December 20, 2012
CTMC medical mission team brings Honduran woman to Texas for cancer treatment
SAN MARCOS, TX – Since teams of volunteers from Central Texas Medical Center (CTMC) began taking medical mission trips to Honduras in 2007, more than 11,000 patients have been treated at clinics that are offered during the twice-a-year outreach. On this year’s May mission trip, the volunteers crossed paths with Angela, a 33-year-old woman suffering from thyroid cancer. Of all the patients that have received medical services through CTMC’s Honduras mission, Angela’s story is among the most remarkable.
After her diagnosis in 2007, Angela’s husband left her for a “healthy” woman, and she sought medical help in Honduras with no luck. When she was told there was nothing anyone could do for her, Angela’s biggest fear was not being able to raise her two sons, ages 4 and 14.
Drs. Gretchen and Dewey Whisenant were among the volunteers on the May mission trip, and they saw Angela when she went to the clinic seeking cough medicine for her uncle. The team prayed with Angela and made no promises, but they did not forget her after returning to Texas, reaching out for help from Pan American Health Services (PAHS) to obtain Angela’s medical records from Honduras.
“After seeing Angela on the mission trip in May, Gretchen and I felt we needed to do something to help her,” Dr. Dewey Whisenant said. We knew it would have to be a huge undertaking to get her thyroid cancer treated. It was so encouraging as we spoke to Sam Huenergardt (CTMC/CEO & President) and the doctors that were to be involved and to see their willingness to donate their time, skill, and services to make this happen.”
CTMC Pathologist Dr. LeeSang confirmed that the biopsy performed in Honduras showed papillary carcinoma of the thyroid. Dr. Blair and Dr. Cairus of CTMC’s Live Oak Health Partners physician group agreed that the diagnosis was very treatable and, in agreement with hospital officials who said CTMC would treat Angela free of charge, said they would perform the necessary surgery if she could be brought to the United States.
“After receiving the initial phone call from PAHS, Angela said she felt hope for the first time in years,” said CTMC Director of Ancillary Services Karen Morris, who spearheads the twice annual Honduras mission trips. “From there, PAHS coordinated her application for a passport and letters were written to obtain a medical emergency visa, which Angela received three days before the Oct. mission team arrived in Honduras.”
Angela was able to travel back to Central Texas with the mission team in Oct. after her family saw her off at the airport in San Pedro Sula. When asked if she was afraid, Angela answered, “What is there to be afraid of? God is in control!”
“Her faith is an example to all of us,” Morris said.
Angela underwent surgery at CTMC on Nov. 8. Dr. Blair and Dr. Cairus gave a good report after the surgery, stating that everything had gone according to plan and that they expected a good, long-term outcome for Angela. Feeling much better, Angela was released from CTMC on Nov. 18 and went on to receive a radioactive iodine treatment at Baptist Hospital in San Antonio on Dec. 11 – 13, one of the last steps before she returns home to Honduras on Dec. 28. During her time spent in Texas, Drs. Dewey and Gretchen Whisenant coordinated all of Angela’s care, making sure everyone involved in her treatment had the right information regarding her care and medication adjustments.
Although Angela has found new hope, she will encounter new obstacles in Honduras because the coffee crop that her father makes a living to support the family with is not good this year. Anyone interested in making a donation to Angela and her family through the harvest season can call the CTMC Foundation at (512) 753-3687 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charity care is nothing new to CTMC. The hospital spends thousands of dollars locally extending the healing ministry of Christ to those without means every day. In the Honduran village of Pena Blanca, the mission team has provided lasting hope. In May, funds were contributed to construct a home for a disabled widow, replacing her wood shack with dirt floors and no doors or windows with a humble structure containing concrete floors, wooden shutters and an outdoor wood burning stove. In Oct., the mission team provided enough funds to build a four-room school in a community where students have to walk along a busy 2-mile stretch of highway to get to school. Through the years, several children had been hit by vehicles, with one 6-year-old girl being killed.
“It is our hope that these children will have a safe place to learn and that we will be able to celebrate the opening of the new school on the May 2013 trip,” Morris said.
Last year, CTMC CEO/President Sam Huenergardt and San Marcos Mayor Daniel Guerrero were among volunteers who visited the Pena Blanca community. While there, they noticed the community dump was close to the river, causing pollution and health concerns. Upon returning to Texas, Guerrero reached out to city manager Jim Nuse, who helped locate a garbage truck that was going to auction. The truck was owned by Central Texas Refuge, who insisted on donating the vehicle to the Pena Blanca village after learning of their need.
“Today, Pena Blanca and surrounding communities are safer because their water supply is not being polluted by toxins that make their way into the river when it rains,” Huenergardt said. “We are thankful that CTMC and the city of San Marcos were able to come together to fulfill this need. Separately, but also important, through our charitable focus we were able to give two boys the gift of a mother for years to come. This is a great example of many people doing small things, out of their comfort zone, to make something big happen for a neighbor.”
In addition to Drs. Gretchen and Dewey Whisenant, the following health care providers played a role in Angela’s care while she was at CTMC:
• Dr. Blair – Live Oak Health Partners
• Dr. Cairus – Live Oak Health Partners
• Dr. Calderon – Inpatient Medicine Physicians
• Dr. Ramirez – Wimberley Medical Clinic
• Dr. Grimm – The Austin Diagnostic Clinic
• Dr. Iglesia – San Marcos Medical Imaging
• Dr. LeeSang – Clinical Pathology Associates
• Dr. Kerley – Phoenix Oncology of Texas
• Bryon Tuner, CRNA – San Marcos Anesthesiology
• CTMC 3rd floor staff
“They truly did extend the healing ministry of Christ to Angela,” Dewey Whisenant said.
More information about mission outreaches at CTMC and volunteer opportunities are available at www.ctmc.org. Anyone who would like to make a donation to CTMC’s mission outreach efforts can visit www.ctmc.org/giving.
The hospital, which originated in 1923 as Hays County Soldiers, Sailors and Marines Memorial Hospital, was restructured in 1960. The present facility was opened at its current Wonder World Drive location in 1983. The CTMC staff of more than 700 employees works with more than 220 active and consulting physicians to provide quality services to patients and their families. In addition, over 200 community members and interns from area educational institutions volunteer their services to the hospital. In 2010 and again in 2011, CTMC was named The Best Hospital in Hays County. In addition, CTMC added a certified Chest Pain Center to its ER capabilities in 2011. In 2012, CTMC became the first operating room along the IH-35 corridor between Austin and San Antonio to be equipped with a da Vinci robotic-assisted surgery suite.
CTMC is a member of the Adventist Health System (AHS), a not-for-profit healthcare organization that emphasizes Christ at the center of care. Founded in 1973, AHS has quickly grown to become the largest not-for-profit Protestant healthcare provider in the nation. Today, AHS supports 43 hospitals and employs 55,000 individuals. AHS hospitals are comprised of 7,700 licensed beds, providing care for 4 million patients each year in inpatient, outpatient and emergency room visits.