As I write, it has been 806 days since we left Guatemala on our last cleft mission with Partner for
Surgery. The pandemic put a frustrating stop to our biannual missions, and we have missed our friends and patients dearly. Monetary donations and shipments of anesthesia and surgical supplies hopefully provided some measure of support while we waited for the opportunity to resume our missions safely. As the backlog of patients accumulated, our Guatemalan colleagues continued to provide nutritional support and a limited number of surgical procedures.
We are therefore anxious and thrilled to plan our return to Guatemala in July. With safety the primary concern for families and staff, this mission will take place in Antigua instead of Guatemala City, with fewer team members and a slightly lighter surgical schedule. We will concentrate on new patients with unrepaired cleft lips and palates and provide a well-trained surgical, anesthesia, pediatric, and nursing staff.
If all goes well, we hope to return to Guatemala City in the fall with reinforcements that include otolaryngology, orthodontia, speech pathology, and a more significant number of non-medical support staff and expand our surgical procedures to have hand, burn, ear, and secondary cleft surgery.
I have personally studied DuoLingo Spanish for 806 consecutive days, starting in the Guatemala airport in March 2020 while enjoying Guatemalan coffee in an “I love Guatemala” mug. I cannot wait to resume our life-changing mission to help the children of Guatemala.
David W Low, MD
Medical Director, Smiles for Guatemala