Gary H. Hoffman, MD: Recently I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to Guatemala to give care to those without access to medical or surgical care. I traveled under the auspices of Helps International. It’s a non-profit organization dedicated to the care of the Guatemalan people. It was the trip of a lifetime, and I was accompanied by my son, Jordan Hoffman, who was second year surgical resident at Emory University in Atlanta. He intends to be a cardiac surgeon. We were accompanied by a fine team of physicians.
We had anesthesiologists, ear, nose and throat doctors, plastic surgeons, gynecologists, internists, dentists, and pediatricians. Babak Larian was the medical director, who headed up the wonderful team. Olivia Marroquin] was the logistics director. And to support all those doctors, was a group of approximately 80 translators, helpers, runners, chefs, kitchen personnel, drivers and security personnel. All in all, it was one of the finest teams of dedicated people I have ever seen. There was no pecking order. There was no top of the heap or bottom of the heap. It was 100 people working together to deliver care. It was an entirely professional operation. And the patients received care that was second to none.
We were able to perform somewhere between 90 and 120 operations. We removed sick thyroids. We removed bad gallbladders. One lady had a double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. We repaired hernias, lumps and bumps. Medical conditions were taken care of as well. It was a remarkable experience seeing a handsome child with a cleft lip become a handsome child without a cleft lip. It was an amazing experience to meet a woman who couldn’t eat without having abdominal pain, now free to eat whatever she wanted because her bad gallbladder had been removed. The joy of seeing a woman who was at high risk for breast cancer, because her mother and her two aunts had died of breast cancer, and now she had breast disease, undergoing a bilateral mastectomy and immediate reconstruction, not looking at anything other than a beautiful woman.
There was nothing between me and the patient; nothing between my son, Jordan, and the patient. There was no insurance company. There was no third party overlooking the care. There was no pre-authorization. There was nothing, just a disease and a cure. And at the end, a thank you; they were grateful, a handshake, a smile, and thanks. And I want to thank them for reminding me about humanity, for reminding me all that we have the talent and the ability to do when we really put our minds to it. It was a invigorating time for me and for my son, and I learned a lot about the plight of other people who aren’t as fortunate as we are in the United States.
This trip was more than just a bunch of surgeons, anesthesiologists, dentists, internists and pediatricians delivering care. It was about the people that helped us. It would have been impossible without our support staff working as one big group, all doing to the best of their ability what they were trained to do. It was an amazing experience, and I’d like to think that we did some good, one to one, on a local level.