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Local Doctors Perform Life-Changing Surgery for Poor in Honduras

Contact: Kris Shewmake, M.D., Operation New Life, 501-351-4329, kshewmd@msn.com; Jim Phillips, Director, Operation New Life, 501-374-8477, lovetruthcare@comcast.net; Caryn Sabes Hacker, DCSW, Freelance Writer, 239-404-5820, caryn@carynsolutions.com, www.carynsolutions.com; Written by: Caryn Sabes Hacker, Freelance Writer


LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas, Dec. 9 /Christian Newswire/ -- They moved, in single file, through the crowded hospital lobby filled with hundreds of Honduran poor. The injured and sick; the somber and emotional; the old and the young waited in long lines, as they did each day, and hoped to receive a precious appointment at one of the various hospital clinics. White lab coats fluttered like the wings of angels as the medical teams, led by Little Rock surgeons, Kris Shewmake, M.D. and Barry Sorrells, M.D., moved into position and prepared for another day of free life-changing surgeries for the poor at Hospital Escuela and DIME Hospital in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.


The twenty-seven member team consisted of nine American doctors including four surgeons, one radiologist, one pathologist, two operating-room nurses, one physical therapist and two medical company distributors. Additional participants offered the benefit of prayer for patients and families. Organized by Operation New Life, this Christian interfaith group is intent on elevating healthcare in Honduras through teaching, lecturing and performing surgeries at no cost and in partnership with local physicians. Since its conception in 2001, nine different teams have traveled to Honduras to work with that nation's impoverished inhabitants to improve housing, dental and medical services.


Honduras, the poorest country in the western hemisphere (second only to Haiti) has a population of 7.5 million. Average monthly family income ranges between $3,000.00 (upper class) to $150.00 (lower class). 40% of the population is impoverished and the average life span is 60 years. Plastic Surgeon and Craniofacial Specialist, Dr. Kris Shewmake, co-created this group with Jim Phillips from the Love Truth Care (LTC) Ministries, a multi-denominational group and additional surgeons. Following a Christian Mission trip to Honduras in 2000, Shewmake felt a call to serve. "I had never seen such stark poverty before. I had been exposed to poverty but not like this" Shewmake remarked. "Additionally, I fell in love with this gracious, gentle people and I wanted to make a difference here." The quality of available medical care is antiquated and seriously substandard, at best, and present medical technology is equivalent to that of the United States forty years ago. Medical equipment is often in disrepair and unable to be useful in patient care. This is particularly true in the over-crowded public hospitals, such as Hospital Escuela. DIME, a private hospital, offers improved care in a newer facility and is attempting to relieve some pressure for needed medical treatment for the country's large poor population. "We are trying to address the doctor's complaints of lack of knowledge and lack of equipment by working with Operation New Life," states DIME Hospital's General Manager, Claudia Arevalo-Mays. "Ventilators, ultrasounds, electro-surgical units and diagnostic equipment require parts and trained repair technicians" remarked Richard Eckerd, team member and CEO of BioMedical Solutions. Eckerd assisted the team by repairing equipment necessary for surgical success and improved patient care. His goal is to offer training to Honduran technicians by creating special internships with his company. Radiologist and Arkansas native, Jana Crain, M.D., traveled from San Francisco to lend her skills to the group. "They need basic radiology equipment. Even their X-ray machines are outdated or broken. Hospital Escuela, with its 1800 beds, does not even have an MRI machine" she stated.


Dr. Shewmake performed cleft lip, cleft palate and several more complex pediatric congenital facial deformity repairs during the group's eight day trip. "At home, there are 1,000 other surgeons that can repair a cleft lip but in Honduras, that surgery may never happen at all. There is a need and a desire for physicians to fill that gap. The fit is perfect." Additionally, the group performed arthroscopic and joint replacement surgeries prior to their trip back to Little Rock on December 9, 2007. Orthopedist Dr. Barry Sorrells, who performed knee and hip replacement surgeries alongside colleague Dr. Fred Buechel, Sr., stated that he was attracted to this opportunity because of his love of teaching and instruction. "This is a chance to partner with and pass on information and skills to the Honduran surgeons, so that after our team departs, they will have these new skills to use with their patients, even in our absence." Buechel, the developer of mobile-bearing knee replacement and co-owner of Endotec Orthopedic Device Company commented that "the strong spirit of the Honduran patients and their extreme gratitude for our efforts to help them make our presence in Honduras particularly worthwhile. The donation of time and surgical skills benefits both doctor and patient." "The Honduran doctors are limited by their resources" added Dr. Robert McGinley, "not by their commitment to their patients or by their abilities. They need more and better equipment." Dr. McGinley performed ten arthroscopic procedures during the weeklong experience. He is creating a residency program for Honduran doctors in his hometown of Mobile, Alabama.


With donated equipment from international companies Endotec, DePuy and Synthes, this group performed twenty-two surgeries in seven days. Additionally, a Learning Center was held at DIME Hospital as live surgery was broadcast to a conference room where local surgeons were able to learn new skills through lecture and demonstration. Through this educational approach, Ms. Arevalo-Mays hopes the public "will have a better opportunity for improved quality medical care." LTC Ministries' Director, Jim Phillips, stated that "It is very gratifying to see the poor receiving medical care, medical personnel receiving training and equipment and team member's lives being transformed. As additional surgeons volunteer and needed supplies are donated, we plan to bring medical teams to this poor country each month."


"Everyone in this team is an eagle," stated scrub nurse Donnie Valley. "That's the difference between eagles and other birds. Eagles soar. They spread their wings and soar."


For additional information regarding volunteering or donating supplies, please contact Jim Phillips at lovetruthcare@comcast.net or 501-374-8477. Speakers bureau also available.