A Special Gift

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Hi all,

We had another great day at the clinic.  We saw so many wonderful people.  Some of us were planning next year’s trip already.  We are a GOOD TIRED as Harry Chapin would say.  Doing something we love.

Yesterday at the clinic I was able to give the Prayer shawl that Karen Rendall knit to a very deserving young woman.  She was 19 years old, with a 4 month old infant and a 3 year old child.  She needed to be taken to the closest hospital for gall bladder surgery.  The wonderful Dr Oscar Parades that we work with in Sumpango took her to the hospital.  I have had so many good conversations with our group and our friends here in Central America.  I haven’t run across the little girl that I am always trying to bring home in my bag.  We do have one more day, though.

We are having a great time trying to converse in Spanish with our friends.

It always gets me back on track to why I am on this earth when I come on these trips.

I am doing well and enjoying the fantastic food.  I’m working on getting some recipes from our wonderful cooks at the orphanage.

Take care,

Love you all,

Sue Ecklund


Learning New Things

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Hola amigos y familia,

This is the optical department speaking! In the beginning of the week we were all a bit flustered. There were so many patients that needed help and we didn’t have a system down yet.  Today (Wednesday) was the busiest, but by far,  ran the smoothest because of a great system we created. We have made great friendships with local Guatemalans: Allan, Tomas, Johnny and Gaby. We have had fun speaking Spanish and English with each other, teaching each other along the way. They have helped us so much this week and I am so grateful that God has blessed us with them.

As far as the patients we have seen, there have been many challenges. We have been able to help a lot of individuals find glasses and they are so happy that they are able to see well again. The joy on their faces is indescribable. Also, there are tough medical situations that are difficult to correct because we do not have the proper medical equipment here to fix the problem. Today we had many men and women that came in with cataracts. We are unable to help them here and it feels terrible that we are not able to help. However, at least we are able to give them a condition and what needs to be done to fix it. I have so much respect for these individuals, they live everyday with these struggles yet they have so much strength. There is so much more to tell but I would not have enough room to tell it all.

We are all safe and are loving getting to know and help this community.


The optical team (written by Amber)

A Note From Dr. Esteban (Steve Slezak)


Clinic Day One behind us.  Everyone was in good spirits and a healthy number of patients were seen - - - so it was a great start.

The optical team was exceptional: Leah, David, Heather, Amber, Ashley, and Katie.  We also had several exceptional Guatemalan medical students help as interpreters.  After becoming acquainted with optical nomenclature and how we work through a diagnostic algorythm, the team was serving patients with confidence and compassion.  David had a couple of  patients with high myoptic corrections allowing people to go from 20/200, legal blindness, to close to 20/20.  They were very appreciative.  It was fun for me to see the genuine joy with which our team worked.  That is exceptional especially for the first day when everyone is learning and stressing over the optical side of the patient care.

We have two dentists on the team this year, Don and Paul.  What a difference they make for these people.  They have set up pretty remarkable dental suites and have been busily working over their patients. There are very few services that are more appreciated than what these dentists do  - - - all day long, and patient after patient, regardless of the age.

Regarding OB/Gyne,  Ruth Glodowski figured out the challenge of Dr. Fachikov's first name by simply referring to him as "the big burly guy with the foreign accent."  He has been wonderful with patients and a tremendous joy to have on the team.  His daughter, "Teddy," is a special young lady and fits in well with the youth contingent of the team. The Guatemalan Medical students/interpreters and our team's youth are already like "peas and carrots."  You can see how these deep ongoing relationships occur now especially with skype, email, and facebook.

The doctors, Jarabek, Montogomery, Benn, and Kraeger are all favorites  of the medical students.  They model medical excellence, compassion, and are very patient in explaining to the students how to think through the medical possibilities like doctors.  There is a reason medical education is a long road - - there is a lot to learn; however, these doctors as mentors are exceptional and are still passionate to pass on what they know.

Today was a mixed bag in the eye clinic.  The optical team is performing fantastically.  Unfortuntely we had a number of patients that had ophthalmologic conditions that we could not improve.  Several were conditions which we could not improve regardless of the technology available, and many others were cataracts quite advanced that we could fix if we had surgical facilities.  One of the things I love about Ophthalmology is that most things we can fix.  It is hard when you have to tell people that there is nothing you can do.  I am thankful that God knows of the hardships these people endure and loves them more than I can imagine.

One little girl about 6 years old had a central retinal scar.  We had to tell her mother that her daughter would be legally blind in her right eye for the rest of her life.  We did have an absolutely perfect pair of glasses we gave her for eyewear protection for her good eye.  Please be in prayer for this little girl and her family.  I can't imagine what it would be like to hear that about one of my own children's eyes.  Pray that God comforts this mother and gives special grace to this little girl.

Pharmacy is often a bottleneck with crowds of people pressing to get their meds.  However, this year the pharmacy team is so efficient that they look as if they could do this with one hand tied behind their backs.  They also have made some excellent contacts with pharmacies in town so that we can purchase more meds in Guatemala in the future.

Jon, Dan, and Lloyd are doing a great job leading the trip.  Things are running smoothly, everybody is getting along well, and the relationships here in Guatemala are deepening.  Lots of work behind the scenes and it is all paying off with another incredible week.

Doctor Esteban (Steve)

Checking In


Hello everyone back home! Especially, hello to my mom: I am still alive, I am not sick, I am learning a TON, and I am having fun. You can begin worrying less now. Oh wait, that will NEVER happen!

Anyway, I wanted to share a bit as my role on the trip as one of the interpreters that travelled here from the states. Coming on the trip, I was extremely nervous to speak Spanish, especially to native speakers. I hadn’t had the opportunity back home to speak a lot with fluent speakers and I was very nervous. The wonderful thing about a medical mission like this, however, is that you are forced to go outside your comfort zone, push yourself, and be amazed by the results! I don’t know every word I need, but I adapted, used the vocabulary that I did know and felt like I  made a difference. I was able to tell women that they had normal pap smear results and were healthy, I could tell parents that their children needed to eat better and omit caffeine from their diet, and I was able to comfort people that they could relax, because we were going to take good care of them. I also have to tell everyone back home how wonderful the Guatemalan medical students and other interpreters are. They are so friendly, encouraging, compassionate, smart, and giving of their Spanish expertise and I owe them an enormous debt of gratitude. One thing about me that people who know me know is that I understand that I do not know everything (in life or in the Spanish language), but that I know the importance of a team. By sharing our gifts and talents with others, we fill in the gaps. We have all been working so well together, that we have been filling in the gaps: in my (and everyone else’s) Spanish abilities, in the medical knowledge that we possess, and in the compassion we are sharing with the people of Sumpango. It really is an amazing time, and I am thankful for the opportunity.

Abrazos a todos,

Michelle Brenner

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