Three surgical suites. Five days. More than 70 surgeries. It was not a small undertaking, but for a team of healthcare professionals from Evansville, the challenge was worth helping Honduran patients in need.
The trip in January was put together by Serving at the Crossroads, a nonprofit organization based in the U.S. who supports a modern medical and dental facility in La Entrada, Honduras. While the facilities are staffed with local healthcare professionals, Serving at the Crossroads also helps partner brigades of U.S. medical specialists with Honduran healthcare providers to serve local people with healthcare needs. Evansville Surgical Associates vascular surgeon Angela Martin helped to organize fellow partners and volunteers for the trip earlier this year to help patients with dialysis and vascular needs.
“I’ve always had an interest in medical missions and had been on some other trips during my training and education,” says Martin. “The clinic reached out and said they really had a lot of patients on dialysis who needed help. My aunt, who is on the board for the organization, contacted me about a year ago and asked if I could put a team together.”
With interest from other partners at Evansville Surgical and anesthesiologists from Evansville Anesthesiology Associates the team of five from Evansville (along with other healthcare professionals and volunteers), headed to La Entrada for a week. Their surgeries would focus on patients with vascular issues — procedures including arterial grafts and vascular transpositions. But their work had already begun long before they touched down in Honduras, says Martin.
“It was a ton of upfront work just getting the supplies. Surgery takes just so many supplies. It’s really profound — there’s so much disposable equipment. We needed certain vascular equipment and surgical tools and materials that we implant in patients,” she explains.
While Serving at the Crossroads worked to get many of the disposable supplies needed, Martin says Deaconess Hospital also stepped up to help provide needed materials for the trip. The local health system donated four operating room instrument sets, which are extremely expensive according to Martin, and a large amount of medicine the team would need to help patients during the procedures.
“That was really huge. They were just very phenomenally supportive of our trip,” says Martin.
Once they were in Honduras, the team immediately set to become acclimated to the situation at hand. On a Saturday afternoon, they set up the Manos Amigas clinic to become a functional hospital for the team, including three operating rooms, a recovery room, and a pre-operative area. Then on Sunday, more than 70 patients came in for pre-op examinations. Monday, the surgeries got underway.
“Monday through Friday we operated from sun up to sun down basically. It was extremely grueling,” says Martin. “I never in my wildest dreams thought we could have done nearly the number of surgeries that we did.”
Through the work, Martin says they were able to work with a local surgeon who had never performed vascular surgery. They were able to teach him new techniques during their time there.
“It was a pretty neat extra aspect of the trip I had not anticipated,” she says.
The grueling five days provided challenges big and small, but Martin notes the work provided the team a sense of pride at giving the local patients care they needed.
“The toughness and resolve of the people in Honduras … it was pretty amazing to see their resolve to live and get whatever help they could. The local clinic doctor told us a lot of these people, they had no hope and now they have hope,” says Martin. “We just really felt proud of what we did, and I think all of us are interested in going back.”
(Photos provided by Angela Martin and Serving at the Crossroads.)