Stories

Partner for Surgery Is Preparing For the Future

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Around the world, the Covid pandemic has disrupted patients’ lives and medical team schedules. For Guatemala, it is no exception. Since early 2020, our Cleft Infant Nutrition Program has grown from 150 to now more than 250 children. This is even after the local Guatemalan doctors and their teams, which we have organized, performed 168 surgeries. Until the international surgical teams return, we need to prepare for all the children being born with clefts.

A Happy Day for a Lucky Little Girl

Rosa Estefany Cuz Choc was one of the lucky children who underwent surgery to correct a cleft in August. Covid cases in rural Guatemala are on the rise. Every patient is tested for Covid upon arrival and a positive test result means that there will be no surgery. When Rosa’s mother Louisa got a last-minute phone call, she was ecstatic! She had been waiting for over a year for this call. Because of a pregnancy complication, Rosa had been born in the local hospital, which then notified our health promoter, Marta de la Cruz, and Rosa immediately became part of our Cleft Infant Nutrition Program.

After a three-hour ride in the back of a truck, followed by nine more hours in two different hailed cars, Louisa and Rosa arrived in Antigua where they were met by our staff.

After the surgery, Louisa said, “I did all that you asked me to do, and you did exactly what you promised.”

Meet Mayra Chen, Health Promoter

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Meet Mayra Chen. Mayra lives in the Mayan village of San Juan Chamelco in the mountains of Alta Vera Paz. She started with us as a health promoter when she was 17 in 2005 and now manages the Nutrition Program in her department and personally is responsible for 26 of the children. She is typical of those who visit the children each month, provide health care when they are sick and is their escort and translator when time for surgery. Without committed people like Mayra, our in-home nutrition program would not exist and thousands of children would never have had their clefts repaired.

Photo: Stephanie Jolluck

New Online Database for Cleft Infant Nutrition Program Children

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We now have an online database of all children in the Cleft Infant Nutrition Program! Our health promoters are able to take photos and do the children’s monthly health report on cellphones and upload this information to the database when cell coverage is strong or wi-fi available. This new capability allows us to begin a program where sponsors automatically get monthly updates with photos and information on the child’s progress direct from the health promoter. If you would like to sponsor a child, please contact us for more details.  This is an opportunity to follow a child’s development, see where the child lives, and help expand the Cleft Infant Nutrition Program to include even more children.

Photo: Stephanie Jolluck

Covid Didn’t Stop Us!

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First, there is good news about Kevin (pictured above), a child featured in a previous newsletter. He was scheduled for surgery with the March 2020 Smiles for Guatemala team – the last team allowed before COVID locked down the country. However, in addition to Kevin’s mother losing her sight, the father without work transportation and two hurricanes flooding their village, Kevin became sick and missed his surgery date. Throughout all of this misery our health promoter, Zoila, traveled six hours to get to Kevin’s village with formula and basic food for the family. And, in February four Guatemalan plastic surgeons agreed to volunteer a few days each month and in March Kevin got his lip repaired.

These Guatemalan teams have now completed 68 cleft lip and 33 cleft palate surgeries and in July plan to provide additional 45 children with cleft repairs. Every child and the accompanying parent were COVID tested prior to surgery and fortunately all results were negative. And we also know from our post-operative follow up in patient homes, none contracted COVID during their trip to the hospital. As appreciative as we are for these volunteer surgeons, our cost is more than three times what it is typical for an international team.

However, change is on the way and international teams are beginning to return! Medical Mission for Children will complete the reconstruction of 23 incompletely formed ears by early July and our first general and gynecology surgical team will begin mid-August. More good news is that we are expecting a Hernia surgery team to arrive in September, the George Washington Hospital team in November and a December team from Los Angeles with an emphasis on head and neck procedures.

Good News to Share From Guatemala!

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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. Read More

Photos Show Devastation in Guatemala After Hurricanes Eta and Iota

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In addition to struggles resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, Guatemala suffered the effects of two back-to-back hurricanes in late 2020. COVID took so much from rural Guatemalans this year, and Hurricanes Eta and Iota took what was left. Crops and livelihoods were destroyed. Homes were lost. Below is a collection of photos from our In-Country Coordinator, Liset Olivet.