When Elmira Cab Quia, a Kekchi Mayan woman from the small farming village of Coban Alta Verapaz in Guatemala, read in her local newspaper that Project HOPE medical volunteers would be visiting the Hospital Nacional at Puerto Barrios to perform surgeries and conduct clinics, she knew she had to go.
Although the hospital was 250 miles from her home, Elmira was determined to make the trip to seek treatment and relief from an abdominal wall hernia. Accompanied by her brother, Elmira traveled for 15 long days on foot, by truck and by bus over the rugged Guatemalan terrain, not knowing for sure if she would even reach the hospital before Project HOPE volunteers continued on their humanitarian assistance mission aboard the USNS Comfort throughout the coastal communities of Central and South America.
She arrived just in time.
Project HOPE volunteer, Dr. Nick Morris squeezed in a hernia surgery for a Guatemalan woman who traveled over 250 miles for treatment.
Project HOPE volunteer, Dr. Nick Morris squeezed Elmira in at the last minute for a pre-op screening and ultimately arranged for her transport to the USNS Comfort for surgery, despite the fact that the operating room schedule was already full.
"Of course the HOPE people took her under their wing," said Dr. Morris, who was also a HOPE volunteer aboard the USNS Mercy for the tsunami relief mission in Southeast Asia last summer.
Dr. Morris was the only general surgeon aboard the USNS Comfort during the Guatemala rotation, and he typically worked 6-7 cases every day. But the grueling surgical schedule was a small price to pay for the personal satisfaction Dr. Morris and other volunteers experienced from helping those who might not otherwise receive medical care. Dr. Morris describes his volunteer experience with HOPE as "Profoundly moving" a real sense of accomplishment "a gift from God."
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