NEWS | Aug. 4, 2010

U.S. surgical team provides urology care in Tegucigalpa

By 1st Lt. Jennifer Richard Joint Task Force-Bravo Public Affairs

The patient lying on the operating table was in desperate need of urological surgery. Years ago, the 13-year-old Honduran boy had been hit by a bus, causing internal damage that kept him from being able to urinate normally.  Now, after surgeons were able to fix the problem by performing a bladder augmentation, the teenager has a chance to live a more regular, healthy life.

This boy was one of 185 patients seen during a humanitarian civic assistance urology surgical campaign, conducted by a team of U.S. military and Honduran medical personnel, at Hospital Escuela in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, July 18-30.

Thirteen visiting U.S. military surgeons and support staff, assisted by Joint Task Force-Bravo Medical Element members and Honduran surgeons and medical staff, provided specialized urological care to both children and adults. During the two-week Medical Readiness Training Exercise (MEDRETE), the medical team saw 106 patients in-clinic, providing screenings and assessments, saw 30 patients on the wards and performed 49 complex operations.

The U.S. military medical team was composed of personnel from installations across the U.S., including Brooke Army Medical Center and Wilford Hall Medical Center, both part of the San Antonio Military Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, and Madigan Army Medical Center, located on Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Wash.

This year marked the fourteenth year that the U.S. military conducted the urological MEDRETE, bringing much-needed specialized care to the people of Honduras.

"We brought our best and brightest urologists, and they were able to do some very, very complicated surgeries," said Army Capt. Marcus Perkins, the mission executive officer. "The physicians worked tirelessly, for up to fourteen or sixteen hours a day, to accommodate the needs of the underserved community of Tegucigalpa."

Although the MEDRETE involved a lot of difficult work and long hours for the medical team, it was a positive experience for the visiting personnel, according to Captain Perkins.

"It was humbling, to me, to be there serving the people of Tegucigalpa because they were so overwhelmingly grateful," said Captain Perkins, who was on his first MEDRETE mission at Hospital Escuela. "Every time I walked through the hallways, I heard 'Gracias,' 'Gracias,' 'Gracias.' I couldn't count all the 'Thank you's I got, and I wasn't even a physician."

The MEDRETE was supported by members of JTF-Bravo, based out of Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras. JTF-Bravo provided two servicemembers to help with logistics and serve as liaison officers between the visiting medical personnel and the Hondurans.

"It was an honor to serve on this mission," said Capt. Dwight Christensen, JTF-Bravo head nurse who assisted in the MEDRETE as a project coordinator and paying agent. "It felt good to be able to get into the community and facilitate the team's ability to help the Honduran people."

The U.S. military medical team plans to return to Tegucigalpa, according to Captain Perkins, in order to continue conducting urology surgical campaigns and providing assistance to Hondurans in need.