Sunday, March 29, 2009


Dr. Lee arrived at the airport in Tegucigalpa after spending the night in the airport in Miami after she flew all the way from Hawaii to help Hondurans in need of hernia surgery. When her plane landed, I was waiting for her inside the area where arriving passengers go through immigration. When she came down the escalator she looked refreshed and ready to start surgeries. She curls up in a ball and sleeps anywhere. She never gets excited about anything and she is a picture of peace.

I had deliberately notified only 25 of the hernia patients which I have on my list, knowing that more would show up unannounced and knowing that the local doctors from Choluteca would have even more waiting for her when she arrived.

When we arrived at the hospital, the exam room was not open, so she had to start seeing patients on the front porch. Before long the keys arrived to open the exam room and things became less complicated. By the time she finished interviewing the patients, it was time to start surgeries, or was it? We arrived at the surgical operating rooms to be met with the news that:

1. There are NO clean patient gowns
2. There are 3 emergency cesarean sections, one in progress (twins)
3. There are 2 emergency appendicitis surgeries
4. There are not enough nurses to help Dr. Lee
5. There are not enough operating rooms because of all the emergencies so we have to wait

And wait we did and WE WAITED AND WAITED AND WAITED SOME MORE! By 7:00 PM the first surgery room finally opened up, but we had to “punt” in order to complete the first two surgeries. We used hospital instruments, since the “lady” who sterilizes the instruments was no where to be found. Somehow we made it through the first 2 surgeries before more emergencies came in. We called it a night at about 10:00 PM and went to the hotel. We figured bright and early the next morning we would start again. BUT…. It was not to be! When we arrived there were yet another two cesarean sections and several other emergency type surgeries, including a woman who had just had a baby and was bleeding to death. She was sent from another hospital about 30 minutes up the road, after they ran out of blood. So there we were, in the middle of all this, already 5 patients behind schedule and what does Dr. Lee do? She lays down, puts her feet in the air and sleeps.

Dr. Lee is efficient, meticulous, a teacher and has over 50 years of surgical experience. In the less than perfect conditions she thrives. She has a philosophy that everything will work out and it does.

Lights went on and off several times, helpers in the operating room changed more than several times, there were so many emergencies that there was no operating room several times, it was hot, the food arrived late, the recovery room was full, there were no patient gowns at times, there were no doctor surgery gowns at times, the instruments were NOT sterilized on time, just about anything that could go wrong, tried to present itself during this weekend. BUT all turned out well and 13 patients received hernia surgery. Thank you Dr. Lee!

Sometimes I feel really challenged working in a third world hospital, sometimes, I want to throw in the towel, but always I warn my team participants that there is only one thing which you can count on in Honduras and that is, “NOTHING EVER GOES AS PLANNED IN HONDURAS!”

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