Children's Medical Care in Guatemala Is a Family Affair
By Kenneth D. MacHarg, Special to the ASSIST News Service
GUATEMALA CITY, GUATEMALA (ANS - August 13, 2015) -- Helping sick children find medical treatment in Guatemala is often a family affair.
Take the Hobson family: Dr. Eric Hobson of Franklin, Tennessee, his twin brother Scott Hobson of Carrolton, Georgia, and Scott's wife, Elaine--all recently spent a week working at the Moore Pediatric Surgery Center in this Central American capital.
"I don't sit still well," Eric reflected while taking a break from talking with patients and their parents, supervising Doctor of Pharmacy students from Belmont University in Nashville, and inspecting the entire building for physical needs such as painting and replacing the roof.
"I guess serving is part of my DNA," he said, explaining that he was raised in a family which served as missionaries in Jamaica for several years and later managed Woodland Christian Camp in Temple, Georgia. "I can't imagine not being involved in some sort of service."
Eric's relationship with the Moore Center in Guatemala began several years ago when a woman he did not know asked if she could sit at the same lunch table in a crowded cafeteria with him and a Belmont University colleague. Eric is a professor in the Department Of Pharmaceutical, Social and Administrative Sciences in the College of Pharmacy at the university.
"She started to share her enthusiasm for the work of the Moore Pediatric Surgery Center in Guatemala," he remembered. "As the Executive Director of The Shalom Foundation which owns and operates the hospital, Allison Bender talked about the work that the Christian foundation was doing at the clinic helping children who needed surgery."
"The hospital needed a pharmacy, so I worked with a colleague to design one for the facility and in May of 2011 we brought several students here and opened the pharmacy," he related.
Since then Eric says ninety-five percent of the pharmacy services have been performed by Belmont students and the facility has completed over 3,000 surgeries performed by doctors from all over the United States.
While Eric supervised students and did his walk-through inspection of the building as the foundation's treasurer and overseer of all the operations and maintenance, Scott, and Elaine were making their way from patient to patient, stopping to chat with mothers and children, giving a Bible to each family and praying with them as the child recovered.
"The capacity here is 20 beds," Scott explained. "So, with over 100 surgeries this week, they can only stay here overnight until they recover."
While many children remain overnight, a few are well enough to leave with their mother by the end of the day.
"We sit with the families, talk, pray, help them pass the time," said Scott speaking about his and Elaine's ministry with the patients and their families. "We do whatever is needed to help the mothers as they wait."
"Sometimes there are difficult cases," Elaine said. "We met one mother who has two children, six and three, and just found that her husband has a relationship with two other women. We encouraged herto talk and prayed for her and her children."
The family involvement with the hospital hasn't been limited to just those on the recent working trip to Guatemala. The twin's mother, Mary Alice Hobson of Temple, Georgia volunteered there several years ago as did some of the next generation of Hobsons.
The Moore Center and its U.S. parent organization, The Shalom Foundation, were founded by Nashville concert promoter and former CEO of the Country Music Association, Steve Moore, after a trip to Guatemala with a group from his church. Later, his relationship with the Monroe Carell Jr Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt in Nashville convinced him that a first-class medical center was needed to care for needy children. Thus, the facility opened in 2011.
Today the center is the site of hundreds of surgeries each year including procedures in general surgery, ENT, plastic surgery, orthopedics, urology, dental and ophthalmology.
Without intervention, many children would go untreated, facing life-long suffering or death from injuries, congenital defects or other medical problems.
Most of the patients come from throughout Guatemala, but the facility has also attracted children from the neighboring countries of Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Mexico and Belize according to Dr. Ligia Figueroa, the surgery center's Medical Director.
Dr. Figueroa points to gaps in the country's medical system that make the Moore facility crucial to serving children. "Our public hospitals are limited," she said. "In addition, ninety percent of Guatemalans can't afford private hospitalization and the social security (insurance) system covers employed people only and limits its treatment of children to those under seven."
"For many of our patients the Moore Center is the last resource. When we see parents knock on the door, we cannot tell them no."
This compassionate pediatrician told of a three year old girl who arrived at the hospital several months ago. "She was born with a congenital disease and her bones were extremely fragile. Her father has the same affliction and sells pencils at the airport."
"Last February, the Moore Center pediatric orthopedic team lead by Dr. Brian Shaw performed surgery on Katy to straighten her legs and arms. After the surgical procedures on her legs performed by Dr. Shaw this year she should live with less pain."
The Moore Pediatric Surgery Center receives teams of surgeons throughout the year for one-week sessions. Some are sent by medical practices or hospitals, while other groups are put together by the foundation from individual doctors who volunteer.
In addition, teams of non-medical volunteers such as Scott and Elaine Hobson are recruited to provide comfort and support to patients and their families. More information is available at www.theshalomfoundation.org.
Meanwhile, the extended Hobson family is enthusiastic about the center and plans to continue its involvement.
Eric pointed to the devoted nature of all who volunteer at the center and commented, "We have surgical rock stars volunteering here. Most of these doctors are the best in their specialty."
Photo caption: 1) Child helped by the foundation. 2) Healthcare in the ministry. 3) Kenneth D. MacHarg
About the writer: Kenneth D. MacHarg is a retired Missionary Journalist who lives in Carrollton, Georgia. He currently is serving as the Interim Pastor at the International Christian Fellowship in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. His address is: 102 Comly Rich Dr., Carrollton, GA 30117 and e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org .
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