Skip to content

Have scalpel, syringes, gloves, gowns — will travel far for good!

Comprised of surgical specialists, Team Broken Earth Barrie returning to Guatemala to provide necessary health care to underprivileged patients

When Tina Whitty decided it was time to do some humanitarian work, she turned her attention to her home province of Newfoundland where a medical team had assembled to help the folks in Haiti after they experienced a devastating earthquake in 2010.

Discovering a desperate need, the team returned several times to provide much-needed attention to a variety of medical issues.

And the initiative grew from there, including more teams from across the country and expanding into surgical and other medical disciplines.

The resulting St. John's-based help organization, Broken Earth, now has teams of volunteers providing medical and dental attention to areas at home and abroad where they are needed.

There have been 50 one-week medical missions to Haiti alone.

Three of them involved a Barrie-based crew, thanks to Whitty, who's an anesthesiologist, along with a dedicated medical team, many of them working at Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH).

Each of them takes a week of their vacation time, pays for their own flights and expenses, and helps raise money so that they can bring along the necessary surgical and medical equipment.

They’re now planning to go to Guatemala over Thanksgiving. This will continue work they did during missions in previous years to help an underprivileged population through a partnership with a Guatemala-based medical help organization that works with the patients, who are often transported in from rural communities.

A hospital in Antigua, a small city in the central highlands of Guatemala, serves as the base for the surgical missions.

“The surgical need is always great,” Whitty tells BarrieToday of her previous experiences. “Their health-care infrastructure is not as robust as what we have in North America. Their rural population, specifically, has major access issues in terms of care.”

The Barrie team of about 30 consists of three or four anesthesiologists, eight or nine surgeons, eight to 10 operating room nurses, three to four recovery room nurses, one or two anesthesiology assistants and a logistics co-ordinator.

A three-person dental team also accompanied them on their last mission, treating 80 patients over five days and are planning to be part of the group returning in October. 

The team funds much of its own work there to provide orthopedic, surgical, gynecological and dental care.  

The medical work begins on the Sunday the day after their arrival, with a clinic where around 100 patients are seen. The surgeries, about 70 to 80 of them, are then done from Monday to Friday. That could include hip replacements, hernia repairs, gallbladder removals and hysterectomies.

Rural health promoters with the Guatemala-based organization then carry out post-operation instructions, following up with the local patients in their home communities.

“To volunteer for a mission like this is a huge undertaking,” says Whitty. “When we go on these missions, we actually have to bring everything with us.”

Their supplies include syringes, medication, implants, gloves, gowns, sponges, sutures, dressings, anaesthesia equipment and surgery packs.

In addition to taking a week of vacation time, each member pays more than $2,300 for their own flight, expenses and a contribution to bring patients into Antigua from the rural areas.

And, collectively, they aim to raise $30,000 for supplies.

For more information on Team Broken Earth Barrie or to support their mission in Guatamela, click here