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In her own words: Guatemala Mission Trip 2017

By: Jennifer Hernandez, recent graduate of the SCC Surgical Technology Program

Jennifer Hernandez scrubbing patient in guatemalaDuring my clinical rotation as a student in the SCC Surgical Technology Program, I was extended the opportunity to participate in a medical mission to Guatemala with one of the local ophthalmologists.

As a student, I felt very grateful to participate in the trip. I had the opportunity to see and experience valuable moments that I will never forget. The people and the surgical field were different from what I was accustomed. It was a challenge for me but one I overcame quickly.  Unfortunately, the trip is only once a year but the people show much appreciation for our work. We are blessed to have the resources we need to treat cataracts and prevent future blindness.

The members of my team (the surgeons and nurses) also made my trip so valuable.  They were kind and patient with me, teaching me about each procedure as we performed them.  Being a native of Mexico and speaking fluent Spanish, I was able to translate for my patients the importance of their cooperation during surgery.  I’m truly grateful for the opportunity of being able to serve God and also to represent the Surgical Technology Program from SCC. 

Members of the surgeon group for guatemala mission tripHSM (His Servants Ministries) have been working in Chiquimula, Guatemala since 2004.  Each March/April since then HSM teams have conducted primary and surgical eye care missions. In preparation for the surgical team arrival, special Optometry teams screened and scheduled the surgical patients for the next week.  The surgical teams and have performed several hundred eye surgical procedures. HSM teams have also worked with the Guatemala Ophthalmologist, Dr. Luis Molina.  They have also collaborated with Global Missions of Mercy headed by Mrs. Serita Carson, Chiquimula, GA.  This has provided a great opportunity for volunteers to participate in a busy short-term mission.  Hundreds of individuals have taken part in this mission since its inception. 

Our team performed close to a hundred surgical procedures in just five days.  Several of those patients were children.  Many of these patients were profoundly visually impaired.  Most of the patients had cataract surgery; some had a severe pterygium, a benign growth of the conjunctiva.  Cataracts can be caused by exposure to sunlight, injury to the eye, result of eye disease, certain medications or aging in general.  ALL of the children had congenital cataracts, meaning they were born with them.    

The team consisted of two US surgeons, Dr. Dan Robinson, Indianapolis IN, and Dr. Mark Henry, Somerset, KY.  Guatemalan surgeon, Dr. Luis Molina of Chiquimula has also joined the team.  Guatemalan Anesthesiologist Dr. Reyna Lopez provides anesthesia as a courtesy to the children. The team also consisted of nurses, surgical techs, assistants and translators. The team also extended to outside the operating room to those running errands, translating and directing patients.  All of these individuals played a major role in the success of the mission. 

The biggest challenge prior to actually doing the mission trip in itself was raising the funds to pay for the expenses of travel and living abroad. Several professors here at Somerset Community College and other anonymous individuals donated in my name to the mission. I am so thankful for all the support from the faculty, staff, my friends and family.