By Katharine Sutton
This past week, I had the honor and privilege of joining the World Surgical Foundation as the first Student Registered Nurse Anesthetist on their annual surgical brigade to San Pedro Sula, Honduras. It was incredibly humbling to work alongside some of the world’s top surgeons and physicians from an array of specialties, including neurosurgery, general surgery, pediatrics, gastroenterology, orthopedics, plastics, oncology and trauma.
We received a warm welcome from the moment we walked off the plane with a traditional samba dance performance organized by the mayor of San Pedro Sula. Our hospital, Mario Catarino Rivas, serves the indigent population not only from around the city, but also from villages hundreds of miles away. It was heartbreaking to see patients with traumatic orthopedic injuries, often from violence or car accidents, who had no choice but to wait weeks for a chance of getting surgery due to a lack of resources.
Our team collaborated with the amazing local surgical personnel to open up additional operating rooms (ORs) in the hospital overnight, and we successfully performed 130 surgeries and anesthetics — 42 of which were pediatrics — over the course of one week. Our anesthesia team consisted of three CRNAs, all of whom trained at Denver Health (and who are all alumni of Texas Wesleyan University), myself and our amazing pediatric anesthesiologist Dr. Vini Alvear.
We made lasting connections with the local providers that will benefit patients for years to come. I personally learned a great deal from the local anesthesia providers who were a wealth of knowledge, ingenuity and compassion. We performed many nerve blocks to manage post-operative pain, and we shared our knowledge and skills with their team in the hopes that they could implement more regional anesthesia into their practice.
I would like to give a huge thank you to Jenn Harenberg, clinical coordinator of Texas Wesleyan’s Doctorate of Nurse Anesthesia program at Denver Health for helping facilitate this opportunity for me, as well as Clay Dobronyi, former assistant clinical coordinator, for bringing me along on my first of many global mission trips.