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News | Oct. 14, 2011

Joint surgical team, Honduran doctors pair up for surgery

By Tech. Sgt. Matthew McGovern Joint Task Force-Bravo public affairs

A Joint Task Force-Bravo six person Mobil Surgical Team worked with a Honduran surgeon to complete two surgeries on Honduran nationals Oct. 13, at a local hospital seven miles away from Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras.

The Surgeons removed a gallbladder for a woman and performed a colonoscopy closure for a man.

"Both surgeries were successful," said Army Capt. James Elder, a general surgeon from JTF-Bravo's Medical Element. "The woman who received the gallbladder removal will be back to normal and should leave the hospital in about two days and the man should be on his feet tomorrow and leave the hospital in five days."

The American team brought along items including surgical instruments, antibiotics, pain medications and various bandages, sutures and other materials used during surgery.

"Sometimes (the Honduran hospital staff) has to turn people away because they don't have the resources," said Air Force Capt. Emily Trimble, a OR nurse with the Medical Element. "We can provide these resources and perform highly needed surgeries while sharing our knowledge with the Honduran medical staff."

The Honduran doctors appreciated the assistance while working side-by-side with the American team three times a week; averaging between two to five surgeries a day.

"On behalf of the people of Comayagua, we are incredibly thankful for the constant invaluable support the Americans provide to the needy people of Comayagua," said Dr. Ives Rios, Honduran general surgeon. "We have cultivated a very nice friendship through the years and the tradition is, when a surgeon (from JTF-Bravo) is leaving, we have dinner together."

Dr. Wilmer Amador, the JTF-Bravo medical liaison officer, can also attest to the long standing relationship.

"We've been doing this for 18 years and I've been on hundreds of these trips," Dr. Amador said. "It's a win, win for everybody; the OR team can keep their proficiency level up while providing a wonderful opportunity for the hospital. For example, when the sterilizer breaks down, the hospital staff can't operate but since the American OR team provides all the sterile equipment, they can keep operating on the patients."

The surgical team, made up of a general surgeon, a nurse anesthetist, two operating room nurses and two OR technicians, sometimes responds to unplanned critical surgeries.

"We took out an appendix last week where the patient would have died if it stayed in any longer," Captain Trimble said. "It had been three days since he needed the surgery and his appendix ruptured and had abscess. We had to irrigate his entire abdomen."

The gratitude is often evident to the surgical team and makes for a positive working environment according to Tech. Sgt. Priscilla Covarrubias, OR technician.

"My favorite part is the feeling of appreciation we get from the doctors and the patients," said Sergeant Covarrubias. "When we enter the hospital we are greeted with smiles."

Besides the weekly hospital visits, the team is also tasked with providing the same life-saving surgical capability at Soto Cano Air Base as well as supporting military missions and humanitarian assistance.