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Catacamas, Olancho, Honduras

cata209.jpgDuring his fourth year in residency, Dr. Byron Norris traveled to Catacamas, Olancho, Honduras and shared some of his experiences from the trip.

"I had the opportunity to travel to Honduras to participate in a surgical brigade. The team consisted of a plastic surgeon with ENT and hand training, a neuroradiologist, a rheumatologist, two trauma nurses, a certified nurse anesthetist, a scrub technician, and myself, a fourth year ENT resident. The team was organized through Predisan, a Christian Mission founded to provide physical healing and spiritual hope to the people of Eastern Honduras. Our group was stationed in Catacamas, a city of 35,000 people in the Olancho region of Honduras.

Spending nearly a week in the village, our team evaluated over 30 patients and performed 20 surgeries. Operations varied from complex to relatively simple; however, residents of Catacamas and the surrounding regions do not have access to even simple, outpatient surgeries.

Especially memorable was Mario Edguardo Mencia, a 7-year-old male with labio leporino, or cleft lip deformity. Mario was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate and had undergone 4 previous surgeries for repair of the defect. Unfortunately, Mario's repairs were unsuccessful and he presented for evaluation to the Predisan clinic with a persistent defect. Because of the defect, Mario experienced difficulty eating and speaking and suffered significant social stigmata from the cosmetic defect that generally is repaired as an infant.

While Mario's complex deformity will require many operations to correct, this repair provided initial closure of the lip defect. By correcting the position of the badly scared tissue, we hope that Mario may have further surgery by future brigades. Days after the repair, we visited Mario in his home for postoperative follow-up. Mario's parents welcomed our team into their home and expressed their sincere gratitude for allowing their son to achieve a sense of normalcy.

The surgical brigade was not without its challenges. Rough terrain, frequent power outages, access to supplies and medications, and communication barriers were only a few of the obstacles of operating in a remote village in an underdeveloped country. However, we provided a service not available to a community, and many patients, such as Mario Mencia, will be able to experience a better quality of life because of our efforts."