Posted By: Alyson Landry on September 13, 2011

Labels: El Salvador , Volunteers

Earlier this summer, 21 Project HOPE volunteers provided medical care and health education in El Salvador. Read their stories. 

Armando Castellon’s boss and friend, drove him six hours across the Guatemalan border to arrive for the first surgical screening day for Continuing Promise 2011 in Acajutla, El Salvador.  

“They drove right into the amphitheater at the Polideportivo medical site,” says HOPE volunteer Christy Manso. “A team of doctors immediately encircled the van, including orthopedic surgeon Dr. Mickel.”  

Castellon, 21, underwent four surgeries on the same night for his tibial fracture. It was a first for the ship.  

Even before Castellon got on the ship, he knew 70 people aboard.

Castellon  is a waiter at a restaurant on the pier in Puerto Quetzal where the USNS Comfort was docked in Guatemala.  

After working 16-hour days for 10 days straight, he sped home on July 9, on his motorcycle. The front tire popped and he landed in a post. He could not get the surgeries in Guatemala because the ship was sailing soon. So, his boss, who he has known for a year, drove him and his wife across the border.  

The care was “extremely good” on the ship, he says, with his wife, Yohana, by his side. 

“I don’t know how to say it, they are angels.”   

“Dr. Mickel is a good person, I appreciate a lot what he has done for me because if he didn’t, I don’t know who would,” Castellon says. In Guatemala, the surgery would have cost Castellon  $6,000, according to Dr. Mickel. Money Castellon did not have. 

Castellon disembarked the ship after he spent five days recovering. A Naval team of four strapped Castellon into a stretcher wheeled him to the ship’s entrance and carefully carried him down a steep plank bridge. Manso was a part of the team who discharged Castellon to the pier to meet him boss, who would be driving him back.  

Under Dr. Mickel’s orders, he cannot put any pressure on his left leg. His right leg and left arm are in casts too because of a heel and thumb fracture. So, the physical therapy team on the USNS Comfort rigged him a device by adding crutches, fiberglass, cast material and padding to a standard walker. It will take the waiter about three months to fully recover at home.             

 “Thank you very much, God Bless!” Castellon called to everyone aboard the Comfort.  

In addition to Castellon’s success story, 809 patients were seen at Polideportivo, 14 surgeries were performed in El Salvador for the day.

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