First Medical Mission Trip Experience: Trip One

Trip One is in the books & you better believe it, I am planning Trip Two.

Going on my First Medical Mission Trip Experience I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it blew me away!

My Background

August 2014 I graduated with my Bachelors in Nursing. I was lucky to get a great job right away, after only a year I got an even better job. Which I currently hold at the University of Minnesota Medical Center as a Registered Nurse. The specific floor I work on is the Surgical/Neuro/Trauma Intensive Care Unit or 4A if you know the hospital. Everyday, unfortunately, I hear and see the saddest stories. Everyday I am put in tough situations or life and death, and everyday I am grateful for the job I have.

I am asked lot by families, “How can you do this job, how can I see death daily?”. My response: “Truthfully, I don’t see death daily. I see people who were hit with their worse luck ever come back to our floor with smiles, I see patients who are told they will never talk again talk. & yes somedays I see families make the hardest decision in their life to let their loved ones go, but from my point of view, it was the best decision they made.”

“I am not heartless”

Doing my job doesn’t make me heartless. At moments I do feel “desensitized”, but if I wasn’t I would never get sleep and cry constantly with the families. Doing my job gives me the joy of helping others and seeing them improve everyday. Especially seeing them smile for the first time. And you’re probably wondering, what is the point of this Tif? Next point.

Reason Why

The reason I love to volunteer is for the little things. The little things I take for granted everyday that other people don’t. For the smile they give me while walking through the door. For the humbling feeling I get every single time I show up at the food pantry or women’s shelter. Volunteering is like nothing else, so when I am able to mix my professional job into the volunteering aspect of my life, I couldn’t say no.

I have been wanted to do my First Medical Mission Trip for a long time! Finding the right organization though was tough. I wanted it to be something meaningful to my nursing profession and to myself. Which brings me to One World Surgery.

One World Surgery

One World Surgery was founded in 2003 by Dr. Daly, a physician located in Minnesota. His story started with a visit to Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos, or NPH, and meeting a little girl who needed surgery. The facility at the time wasn’t appropriate for the proper surgery so Dr. Daly and his wife brought her back to the United States to get the surgery she needed. It doesn’t stop there, though. Dr. Daly, along with Reinhart, opened up the Holy Family Surgery Center in 2009.

In 2014, Surgical Care Affiliates CEO, Andrew Hayek came to the surgery center to get involved in the organization. Since 2017, One World Surgery was developed and encases SCA and Holy Family Surgery Center. This allows for my surgeries, more doctors and more patients to be treated. This year alone One World Surgery will be sending 18+ Brigades down to Honduras to volunteer as the Holy Family Surgery Center, HFSC.

Where is HFSC

Holy Family Surgery Center is about an hour and a half north of the capital city, Tegucigalpa, Honduras. It is in the middle of no where, guarded by gates and 24/7 security guards. The high security is needed because they are located on the ranch of NPH, with 250 kids, and because of the medical equipment they have.

First Medical Mission Trip

Mixed emotions, is the only term I can use to describe everything I felt on the trip.

Excited

I was extremely excited the week following up to the trip. I was going to Honduras on my First Medical Mission Trip, who wouldn’t be excited!?

Culture Shock

The excitement stopped, quickly, once we hit Tegucigalpa. First off, the landing of the airplane could of been enough to have me turn right back home. But it was when we walked out of the airport, being led by security guards with huge guns. I am going on my First Medical Mission Trip, right?! Yes, but Tegucigalpa is a very dangerous city. Noted. Our drive through Tegucigalpa was just as a surprise. Shacks for housing, little kids selling things on the streets, homeless dogs, dry and very dirty areas. Nothing like my home back in Minneapolis.

Sad

Don’t get me wrong, I have been to plenty of places that I feel this same way in, but it never gets old. The gut wrenching feeling that they have so little and I have a ton in their eyes. The feeling that you see little kids on the road selling items for their parents. They should be in school getting an education. This sad feeling of culture shock gets me every time. But it gets better…

There was forest fires the time we were there, you can see the smoke and sky being lit up by them. We were 6 miles away from the fires. A lot fo smoke!

Happy

Throughout the week we treated 39 patients who either had a breast removed or their thyroid that were diseased with cancer. These patients were unable to have surgery in the public hospital because of the huge price tag and they couldn’t afford chemotherapy or radiation. This is the patients last chance to live a longer life.

The smiles on their face after we told them everything went well was AMAZING. They were so happy, so appreciative, I have never worked with such amazing individuals. Their backgrounds, were beautiful, most of them came from nothing but they were the happiest people I ever met because of their health.

Realization

On my ride back to the airport and again passing all those “poor” neighborhoods, I was thinking that they all do look happy. I realized it isn’t the things they have it is the health that they have and their loved ones. This was a huge realization for me while in Honduras and I will be forever grateful.

“It is their health that makes them happy, not the things they own”

Overall

Overall it was a wonderful experience. We were on the NPH ranch with 250 children that we got to hang out with as well. They LOVED playing games with visitors, so everyday seeing them happy to have us around was fun. We spent 5 days at the surgery center, 5am-6pm, with Wednesday being a half day. It was exhausting, more emotionally than physically. A huge barrier or the exhaustion was the food, which definitely wasn’t the best. We were warned before our travels to bring granola bars, but one can only eat so many and not become a granola bar.

I loved this trip so much I have convinced, easily convinced, 3 more of my coworkers to come with me on the next trip. (YAH).

Patient Stories

There were so many patient stories I heard during my week, here are a view I would share with you.

  • Surgery for the patients was free but some patients felt they needed to make a donation to show their appreciation. A certain patient was a lettuce farmer, she brought in a TON of lettuce that will feed 500 kids. Such a huge thing for them to do, considering they were getting the surgery for free, but they felt they needed to do something in return. Beautiful soul.
  • I mentioned that the HFSC was in the middle of no where so if patients had no car they would have to walk. One patient chose to have her surgery in the afternoon so she could wake up at 2am and WALK 9 HOURS to the surgery center and be there to check in at 11am. That is how bad these patients wanted the surgery. Of course, after the directory of HFSC heard this, she drove the patient home after surgery.
  • One World Surgery and HFSC are very well known in that area in Central America. One of the patients was all the way from Guatemala, to get her breast removed due to breast cancer.
  • 90% of the patients traveled by bus to get to the Surgery Center.

Sad but Happy Kid Stories

  • Two of the children, boy and a girl, spent their first 5-6 years of their life selling drugs on the street for their parents. One day while selling their drugs they were attacked in the street, drugs stolen, money they made that day stolen, left to suffer in the street. Child Protective Services found the children and brought them to NPH Ranch. They are now doing very well and happy, healthy kids.
  • Two years ago Child Protective Services, CPS, found a home that was running an illegal adoption service, inside was 14 infants waiting to be sold. CPS called Reinhart (Director of NPH) and explained the situation but at the time NPH could not accommodate 14 infants. Reinhart didn’t think twice and opened up a new wing for these children. To this day 14 infants are now 14 toddlers at the ranch with 236 brothers and sisters.

Volunteering

No matter what your background is, volunteering is made for everyone. International Volunteer isn’t necessary either and there is plenty of places just in your hometown that could use a hand. If you’re too busy to volunteer, donating is another way to help.

I also look forward to being able to volunteer abroad while traveling. With this I can do more enjoyable things like living on a farm in Brazil or working for a shop in Italy. I can’t wait to see where my love for travel and volunteer takes me!

Trust me, you won’t regret helping someone else out.