FRANKLIN, Tenn.—An international trip can often be considered a time of major relaxation for people. A chance to visit famous landmarks or new climates. For more than a dozen local medical providers, though, a recent trip out of the country had a higher purpose.
The team of 14, most of them representing Williamson Medical Center, spent the better part of a week clearing a backlog of surgeries for more than 50 people in Central America—many of them children.
The full team, in Gracias, Honduras.
The location was Gracias, Honduras, a small, mountainous city on the western side of the country. The city’s hospital serves many people, including those from the surrounding rural area. With only two regular operating rooms and a shortage of surgeons, the waiting list climbs fast. This is in addition to economic factors that may prevent some from seeking medical assistance in the first place.
VIDEO: Team members reflect on the mission.
The team flew to Gracias on behalf of Mission UpReach, a Christian organization that performs humanitarian outreach around the world. The group focuses on educational and vocational programs and also runs mobile medical clinics, but, up to this point, had not run a surgical mission trip. Being untested waters for Mission UpReach, the organization requested an experienced person to help coordinate the mission: Dr. Kendle Yates.
Dr. Kendle Yates
An anesthesiologist who has worked with Williamson Medical Center for about 10 years, Dr. Yates has worked multiple surgical mission organizations in the past. His task was to recruit a team of surgeons and assistants, and then coordinate the action plan.
Team members operate on a child in Gracias, Honduras.
“The longest patient wait times (in Gracias) were for ENT (ear, nose, and throat) and general surgery, so I had Dr. Ryan Duncan, an ENT surgeon with WMC, and Dr. Preston Brown, a general surgeon with Williamson Medical Group, sign on early,” Dr. Yates recalled.
Dr. Cory Calendine, an orthopaedic surgeon, also came on board.
Dr. Cory Calendine (second from right), poses with staff members of the Gracias, Honduras hospital.
In addition, a team of WMC employees joined. They included: Nate Sullivan, who served as a circulating RN, Marcus Davis and Renee Quick, who served as first assistant and scrub tech, Dawn Forhetz, who served as a PACU RN, Kenneth McDaniel and Anyan Parsons, both Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists
Three non-WMC surgical team members from other area hospitals completed the team, along with Dr. Yates’ wife, Carmen Yates, who helped in pre-op and post-op.
Hard at work.
Not only did Williamson Medical Center provide team members, the facility also loaned out equipment, and donated supplies and medications.
“I am grateful that Williamson Medical Center helped make this trip possible. These contributions obviously facilitated the success of our trip,” Dr. Yates said.
In an operating room.
Once the team was established in Gracias, their work began. Patients, ranging in age from 1 to 82, arrived at the hospital for everything from tonsillectomies to hernia repairs. Some traveled as many as eight hours to get to the facility.
In all, 54 patients were helped.
A child patient hugs a team member.
Gracias, of course, is Spanish for “thank you,” and the name seems fitting for the mission. Members of the team say they were met with much gratitude from the patients they helped. The team was also thankful to be a part of such a project, helping dozens of people in need; whether it was the providers’ first such mission or familiar territory.
“Whenever you volunteer to do medical mission work, it’ll get in your blood,” Dr. Yates said. “I’ve gone lots of times.
“I’m glad the Lord was able to use this team that week.”
Back at home in Tennessee, some of the team members reflect on the trip.
Both the hospital in Gracias and Mission UpReach expressed a desire to have the team back. Dr. Yates is on board. He says the team even knows what their next focus will be.
During this past mission, the team noticed a need for orthopaedic operations, something they did not know during the initial planning stages. Dr. Yates said there was a good reason for this.
“This omission wasn’t because the need didn’t exist,” he said, “there simply hasn’t been the orthopaedic expertise and equipment available to even create a waiting list. The needs in Honduras are great.”
If the team is able to return, they will be ready to tackle those needs.
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