By Phillip Tennant
We wrapped up our work here Friday during our fourth and final day of surgery. The week went by quickly. The PACU had emptied out by mid-afternoon and our supplies were quickly stored away.
A sense of closure
There was a sense of closure at the end of the day yesterday that we normally don’t experience at the end of a regular day, or a regular week, at work. All the patients scheduled for procedures had been taken care of as planned. They all seemed more than happy with the results. The lights were in the operating rooms were turned off. There was nothing else for us to do.
As we talked in the late afternoon and evening, however, it was clear that our interpretation of the week’s events was far from complete. Questions remained. Thoughts lingered.
We did the best we could
Could we have done more? I think this common question is easy to respond to — of course we could have. We did not use all of our supplies. We were tired some days , but far from over-worked. And our last day in Guatemala will be spent not in the operating rooms, but in the tourist town of Antigua, for our one day of rest.
But we turned no patient away in the clinic, except for two or three that we felt we were not equipped to treat. We had the inpatient hospital rooms filled to capacity on the final morning. We did the best we could, with what we had, in the situation that we placed ourselves in.
The real question might be, from a Guatamalen perspective, how did we do so much in a country that is accustomed to so little? Why did we do so much? How can we do surgery for free when they have been unable to afford an operation despite years of saving money? Do we understand the hope that we have given them?
More more remains
Much work remains here in Guatemala. It is but a microcosm of the challenging healthcare issues facing much of the world. The truth is that we can always do more for as long as we live, but there is value for us, whether it is one surgical case or one hundred cases.
The value lies in the idea that we interpret our world through our interactions with the people surrounding us, and for me, that interpretation is magnified in a foreign land within a foreign culture. In that sense, the value of this trip and of our work as a team here is complete. We gave people hope and the opportunity for change through our actions.
One in the same
They showed us that the human spirit is still the same across borders and economic boundaries. There is still laughter here, even without some added laughing gas, and there are still tears here, when they leave their parents to go to the operating room. We are one and the same in more ways than we knew before, and that is something that I know the Guatemalans would like us to carry with us on our trip home.