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AMN Mission to Guatemala: A Life-saving Journey Begins

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Jeff Ramsey, Business Process Improvement, AMN Healthcare

SAN CRISTOBAL ALTA VERA PAZ, GUATEMALA -- We arrived in Guatemala City without incident - but with plenty of excitement - to help the people of the beautiful yet impoverished highlands. On our trip from San Diego, the AMN team met up at DFW airport with the physicians, nurses, dentists and allied health professionals on the HELPS International Team Esperanza. Many of the doctors and nurses have been on multiple trips to Guatemala; one of the dentists has been here a dozen times. Hearing their excitement and heartfelt commitment to serve others reinforced the expectation that we are in for a life-changing encounter in the days ahead.

Guatemala Group PictureAfter a somewhat restful but excited sleep at Hotel Barcelo in Guatemala City, we departed on four buses with a military escort to San Cristobal Alta Vera Paz in the northeast highlands of Guatemala. The drive was up and down the mountains from arid regions to lush green mountains of coffee and tea plantations. The six-hour trip seemed to fly by as we listened to the veterans tell stories of past missions as the scenery unfolded outside the bus windows, with villages of cement block homes and corrugated shacks rolling by. Stopping for lunch not far from the hospital in San Cristobal, we learned that more than 200 people were lined up at the hospital gates awaiting our arrival. What followed was more than my words can tell. Old men and women, young mothers and fathers, children of all ages, babies swaddled in colorful blankets all camped out together with injuries and ailments; they clapped, waved and cheered as our buses entered the hospital compound. Many of us were in tears at this reception. Then the work began. We arrived at 3:45 p.m. at the hospital, which is really just an empty shell of a building. For the next five hours, our collective team of 90 worked tirelessly to set up the hospital, setting up operating rooms, a clinic, pre-op, PACU, pharmacy, post-surgical, ophthalmology OR, kitchen, laundry and dentistry clinic. A crew learned how to build safety stoves that reduce the indoor smoke and fire hazards inside homes. Tomorrow, our work will commence – our clinicians expect to perform 120 surgeries, see 500 patients in the clinic and 200 in the dental clinic. And we will install more than 60 stoves. It will be amazing work, and I can’t wait for it all to begin.

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