Dr. Lee Bruner, an ear-nose-and-throat doctor and elder at Broadmoor Presbyterian Church, recently completed a 10-day mission trip to Guatemala to treat residents there who live in extreme poverty.
“It was my first mission trip, and the way I found it was providential,” said Bruner, explaining that he heard a visiting physician speak to the ENT Medical Society and read in his resume about the Guatemalan mission. He became interested, researched and applied, a long procedure that began last December.
Bruner was the only Baton Rougean in a group of 30 who flew from Houston on May 16 to Guatemala City for a weeklong experience.
“It was only a 1½-hour flight,” said Bruner. “Getting through customs with medical supplies, mostly donated, took time. The next morning we rode four hours on a bus into the countryside to a hospital, Halario Galindo, located near Retalhuleu, a city of 40,000, nicknamed Reu. We worked 12-hour days.”
The most challenging surgery he did was the removal of an unusual tumor in the cheek of a teenage girl.
“Overall, I did 15 surgical procedures and 60 consultations,” Bruner said.
His team of physicians performed nearly 80 surgical procedures and more than 100 consultations.
The nonprofit mission is part of Faith in Practice, an ecumenical Christian project with some 800 volunteers annually.
“Most on our team was from Texas, and were led by Dr. Phil Johnson and his wife, Linda,” Bruner said. “I also became good friends with my translator, Dr. Sylvia Rucinos, a pediatrician, and her husband, Dr. Otoniel Rucinos, a surgeon. Their practice is in Guatamala City.”
Bruner said anyone taking the mission trip needs to be prepared mentally for the culture shock.
“You have to be flexible,” he said, “and they work at a slower pace than we do. There is so much to be done, and we could not hope to do more than help in a small way, one individual at a time.”
“Personally, the mission team was housed and fed well, but the Guatemalans are very poor,” Bruner said.