In January, Team Broken Earth traveled to Alta Verapaz in the Northern Highlands of Guatemala for a Rural Medical Mission with Partner for Surgery. After the 11-hour bus ride, we set up medical clinics to triage, treat, and schedule patients needing surgery. To say the week was rewarding is an understatement. We met so many wonderful patients and their families, all thankful to see us. We even visited some of their homes, where we learned about their culture, their stories, and profound struggles.
One of my fondest memories is meeting Sonia, a 16-year-old girl from Ixcan, and her mom, who never gave up hope of finding a cure for her daughter’s cleft lip. Despite the pandemic’s struggles, we learned that the facemask was actually a blessing for Sonia because it allowed Sonia some newfound freedom. With it on, Sonia could move around freely without facing ridicule for her disfigured smile. Sonia walked slowly to the exam area at the clinic, where she removed the mask. Dr. Art Rideout, our plastic and reconstructive surgeon, met her with an extended hand and a smile and reassured her she was already beautiful. Her cleft lip repair was scheduled for the following month when our team would return to perform the surgeries. It was a tearful yet beautiful moment.
In February, I accompanied Sonia to the pre-op area at the hospital in Antigua and reassured her and her mother that everything would be okay. Just a few hours later, Dr. Rideout and the surgical team had successfully repaired her cleft lip. The next day, I visited Sonia and we exchanged heartfelt smiles. After 16 years, her dreams for a brighter future had come true; no more hiding. This is why Team Broken Earth keeps coming back – to reaffirm the power of hope to people like Sonia and her mother. We not only fixed Sonia’s smile, but we also changed her life.