Hospitalito Atitlán, Guatemala
Michael Oswald CRNA, MNA (Anesthesia)
One afternoon during a lunch break, my wife Teresa and I decided to visit a local school in Santiago. In the past, we have had great success in finding children at various schools in Guatemala who have an eye condition known as strabismus or crossed eyes. This school visit was particularly successful because we were able to meet Manuel. With the assistance of the school director, we climbed the stairs up to the second level and met with Manuel and his teacher. His teacher spoke of Manuels double vision related to his crossed eye. Previously she had spoken with Manuels mother and asked that he be seen by a local Doctor. Money was hard to come by in Manuels family, so his mother simply accepted Manuel as he was instead of seeking medical attention. His teacher also explained that many families simply do not understand that certain vision conditions or eye aesthetics can be corrected. She described to us how she has taught her students to be accepting of all people and to not judge or ridicule another based upon appearance.
After speaking with Manuel about his condition and how it limited his abilities in the classroom, we then asked if we could call his mother and find out if she could bring him to our clinic. Right about then she appeared out of nowhere. I described the surgery that her son would need as the director translated my Spanish into Tsutujil. Manuel smiled as we described the potential outcome of his surgery. We told them to meet us at the clinic the next morning at 0800.
The next morning as we hiked up to Hospitalito, our thoughts were with Manuel. Would his mother take this opportunity to improve the life of her son? Or would the fear of the unknown prevent her from coming?To our surprise Manuel was outside the clinic doors waiting with his family to be seen at 0800. He had been asking for Miguel (me!). His smile of anticipation will forever be in our minds eye. He was not afraid. He was simply excited to have his eye corrected.
After meeting with Dr. Stormogipson, the surgical plan was put into place. On Thursday he would have strabismus surgery on his right eye.
On Thursday morning, Manuel was the second case of the day. In the preoperative area, he had Teresa and all of the nurses laughing hysterically because of his contagious laugh. I then brought him into the operating room and asked him to be my helper. The nurses had given him a large bulldog stuffed animal that he jokingly named after me, Miguel. He climbed onto the operating room table without fear, smiling all the while. Gently I placed the anesthesia mask over his mouth and said to him, respirá profundo amigo as he drifted off to sleep. After a successful surgery, we took Manuel into the recovery room where his nurse Denise sweetly spoke to him in English, but with a tone of love and compassion that anyone could understand.
Manuel spent that night in the hospital as he cuddled with Miguel the bulldog by his side. His mother had gone out to get him some Horchata to drink and was, as most are after surgery in Guatemala, concerned about his diet. I could see in her eyes the love of a mother for her son as she tried to help him through the process in her own way.
The next day, Teresa and I excitedly hiked up to the hospital and found Manuel in the screening room in a chair ready to be seen. After his eye patch was taken off, we saw that his eyes were perfectly aligned. He smiled again with joy upon hearing how he looked.
If Manuel had been the only general anesthetic I had given the entire two weeks while in Guatemala, I would have been satisfied. I am content with the work that I do in Guatemala not based upon the number of surgeries, but rather the effect we have as a group upon individuals. As Manuel hugged my wife and I goodbye, he walked out of the hospital with Miguel in his arms and an unforgettable smile on his face.
This is why my wife and I come to Guatemala. There is nothing more satisfying to us than serving one of Gods precious children. This trip was an honor and a blessing to Teresa and I. We hope to return again soon.