Caregivers go on medical mission to Guatemala

Mark Titcomb with other members of the Guatemala missions team (2019)

Donated hats were a hit with surgery patients

By Sarah Bello

Almost every year since 2008, nurse anesthetist Mark Titcomb, CRNA, has traveled to Guatemala to serve on a medical mission with Cascade Medical Team. In early March 2019, he and Mariko Froehle, RN, flew more than 3,000 miles to Santa Cruz del Quiché, Guatemala. There, they helped with primary care, dental and vision clinics. 

Mark mainly provided anesthesia for surgeries and procedures in the clinics, including hernia and cleft palate repairs, as well as hysterectomies. Mariko assisted in the Operating Room as a circulating nurse, helping with anesthesia and prepping patients for surgeries.

Other team members helped in the clinics, completed outreach with a bus in the surrounding areas, and installed stoves and water filters in homes. The Guatemalan people often cook over open fires, using lots of wood and, sometimes, getting burned. The stoves help decrease their wood consumption by 90%, and the clinics help with burn scar revisions for those who have been injured. 

Mark asked fellow caregivers at CMH for hat donations to bring to surgery patients, receiving around 100 to take with him, including some made by a local 10-year-old

“We really want to thank everyone for the donation of the hats. They caused a bit of a frenzy,” he says. “Normally, I give the hats out as a person is going into surgery. This year, I gave them to anyone who wanted them. They’re in the mountains, and it gets cold up there.”

Mark says going on the trips is a humbling experience that helps make him a better provider here. Patients there are really thankful for the help, with some even wanting to take photos with the providers afterward, Mariko says.

“One particular boy was so trusting of us, and he just smiled and giggled and let us take pictures with him,” Mariko explains. “I believe we were revising his scar from a previous attempt at a cleft palate repair, so doing the surgery made his smile that much more bright.”

Mark says he would recommend going on a medical mission to anyone. It’s rewarding, and it gives a fresh perspective on what is really important in life, Mariko says. 

Overall the clinics in March served a total of 1,981 patients. More than 150 stoves and water filters were installed, including some in an elementary school.