LCHM Summer 2017 - 18
locations in advance, but the group also travels a week and there's almost no
with 30-40 large duffle bags filled with supplies. access to imaging. The hospital
Team members carry two bags - one personal wasn't clean, with dead insects
and the other filled with medical supplies. My and dried blood on the floors.
father spends months before each mission ob- The Emergency Room was
taining suture, surgical mesh, staplers and staples, just a big room filled with
medication and other OR supplies. He brings cots. The ceiling tiles were
his own scrubs, caps, booties, gloves, instruments brown with water damage,
and bags filled with dollar store toys my mother the disinfectant smelled toxic
happily obtains for young patients.
and there were flies everywhere.
Finding medicine or supplies
It was my job to help move WSF's 30-40 duffle we hadn't brought with us
bags - in the airport, onto the bus and to the was extremely difficult since
hospital and to work with the nurses to unpack everything was so disorganized.
fixed dozens of cleft lips. During both missions
and organize everything. On the second mission,
I went on with my father, nearly 250 patients
I was responsible for case documentation and
But despite the conditions, our doctors and who would otherwise have received no medical
developed an Excel spreadsheet to keep track nurses did amazing things during our two five-day care at all had free surgery because the World
of patients, surgeons and procedures. I visited missions. A 64-year-old patient named Bartolomé Surgical Foundation came to San Pedro Sula.
each operating room every 20-30 minutes to came in with a ruptured appendix trapped inside
make sure they had everything they needed. If a hernia, a very rare condition. He was skinny and
Mission participants head for home exhausted,
they didn't, I knew exactly where it was because I so necrotic that his skin cracked like rice crispies but joyful and rejuvenated. Virtually every voluntended the supply room, too. In between supply and his abdominal cavity was filled with brown teer has a single goal - to do it again. Participating
runs on aching feet, I helped in post-op, locating sludge. His survival chances were slim, but my in a medical mission with a member of your
families and comforting children. At one point, I father decided to try anyway, recruiting me to own family makes it even more powerful and
recall saying to my father, "Do you work this hard assist. He and a Honduran surgeon worked on enjoyable. I wouldn't trade that time with my
every day?" The best part was when I got to scrub the man until long after everyone else had left for father doing such important work together for
and assist in surgery with my father and others. the day. The next morning, we were thrilled to anything. I also wouldn't trade the down time
discover him sitting up in bed and "Bartolomé we got to spend together: grabbing a late dinner
Both missions were emotional experiences with lives!" became the motto of that mission. A or attending a celebration hosted by one of the
highs and lows. I remember one little girl who Honduran resident later messaged me that he mission's benefactors, sharing a hotel room and
was writhing in pain and sobbing silently into her got better and went home. Needless to say, had watching Netflix before passing out each night.
pillow. The Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) WSF not been in San Pedro Sula that week, I got to see him do what he loves and is so good
was filled with screaming babies and children Bartolomé would NOT have lived. My father at, to stand across an operating table from him
of all ages in various stages of recovery. Because and I still talk about that case and it makes me and help - and in the process, to discover an
she wasn't making any noise, no one noticed her feel amazing to have played some small part in exciting new goal for my own life. I got a late
discomfort - except me. The nurse I told sent me saving Bartolomé's life.
start - but I'm totally committed now, with a
to the supply room for pain medication, which
focus and direction I never had before. And I
soon relieved her distress. It was a small thing,
Dr. Alvear performed major abdominal surgery know that when I'm a physician, I'll continue
but it meant a lot to me to recognize that she on several children who can now live normal to go on mission trips to provide needed care for
needed help when others didn't notice.
lives and fixed a hole in the abdominal wall of a people like Bartolomé.
newborn. In addition to many gall bladders and
During the most recent mission, a diabetic hernias, my father removed a thyroid the size of
Peter V. Rovito graduated from Penn State with a
amputee, whose family was bagging him manually a small melon. Our plastic surgeon meticulously B.S. in Psychology in December 2014 and received
due to a lack of ventilators, crashed. A Honduran crafted a "new" ear from a small boy's own cartilage a Master's Degree in Interdisciplinary Health
nurse handed me a stethoscope so I checked his over several days of surgery, replacing a hole with from Drexel's School of Biomedical Sciences in
heartbeat, a nearby doctor tried to do CPR, but a natural looking ear. I was lucky to be in the May 2017. He is the son of general and bariatric
he was unresponsive. I felt badly that we couldn't room when the surgeon held up a mirror so surgeon Peter F. Rovito, M.D., and Donna Baver
save him, frustrated by the lack of technology we the boy could see it for the first time. The sheer Rovito. His goal is to attend medical school and
take for granted in the U.S., like monitors and joy on that child's face literally changed my life, become a physician. To learn more about the World
ventilators. Family members shouldn't have to convincing me in a stunning moment of clarity Surgical Foundation or to support its missions, go
bag patients to keep them alive. Many things that medicine, not psychology, would be my to www.worldsurgicalfoundation.org.
about the Honduran hospital were upsetting. future - and now, I'm working hard to prepare
Surgeons can only do a few non-emergencies myself for medical school. Our plastic surgeons
18 Lehigh County Health & Medicine | SUMMER 2017