Nathaly is just six years old but has already experienced immense suffering in her short life. She lives with her mom, dad, and little sister in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, a city that has endured decades of gang violence, endemic poverty, and has one of the highest murder rates in the world. Not only has Nathaly faced the challenges of growing up in a dangerous place, but a chronic health condition and inability to access care have set her back. Infected tonsils and adenoids have caused her a lot of pain and difficulty breathing for the last two years. She is currently in the first grade, but she has missed countless days of school because of overwhelming headaches that keep her from concentrating. A year ago, a local Honduran ear, nose, throat (ENT) specialist recommended surgery for Nathaly, but her parents, Allan and Dolores, could not afford it. Little Nathaly continued to endure the pain until they could find another solution. Meanwhile, her headaches grew more intense and more frequent.
Dolores said this illness has robbed her daughter of her childhood. Instead of being a carefree, playful little girl, Nathaly acted more like a little adult, burdened with problems much too advanced for her youth. Dolores mentioned that Nathaly rarely cried and asked for very little from her. All Dolores wanted was for her daughter to experience the joys of childhood once again.
Sixty percent of the Honduran population lives in extreme poverty and the costs of simple, routine surgeries is out of reach for most families. Surgery was not an option for Nathaly. Allan lost his job as an electrician and was struggling to find something new. Dolores works in the home taking care of her two daughters.
Every year, IRT conducts a one-week ENT surgery clinic in the small, impoverished town of Sula, Honduras, located about one hour by bus from Nataly’s hometown. On the first day of this year’s clinic, the surgical team examined 100 patients. IRT’s clinic is often the only opportunity for poor families to receive life-transforming, urgently needed ENT surgeries.
On the day of Nathaly’s surgery, she was very nervous. However, she was soothed by the friendly IRT volunteer team who came prepared to distract her with stuffed animals, coloring books, and latex gloves made into balloons. Nathaly made a friend with another patient, Johanna, a girl her age in the next bed. The girls told each other jokes and giggled, getting in a rare moment of innocent fun in the middle of a very serious, adult experience.
Nathaly’s surgery was a success! Dolores knew Nathaly was already feeling better when she asked for a book instead of stuffed animals soon after waking up from the anesthesia. The next day, before she left to go home, Nathaly told the IRT team she wanted to become a doctor when she grew up, so she could help children just like her!