Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic over a year ago, volunteer teams have been unable to travel to Guatemala. In the interim, over 100 new patients were added to the Cleft Infant Nutrition program, which was already bursting at the seams. A drastically reduced staff needed support and hundreds of other waiting patients had to have contact maintained. Things looked pretty bleak. We wondered how Partner for Surgery would survive.
But thanks to so many of you, we were able to remain financially sound. Our Fall Fundraising Campaign was successful and we met our goal. With that success and the Guatemala government again allowing travel within the country, we were able to financially commit to supporting an all-Guatemalan surgical team to resume cleft lip and palate surgeries. Our hope was to find a Guatemalan surgeon willing to volunteer a day or two per month providing cleft lip and palate surgeries to our longest-waiting children. This dream was realized when Dr. Milton Solis, a renowned Guatemalan surgeon who had previously volunteered with us and values our work, responded.
On February 15th and 16th, 2021, Dr. Solis performed six lip and four palate repairs at Hermano Pedro hospital in Antigua. Dra. Domingo and Dr. Conde, both recruited by Dr. Solis, performed fifteen more procedures on March 1st and 2nd. All COVID-19 precautions were followed, including masking, separation, and COVID-19 testing — a tremendous effort, but very necessary since there are still no vaccines in Guatemala!
One of Dr. Solis’s patients was little Edinson de la Cruz, born with a cleft lip and palate shortly after the country was locked down in 2020. After the successful lip repair, Edinson’s mother, Saira, came into the recovery area and saw how beautiful her son looked. She cried and said, “I don’t have money to pay you but I know God will bring blessings to all of you and your families.”
We anticipate that Edinson will receive his palate repair later this year.
Because of this success and the confidence Dr. Solis has in Partner for Surgery, he has volunteered to continue two days a month and has enlisted two other doctors to join him until teams can return. However, although Dr. Solis and his fellow doctors volunteer, there are significant associated costs. Whereas our normal surgical and medical teams pay all expenses, Partner for Surgery must now provide substantial supplies, as well as cover hospital and patient expenses, which are estimated at approximately $8,000 each month. This is not sustainable in the long term, but will help us “bridge the gap” until our surgical teams return.
We are on a new trajectory. We are successfully managing surgical care with COVID-19 and are in active contact with North American surgical teams planning their return. This has been a difficult time for all of us, but it is life threatening for Partner for Surgery’s patients. Your continued support is extremely important and we promise to use your donation as efficiently as possible.