Johanna is a bright-eyed six-year-old from a rural town in Honduras. She is full of energy, but her health has kept her from enjoying many normal activities of girls her age. For the past two years, Johanna suffered from chronic sore throats and fevers. She had difficulty breathing and missed school for weeks at a time. She loved learning math and Spanish in school, but was starting to fall behind.
Johanna’s mother, Anna Ruth, did everything she could to find a cure for her only daughter’s medical problems. However, they lived in a poor area of the country without access to critical medical care. Anna Ruth took Johanna to their town’s small local clinic and to an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist in the nearest city. The doctor told Anna Ruth that Johanna needed surgery if she was going to get better. The cost would be 40,000 lempira ($1,700 U.S. dollars), an exorbitant cost for their poor family. Anna Ruth felt helpless and thought she had run out of options. Then, the specialist told her about International Relief Teams’ (IRT) ENT surgical team in Sula, Honduras.
Every year, IRT conducts a one-week ENT surgery clinic in the small, impoverished town of Sula, Honduras. In Sula, most families work as subsistence farmers and they lack access to clean water, sewage, healthcare, or medicine. On the first day of this year’s clinic, the surgical team examined 100 patients. In a country where 50% of the rural population lives in extreme poverty, costs of surgery are either out of reach or surgeons are not available. IRT’s surgical clinic is often the only opportunity for poor families to receive life-transforming, urgently needed ENT surgeries.
Johanna was the first patient waiting to be seen by IRT volunteer otolaryngologist, Dr. Glen Yoshida, on the first day of the clinic. After a thorough examination, Dr. Yoshida told Anna Ruth that her daughter needed to have her tonsils and adenoids removed.
The next day, as Johanna waited for her surgery, she made a friend, a little girl her age named Nathaly who was in the bed across from her. As they had their vitals taken, they joked around with each other which helped relieve some of their anxiety about their approaching surgeries.
Anna Ruth wore an expression of concern about her daughter’s health throughout their entire two days at the clinic. After the surgery, she felt a great sense of relief that her daughter would finally start to feel better, could resume her schooling, and engage in all her favorite activities she missed so much.