Roland, 36, is a welder from Trujillo, Honduras, a small city on the Caribbean coast. He seems to be a quiet and reserved person, but he says this is not his natural demeanor. Roland has a medical condition that makes it difficult for him the breathe and to speak, so he is forced to mostly remain silent.
When Roland was just 20 years old, he was helping around the house when a large piece of wood hit him in the face and deviated his septum. He eventually began to develop breathing problems – which he thought was due to allergies or asthma, not the injury. The problem slowly got worse and now he can no longer have a normal conversation because he must constantly catch his breath. He only sleeps three or four hours a night and wakes up gasping for air. He can no longer smell or taste food and must eat quickly to allow himself time to breathe between bites.
Most significantly, this condition has affected Roland’s relationship with his six-year-old son and wife of nine years, Daisy. His son is a very active little boy who doesn’t understand why his father can’t catch his breath when they play. His son often asks him, “What’s wrong with you? Do you have a cold?”
Before his wife understood the severity of Roland’s condition, she often got angry with him for not speaking and opening up to her, which frustrated Roland since speaking was difficult and embarrassing when trying to catch his breath.
About two years ago, after beginning to suffer significantly more from his breathing problem, he began to search for a solution. He saw a total of six specialists – whom he traveled all over the country to see. Every doctor he saw confirmed he needed surgery, but charged a fee he could not afford. Instead, Roland paid for some medications out of pocket until he could find a better solution.
Recently, the couple thought their prayers were answered when Roland’s case was referred to a public program at a public hospital that would pay for the surgery in its entirety. However, on the day of surgery Roland and Daisy were told the funding for the program did not come through and his operation was canceled. The couple was devastated.
Still hoping for a solution, Roland and Daisy visited IRT’s clinic in June 2016 after seeing a flier in their local newspaper. Every year, IRT conducts a one-week ear, nose, and throat (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, sanitation, health care, or medicine. In a country where 50% of the rural population live in extreme poverty, costs of surgery are either out of reach or surgeons are not available, as had been the experience for Roland. IRT’s surgery clinic is often the only opportunity for Sula’s residents to receive life-changing, necessary ENT surgeries.
Roland and Daisy traveled nine hours to Sula where IRT’s Dr. Yoshida examined Roland and declared he needed a septoplasty, a surgery that corrects a deviated septum, and a nasal polyp removal. He was scheduled for surgery that week.
After the operation, Dr. Yoshida confirmed the surgery went very well and Roland will make a full recovery. Roland can’t stop smiling at his wife after he wakes up from the anesthesia because he can already breathe better. He says, “I want to laugh but I don’t want to damage my nose. I’ve been waiting such a long time to breathe. I am so thankful for this.”
Roland becomes emotional when he talks about all the new possibilities this surgery means for his future. He is excited to taste his favorite Honduran dish again, mondongo de coco and have a normal life with his wife and young son. He knows his relationships with them will only begin to improve and wants to be the best husband and father he can be.