Friday, February 15, 2013

Day 5... a blog from Melissa

Landing in Guatemala City airport was what I expected. Small customs area and 2
old X-ray machines for your luggage. Customs was good,  they only opened one tote
(out of six) and did not have any problems with what we were bringing into their country.
So that was the start of our journey. We needed to head to Todos Santos, as this is the town where we would be working. We squished 8 people ( 9 if you count our driver),a huge wooden box, ( carrying the autoclave) our 7 totes and all of our hiking bags and off we
went. Now Todos Santos is not far in Kilometers, however it is a 8 hour trip, as all the
roads are winding and very steep. The Guatemalan's are very aggressive drivers,
there were a few times that I thought we may go over the mountain's edge! We arrived at night and was met by veterinarian (who is a part of Vets Without Borders) and she showed
us to our hotel. The conditions are poor, our hotel is more like a hostel. There were 3
double beds, with futon mattress on plywood and one old wickety desk, covered with
cement walls. Very little bugs here, and have not seen any bed bugs, so it could be
worse. Our shower is electric, and does not get warm, let alone hot, so we are definitely
getting cold showers. We get up each morning at 6:30 am and head to a house where
these ladies feed us breakfast. They also bring lunch to us and we return back to their
house for dinner. The food has been pretty delicious, chicken, beef and
banana pancakes, mmmm. We head over to the auditorium for a start to the day.

People walk for miles to get their pets vaccinated, or spayed and neutered. For the
most part these owners love their pets, and the pets love their owners. Their conditions
are poor, under-weight, infested in fleas and filthy. Vaccines go on all day and we do
surgeries in the morning so they are awake to go home at 5 when we close the doors till
the next day. We definitely have language barrier as they speak two languages,
Spanish and MAM. . The surgeries are tricky as there is only limited drugs for anesthetic and no oxygen, but everything has been going well. I am excited to say we have spayed and neutered 52 dogs at this point and vaccinated 273 dogs and cats. We do have one more day of vaccines and surgeries tomorrow, but then ending Saturday with inventory for Vets Without Borders trip in 2014. The trip has been a amazing experience so far.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentines Day from Guatemala!

Day 4 in Guatemala- an update from Natalie

People start to line up in front of the "The Salon" at about 8 am. I've been told
they walk from as far as 3 hours away to have their pets vaccinated and spayed
or neutered. They meet with one of the local women who helps them fill out the
form for our records and many sign with just a thumbprint. Then they have
a seat and wait for their turn, I'm sure some of them are just happy to be out
of the hot sun and they don't mind the wait. The dogs can be quite aggressive
here so we place a slip lead over their head and ask the owner to place a
muzzle on their pet. It's for our safety as well as it helps to keep the dog calm.

We have stations set up for vaccines or surgery so we then bring owner and
 pet to the appropriate station for the veterinarian to examine and vaccinate.
We have a translator to help us determine if there are any problems. The Dr.
 does a thorough exam and we vaccinate for rabies. If they were scheduled
for surgery they go back to the front area to wait for a technician to come and
sedate them for surgery. Once the dog is sedated we wait for the drugs to take
effect. As theywait, the technician is getting the drugs and surgery table ready.
The technician then brings the dog to the table and anesthetize him or her.
The surgery is performed under very primitive circumstances and when finished
the dog is placed in recovery. All the while this is going on the owner are
watching and waiting. The owners sit in recovery with their pet for a couple
more hours. Until their pet is able to get up and walk out of "The Salon".

The end of day brings us to cleaning up and preparing for the next day.
After a very long day we head back to our room to freshen up for dinner.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Day 3

Here are the latest photos sent by our team from Guatemala...Looks like they are having some long busy days!

Surgical pack prep area- Natalie and Melissa

Spaying "Rebecca" as her family watches on
All dogs get muzzled for safety

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Day 2 - Working in Todos Santos

Here are some photos sent early this morning from our crew in Todos Santos. Viewers please be advised some photos may be graphic to some.

Some of the children bringing their pets for care

families with their pets

getting an exam

unpacking and sorting supplies

Dr. Lechten operating

Melissa holding a dog for an exam

Lynsay getting a patient prepared for surgery

The children  (who look amazed) watching the team working on patients

recovery ward, keeping the patients warm

Dr. Lechten, Dr. Rogers at work

Monday, February 11, 2013


Feb 9th, 2013- Day One - an update from Melissa

On Feb 8, 2013 we started our journey to Guatemala. Our original flight was Feb 7th,

but our flight had been cancelled due to mechanical problems. So our ten day trip has

now become an eight day adventure. Now you would think that getting there would be

the easier part of this trip, however it has already been a challenge. We arrived at

Pearson Airport (Toronto), and all five of us have huge hiking packs with our personal

belongings, carry-ons, 6 large green totes full all the medical supplies, and

an autoclave. The airport was very busy as a lot of flights were cancelled, due to the

snow storm. We headed to  check-in, we loaded all our packs on,

all the totes, but when it came to the autoclave they were not going to let us take it.

This was not good, an autoclave is a machine that sterilizes surgical instruments, this

unit had been donated from another vet hospital. We had  a local company  build a

box for us with wheels as the unit itself weighs 75lbs, and now we find out that it weighs

155lbs in the crate!  Air Canada will only accept items under 70 lbs. It is very

important that we take this, as there is not even one at the human hospital to use. We

try to find a screwdriver to open the crate, we probably spent a good 45mins looking,

but no luck. Finally Janine, our baggage lady came up to us, she checked with the head of

the airlines and found they would allow us take it. We were thrilled- we made our flight

with minutes to spare. We had a lay over  in Houston Texas at 12:30 am.

We hustled to our hotel, hit the pillow at 1 am. By 6:30am (after a short nap),

we headed back to the airport in Houston to catch our flight to Guatemala. So

once again we lug our hiking packs, 6 totes, carry-ons and the autoclave to check in.
It was the same problem all over again. Now United Airlines would not accept

the autoclave! We could not believe we had made it this far and we were going to have

to leave it. Once again we needed a screwdriver, as the airline said they may let us

take it out of the wooden crate as it would weigh less. All of us went hunting, from

maintenance men, to police women, to running back to the hotel-  we needed a

Robertson screwdriver, and there was none to be found!  Finally they called the baggage

handler and he said he would take it, he probably could not say no to grown women crying.

So off we went, got breakfast and boarded our plane. What a great guy! So I am going to

sign off now as we head for a 3 hour flight to Guatemala. Stay tuned for our next update...