It saddens me to arrive at the tail end of the first week WSF is in Honduras. Undoubtedly there were many medical miracles performed in a collaborative effort by this year’s San Pedro Sula brigade in perfect fusion like a symphonic jazz orchestra. International travel is never easy, but one look into the five operating rooms occupied by World Surgical at Hospital Nacional Nor-Occidental Dr. Mario Catarino Rivas, and you’d never know some of the volunteers are here for their first time. The doctors, nurses, and ancillary staff were all calm, cool, and collected.
But it doesn’t take more than a few minutes to settle into the day’s task: to pack up and wrap up everything in the stock rooms and ORs for next week in La Ceiba. Since this is the first time WSF has extended its surgical brigade in Honduras to a second week, everything must go. Limited by the number of volunteers and the amount of luggage allowed by Delta, we cannot afford to donate anything to Catarino Rivas this year. Even the incoming team from the U.S. was not exempt bringing extra luggage containing emergency supplies packed at WSF’s warehouse this week. What World Surgical doctors always leave behind are the techniques, some new and some old, teaching the locals how to do a procedure with limited supplies and in less time. I believe it is safe to say anyone involved in a mission with WSF walks away with at least a few new pearls of wisdom at the end.
Today I got to give a small, 5-year-old angel a teddy bear from the stock of toys and gifts left after a week at the hospital. Her eyes lit up like it was Christmas Morning, and she danced with me in celebration showing her appreciation. It was a wonderful moment, if only it could last forever. So I went back to the stock room and picked the biggest and brightest handmade pediatric gift bag I could find along with whatever personal hygiene products I could fit in for her mother. Did I mention somebody donated coloring books?! How good it feels to give, even if it’s just my time? It’s indescribable. Watching and experiencing the generosity of the other volunteers all week is a life lesson I could not learn anywhere else.
Exhaustion from the red-eye coupled with soaring energy being a part of such an extraordinary group, I am still up and ready for dinner. The food is fantastic in San Pedro, and the people are always so happy; when I was told S.P.S. is the murder capital of the world, I found it hard to believe. Despite the poverty and loose ends in the third world, Hondurans have woven all those ends into a beautiful tapestry or bright family centerpiece. Or at least that’s what I see. Maybe it’s because they are a culture that takes time to appreciate the small stuff, enjoy the food, and siesta in the afternoon.
Just the thought reinvigorates my gratitude to be on a World Surgical Foundation mission. As a life-long volunteer, hands-on volunteerism is in my personal and familial constitution. Sometimes that means signing up at a local soup kitchen in Los Angeles on my day off, but every once in a while, the seed inside that loves to give freely of my time and energy lands me in San Pedro Sula, Honduras to not only observe and write a close-up account, but also to contribute in any way I can possibly changing a life. It’s a gift! One you all can have, too by giving of yourselves at every opportunity. But don’t be surprised at how quickly it comes right back . . .