Posted By: Alyson Landry on August 11, 2011

Labels: Guatemala , Volunteers

Angel was a little quiet and grumpy before his simple, life-altering surgery.

He just wanted water, according to HOPE volunteer Kim Jacomo the operating room nurse, who interviews and prepares each patient for surgery.

Even a silly attempt for a smile with a blown-up glove made into a chicken, was shrugged off by the 4-year-old.

However, his mother understood the significance of the hour-long surgery.

“When I told her that we would be able to get her son scheduled for the surgery onboard the USNS Comfort, I thought she was going to cry,” says volunteer Faye Pyles, who examined Angel at the Los Morenas medical site in Guatemala.  

Angel had Polydactyly, or extra digits on his hand and foot. 

“When Angel stepped into the examining room at the medical site, he stuck out his hands palms down to show off his special features. It was like he knew the routine already,” says Pyles.  

Polydactyly, can come in different forms, according to volunteer Nurse Jennifer Mbuthia. Sometimes at birth an extra digit is hanging on by a thread of skin, so the circulation is cut off by a string, and it eventually just falls off. But, sometimes it is actually attached to their hands or feet and could have a bone inside, so it requires surgery

Volunteers have seen multiple cases of Polydactyly in Nicaragua and Guatemala. Normally, the condition usually just requires outpatient surgery, but Angel will be kept on the ship overnight just for observation.  

Angel’s surgery went well. The extra digits on his hand were snipped off quickly because there was no bone to cut through. However, the bone in his extra toe required a little more care.  

“I am so excited the family was able to find transportation to the ship to have this surgery done,” adds Pyles. “It’s such a simple surgery that will change his life, especially before he starts school.”              

One of the benefits of the Continuing Promise humanitarian assistance and health education missions is that the medical team and surgical units reduce waiting lists for surgeries in the countries the mission visits. Approximately 120 surgeries have been performed by the medical teams in each country so far.

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