USF Nurse Anesthetists Support Mercy Mission in Guatemala
USF Nurse Anesthetist Karla Maldonado and nurse anesthesia student Meghan Mattson recently returned from a medical mission trip to Guatemala where they assisted in life-changing surgeries to underprivileged patients.
The two were part of a 25-person team with Mercy Mission that conducted 108 surgeries in four days to underserved patients in the areas of Guatemala City, San Lucas Toliman, Antigua and the Lake Atitlan region.
Dr. Maldonado, DrAP, USF College of Nursing assistant professor, said people in these regions in Guatemala have to wait several years to have surgery. “(Guatemalans) would have no access to surgery if it weren’t for these mission trips,” she said.
Her husband, Dr. Benjamin Maldonado, who was born in Guatemala and is a general surgeon, started working with Mercy Mission and led the first surgical mission program 10 years ago.
This year’s surgical team consisted of six physicians, six Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs), four surgical technicians and eight nurses. Together, the team performed various surgeries including gallbladder and hernia removals, hysterectomies and some pediatric surgeries.
“It is a life-changing experience for myself and for the team to serve those who are in need,” she said. “The people of San Lucas are extraordinarily grateful, warm and welcoming. I have been doing surgical missions for six years and will continue to do so every year as long as I am able. It is my passion and my privilege to be able to serve by using my skills and knowledge to care for the underserved and underprivileged.”
For Mattson, this trip was one of the reasons she applied to USF’s nurse anesthesia program. As a registered nurse, she traveled to Guatemala in 2011 and knew that USF participated in similar trips.
“I am so thankful I had the opportunity to participate in a surgical mission trip during my CRNA program,” Mattson said. “It was undoubtedly one of the most formative, unforgettable experiences of my training. We were working with limited supplies and resources, so on this trip, I learned a lot about how to provide a safe anesthetic in a simple, creative, and flexible manner.”
“I got to work alongside several skilled, knowledgeable, and confident anesthesia providers who made me feel like a valued member of the anesthesia team. Going on this trip was the perfect way to help me transition into my new role as a CRNA,” she said.
Dr. Karla Maldonado is already planning next year’s trip, and anticipates taking three senior student nurse anesthetists.
Story by Jessica Samaniego, USF College of Nursing