinic, Children’s Clinic, Surgical Clinic, and Women’s Clinic. On Sunday we arranged for 8 women to have surgery the coming week, and treated an additional 15 women for gynecological problems.
Monday was exciting; it was my first day in the operating room. I was lucky to be working with another gynecologist from Florida on her 5th mission with Cascade Medical Team. We had 4 major surgical cases that day, starting at 8 in the morning. In the afternoon, between cases, I went to the clinic to see more patients. There was a minor earthquake that shook us while seated in the plastic clinic chairs but the Guatemalans took it in stride; it comes from living next to active volcanoes.
During our week in Guatemala we did 11 major surgical cases, 2 minor surgeries, and saw over 130 women in the clinic. Sue taught 13 village midwives skills in delivery and the emergency care of newborns and we know the midwives will take that education back to their villages, and it will help save many lives in the future. The Guatemalan people are grateful for our care, and thankfully, forgiving of my limited Spanish.
This trip has changed my life, and I feel fortunate to have been accepted by Helps International and Cascade Medical Team for this worthwhile project. I hope to be able to go back again next year.
-Dr. Cristin Babcock