El Fin Dia
Our day began early as we parted from our hotel, which has been our home for the better part of this month. I think we all missed eating at our favorite breakfast place. Ismael and the family picked us up promptly at 6:30 a.m. and we headed for the airport. Saying goodbye was a little easier after our farewell ceremony last night, but it was still hard. Luckily, the baby allowed me to hold her the whole trip to the airport. It is amazing how much joy that child spreads with her big four-toothed grin, her bouncing curls, and her hugs. Along with Orfe, Halsell, and the baby, we said farewell to Sister Pam, who will stay for several more months. Along with us was Franklin, making his first trip to the U.S. to visit his brother Jesse who attends high school in Toledo. For Franklin, Dr. Ruch, and even Peter, a return trip to Guatemala is imminent. My coming back is uncertain, although my desire to return is unquestionable.
This month has been full of uncertainty, sadness, learning, and growing. There were times I thought, "What I am doing here?" undoubtedly followed by moments where I could not imagine doing anything else. Easy parts of the trip--meeting new people, great food, seeing patients. The single hardest part of the trip was being away from my fiance, Ryan. Others included not fully understanding the language or the culture, and pure sadness for certain things that we saw. For example, in La Libertad, a woman came into the clinic hoping we could help her with bleeding she had been experiencing for the past 3 years. As she was examined, it became evident that she had stage 4 cervical cancer. We could offer no treatment. One week later, we received the news that she had passed away. Then, one week later, her daughter came to the clinic with a baby whom she neither wants nor is able to care for. The grandmother who had passed away cared for her other 3 children in the home, boys aged 11, 13, and 15. Now there is a 1 month baby in need of care, too. To paint a picture of the mental state of the mother, when we went to the home to visit her and the baby, she demonstrated how she had been feeding the baby bits of cigar to help with his diarrhea. We are currently looking for adoptive parents for the baby and providing the family with pure water and formula.
Other patients coming to mind are those we treated our week in San Cristobal. The lady with a cystocele who was so desperate for her surgery that she came back to the OR two hours after she had been examined in clinic. There was the 13 year old girl with an axillary mass whose mother was so grateful for our help that she was willing to travel hours to our clinic site. Others lined up at 1 a.m. with the hopes of being seen by the end of the day at 5 p.m. There was the woman with bleeding from fibroids who we ultimately had to transfer to another hospital because the one we were at did not have a blood bank. Can you imagine not having such a resource available? Luckily all those we operated on did well.
There were countless situations I am unable to recollect right now, and I'm sure bits and pieces will come back to me at different times, but I'm certain I will never forget the friends I made here. Special shout out to Ismael, Orfe, Franklin, Hanssel, Ana Catalina, Dina, Annette, Gracie, Dr. Ruch, Dr. Miller, Linda, Iris, Teshi, Rudy, Peter, and Nulo.
If I could say I learned one thing on the trip, I would be underestimating. The incredible faith and giving spirit of the poor of Guatemala are a model for the way I hope to live my life. Share what you can, give what you don't need, be sensitive to others' feelings and NEVER underestimate the importance of a kind word. You never know if that cranky lady complaining to you is acting that way because her mother just died or her child is terminally ill. You don't have to speak someone's language or grow up in their culture to care about their well being. You can accept the fact that you can't help everybody, but you can do what you are able for those right in front of you. Appreciate what people do for you. Finally, be open and honest to those you care about.
I return to the U.S. one month older and wiser, with much growing and learning still to do. I hope to return to Petén in the future, and I want to thank all of my friends and family back home who supported me and my endeavors.
Tracy Benson spent one month in Petén assisting Dr. Anne Ruch, Dr. Annette Smith, Dr. Lil Miller and others in various clinics of the area. She is currently waiting to find out her location for residency in the specialty of gynocology. I admired Tracy's eagerness in studying the Spanish language to be able to better communicate with her patients. Thank you, Tracy!!
Sr. Pam Buganski
Sr. Pam joined SewHope as our first American Project Coordinator in 2012