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Hospital de la Familia – Steven Micucci, MD

Written by Steven Micucci, MD, PGY-2 at Kaiser Permanente Oakland Otolaryngology Program while on Global Health rotation at Hospital de la Familia in Nuevo Progreso, Guatemala in March-April 2017.

The moment we stepped off the bus at Hospital de la Familia, I knew that I would have an experience that I would treasure forever. The hospital was in a small town, tucked within the mountains of Guatemala, and was seemingly as remote a place you could find in Central America. As the bus approached, the townspeople set off fireworks and graciously welcomed us into their community. We dropped off our bags and wasted no time in getting started. Each team saw a full afternoon’s worth of patients that same day, setting up the case load for the next day. The following day, we awoke to hundreds of patients milling about outside the hospital gates at dawn in the hopes of seeing a doctor.

I had so many unforgettable experiences: the woman with a troublesome neck lump, the 6-year-old who couldn’t breathe at night, the teenager with a disfigured nose, the list goes on and on. We did not have time to help everyone, but we did our best to accommodate those that we could. To see what each patient had to go through just to be seen by a doctor was inspiring. Yet, everyone remained grateful despite their hardships.

The operating room was more like a military outfit than a proper OR. Nevertheless, the local staff (and prior mission trips) had outfitted us with everything we needed to succeed.  It was certainly a learning experience to realize just how much we take for granted in modern medicine back home. The first time the power shut off in the operating room in the middle of a case, I felt my heart leap into my throat and adrenaline pump into my veins. By the end of the trip we took each setback in stride.  On the final day, the power went out and we didn’t miss a beat. A colleague switched on his phone light and we finished the case without a hitch.

The trip concluded with a soccer game between the mission team and the locals. Later that night we cooked the hospital staff a meal of homemade pizza, and presented the local children with piñatas filled with candy on the hospital balcony. It was a special moment for me, seeing these children revel in the toothbrushes and candy that fell from the dolls. I knew that this would be an experience that I would treasure forever, but I didn’t know it would be one that helped me grow into a more resourceful and empathetic physician along the way.

 

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