On January 10, 2013, Frank W. Bowen, III, MD, Director, Thoracic Aortic Surgery and Thoracic Oncology; and Miguel Villalobos, MD, Surgical Resident, and Heather Marshall, RN, Intensive Care Unit, traveled to Retalhuleu Guatemala on an eleven-day relief mission. The trip is part of Children of the Americas, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to providing free medical, surgical, and dental services to indigent children and their families in rural Guatemala. Dr. Bowen has been volunteering for ten years now, recruiting both Villalobos and Marshall to join the 120 medical volunteers from all over the United States during this year’s visit.
“Children of the Americas, Inc., is a unique organization that allows us to bring a very high level of medical and surgical care to the population of Guatemala,” said Dr. Bowen. “In the last 10 years we have performed thousands of operations for children of Guatemala who would otherwise have had no resources or opportunities to have chronic conditions corrected. This allows both themselves and their families to live happy, productive lives and overcome the immense difficulties that inherently exist in the rural villages of Guatemala.”
Each year, more than 120 volunteers from all over the U.S. provide services at on-site clinics in Central America within the realm of their expertise, networking with Guatemalan hospital administrators and physicians to share medical/surgical knowledge between cultures. In just four days alone, Dr. Bowen and his team from Cooper, as well as other surgeons from around the United States, performed 146 operations ranging from an array of surgical care that included hysterectomies, craniofacial reformation, burn treatment, and hernias. Children identified as having more complex cases are referred to the U.S. for donated care. In addition, the organization also donates medical equipment and supplies to be shipped to hospitals in Guatemala.
“While it was an exhausting trip, the ability to provide care to the rural community in Guatemala was a rewarding endeavor that was unparallel in the challenges that it presented to the team. By seeing the smiles on the children’s faces and their families, as we discharged them from the hospital, more than made up for any difficulties that we encountered in Retalhuleu. I am counting the days until I can return,” said Heather Marshall, RN.