Turkish medical volunteers offer free surgeries in Guatemala

Turkish medical volunteers offer free surgeries in Guatemala

Mesude Erşan – Huehuetenango, GUATEMALA
Turkish medical volunteers offer free surgeries in Guatemala

A group of Turkish doctors and nurses have traveled to the Central American country of Guatemala to volunteer to perform free medical surgeries for the ill and needy.

The Turkish health workers were in the city of Huehuetenango. A part of the international organization called Operation Rainbow, the Turkish medics participated in the surgeries of 52 patients over a period of five days. They prepared the patients for anesthesia.

This year, Professor Ercan Türeci from the Department of Anesthesiology and Reanimation at Istanbul University Cerrahpaşa Medical Faculty, three specialists, three assistant doctors and a nurse joined the volunteers of Operation Rainbow, which has provided more than 18,000 people with free surgery for over nearly four decades.

A part of this Turkish team had traveled to the Central American country of Honduras last year to similarly perform free surgeries.

The most striking aspect of Operation Rainbow is that the volunteer doctors cover the expenses of their missions.

Türeci and his team, thus, paid for all the equipment and drugs to be used in medical operations at the Dr. Jorse Vides Molina Hospital. They also covered travel expenses and accommodation during their stay in Guatemala.

“Operation Rainbow is a totally independent organization...Unfortunately, our luggage, which consisted of medical equipment and drugs, was seized by the Guatemala police due to the anesthetics drugs. We are working with what we could take with us and with limited opportunities at the hospital, but still we have not cancelled any of the patients and are continuing to conduct the operations despite everything. What we have brought with us, will be handed over to us on the last day [of the operations] and we will leave a majority of them at the hospital,” Türeci told daily Hürriyet.

“The health services here are very bad. The hospital we are currently at has six operation rooms, and we are using three of them. The remaining three are empty due to poverty, the cost of drugs and medical equipment are demanded from the patients. And since they cannot get it [the money from the patients], the operating rooms remain empty,” he said.

Türeci said that the Operation Rainbow group is the “only hope” of the patients.”

For example, one of the patients that we operated on had a femoral fracture and a broken tibia and could not be operated on 25 days. Since we have a limited number of days, the traumatic cases have a priority. The majority of our patients are children, but adults are not declined as well,” he said.

Türeci said that the experiences the Turkish young doctors acquire during such volunteer work contribute to their careers. “They come across different patient populations. Also, in an environment that is foreign to them, has limitations and where everything is short in supply, they are trying to get the best medical results. This accumulates their experiences and also their ability to take initiatives,” he said.

Another member of the Turkish team, an anesthesiology and reanimation expert, Dr. Cem Sayılgan, said that the people of Guatemala are going through very serious socioeconomic problems and “are left to their fates.”

“They have a serious need for medical help. Very happy for us if we can contribute [to their medical system],” he said.

Dr. Havva Süheyla Akın, an anesthesiology and reanimation assistant, said that it was her desire to take such a volunteer work since she started medical faculty. “This is a volunteer organization in every sense. We have covered our own plane tickets, accommodation expenses and all other expenses. I have saved money for two years for the expenses,” she said.