Pediatric Associates News

Giving in Guatemala

February 14, 2013

Alayna Patzel, R.N. at Pediatric Associates of the Northwest recently served on a medical team in Guatemala with Cascade Medical Teams.  She’d long had an interest in providing medical care to underserved populations, and felt strongly about wanting to help this struggling community in any way she could.

Alayna worked in the post operative unit at the clinic in Guatemala, taking care of people who were recovering from surgery.  The medical team performed more than sixty surgeries the week Alayna was there – from routine hernia operations to hysterectomies and exploratory surgeries.  She said many of the people she cared for had travelled many miles to be treated. Some had previously waited weeks or even months to have a condition diagnosed and treated because medical care is so inaccessible in this part of the world.

One particularly memorable patient was a 15-month old little girl who had grabbed a handle of a pan on a stove, accidentally spilling boiling water over more than half of her body.  In the United States, her condition would have warranted a trip to the Emergency Room for treatment of the burns, but her aunt could do nothing more than cover the burns, and travel 12+ hours to seek the clinic’s help.  Alayna said, “Being in Guatemala and meeting these families made me realize how very fortunate we are here in the United State. People do not often die of child birth here, and access to care for such burns would have been immediate here in the U.S., with burn centers dedicated to such patients.”

The Mayan  people were incredibly grateful, says Alayna, which made the experience particularly rewarding, but also very humbling.  At the same time, Alayna says the experience was also quite challenging at times. There were not enough supplies, especially sheets, medications, and ice packs, and the way of doing things was simply not as efficient as she’s become accustomed to; for example, the Guatemalan Clinic had little choice but to store medications in shoe racks.

Overall, the trip was life-changing, says Alayna, and she’d like to go again, next time, with her husband.   She knows there are many people in addition to the Mayan population, who are quite underserved medically, and she would love to be part of such an important service again.