By Krista Van Tassel, Director,
Corporate Communications, AMN Healthcare
AMN Healthcare arrived in Guatemala this past weekend,
thanks to the team at International Esperanza
Project. More than 100 volunteers, representing over 20 states and ten
countries, gathered in the Dallas-Fort Worth airport to make their way to
Guatemala as part of our company’s annual medical mission trip. As in previous
years, the team will provide much-needed medical care and new stoves to the
people of the Guatemala highlands. This year, the team is joined by several
renowned eye surgeons to focus on helping Guatemalans with a particular
condition – strabismus.
Strabismus is more commonly referred to as cross-eye. With
the help of surgery to realign the eyes, it can be corrected. Unfortunately,
not many people within Guatemala have access to this type of corrective
surgery. Talking with doctors, you learn that the challenge with strabismus is
not just that the eyes are misaligned, but that this often causes double-vision.
In addition to the physical effects of strabismus, there also is a social
stigma associated with the condition; often children with strabismus are
thought to be unable to read or learn, and many are bullied by their peers. Fortunately, this condition can be
corrected through surgery and a process of helping the patient to relearn how
to see. Team Hope includes two strabismus specialist surgeons who will be
helping to correct the condition in children and adults throughout the week.
But before surgeries could begin, the team’s first order of
business upon arrival at our host hospital in Patzun was to set-up the OR and
quickly triage and schedule patients for the week. More than 20 strabismus
patients are expected to receive life-changing surgery. In addition to helping
these patients, doctors will also conduct a number of other surgeries,
including gall bladder removals, hernia corrections, tumor biopsies, and
When the team arrived at the hospital on Sunday, more than
50 patients were patiently waiting outside, hoping for the opportunity to see a
physician. Within hours, the volunteer team of healthcare professionals set up
a triage area in the courtyard of an orphanage and started patient consults.
Several past patients were already scheduled for check-ups,
including a 46-year old woman – Augustina – who had visited the surgical center
last year and had a large tumor removed from her eye. With the help of Dr.
Jorge Corona, Augustina now has partial vision in her eye, which previously
could only look downward because of the tumor. Grateful and kind, she hugged
Dr. Corona immediately upon seeing him and excitedly shared her progress.
A young boy named Mauricio was also a return patient at the
surgical center. Mauricio is suffering from a tumor that is growing behind his
eye and harming his eyesight. Mauricio visited Dr. Corona last year for a
biopsy, which found the tumor to be benign, but growing. The team knew that if they could not remove the tumor, Mauricio would be unable to close his eyelids and would, ultimately, go painfully blind. After a year of
planning and patience, Mauricio and his mother made their way back to the
clinic for surgery on Monday. This sweet, shy boy was met with hugs and warm
welcomes from the entire surgical team. He was brave, despite his
understandable anxiety when faced with this complex procedure and new
environment. After more than five hours of surgery, Mauricio emerged tumor-free
and ready to start his recovery. As of the time of this post, he was at the hospital
under the care of nurses in the post-op unit. We hope to share more news on his
story in the near future.
In addition to these two extraordinary cases, doctors saw
many other patients throughout the day and will continue to perform strabismus
and other surgeries throughout the week.
You can learn more about our volunteers and the
patients we are serving through Facebook #AMNGivesBack.