I am back from my first ever medical mission and I wanted to share a bit about the experience. Since completing my medical training, I have always wanted to be part of a medical mission. However, coordinating between my busy professional schedule and family life continually got in the way. When my niece Claire asked me to join a surgical mission to Honduras with One World Surgery my interest was piqued. When I found out I would be working alongside one of my favorite residency instructors and two of my residency mates, I was sold. So, I packed up my family, as well as my medical assistant, and we set off for Tegucigalpa, Honduras to join a one-week Orthopaedic Surgery mission trip through One World Surgery.
Because people in third-world countries don’t have access to basic health care as we do in the U.S., many feel medical missions are truly life-altering for those treated. I would agree but would also add medical missions are life-affirming for those who serve. To say this mission had a profound and deep impact on who I am as a person and surgeon would be a significant understatement. As I write this, it is still difficult to hold back all the emotions I felt while being with the people of Honduras and humbly serving them. This mission allowed me to get back to the true meaning of why I went into medicine many years ago. The ability to provide compassionate healing to those in great need still echoes as the hallmark of why I do what I do. It is easy to lose sight of your roots at times. Treating the Honduran people renewed my passion for my profession and allowed me to experience some of the true healing that occurred that week.
The TOSH brigade I was a part included an amazing group of individuals who, all of like mind, became a family to help the people of Honduras. I cannot say enough about the members of the brigade and their willingness to go to any length to improve the care of the patients we treated. Our brigade performed roughly 80 surgeries and saw 170 clinic patients in one week. That amount of hands-on care is impossible without the incredible team effort and selflessness of all involved. Because One World Surgery employs a full-time, on-site medical staff led by the incredibly talented Dr. Merlin Antúnez, our patients had been pre-screened for surgery and will receive follow-up care. I leave knowing my patients are in excellent hands with Dr. Antúnez.
In addition to the healthcare volunteers, general volunteers played every bit of a role as the healthcare professionals to make the week run smoothly. Watching my children enthusiastically sign up every night for a role the next day was a father’s dream. They, like everyone, worked hard to make sure each need was met throughout the day. When the day was finished at the surgery center, we all went back to the Moscati Center, where we ate together, shared stories about our day and our lives, and as a ‘family’ prepared for the next day of making a difference for the people of Honduras. It was truly an amazing experience for which I feel so fortunate to have been a part of.
As for the people of Honduras, they are in tremendous need. Healthcare is neither a right nor a privilege, and in many cases, is nonexistent. Whether it is financial, geographical, political, or a host of other reasons, obtaining basic healthcare for the people of Honduras is an extreme challenge, to say the least. Fixing these problems for Hondurans, and the people of any other third-world country will take an enormous effort by both the people of the country as well as the assistance of world partners. It will not be an overnight change, thus emphasizing the importance of medical mission organizations like One World Surgery who provide much-needed care now, as people simply cannot wait for the resolution of their countries’ problems. I found the Honduran people we treated to be grateful, humble, and emotional towards the help we provided. I am confident their lives were improved by the work we did and hopefully will continue to improve as more missions make their way south to care for the great people of Honduras.
I know it took a while for me to go on my first mission, but I am committed to doing my part for people in need going forward. One World Surgery did a fabulous job coordinating this mission trip and providing continuity of care for Honduran patients. I encourage anyone interested in pursuing a medical mission to consider this incredible organization.
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