During HELPS’ service trips, I work in the operating room. The patients there are asleep, of course, so I don’t have as many stories to share about the patients as a volunteer who works in clinic or recovery. What I can tell about are how the trips are organized and the impact they have on the volunteers.
The coordination begins after our leadership meeting on Memorial weekend. Letters and applications are mailed out and by this time I’ve already had calls and emails about the upcoming year. Volunteers are so anxious to know the next dates and locations that they have contacted me before I can get the information to them. Many volunteers have told me that they look forward to this every year and it’s become a big part of their lives.
I’ve seen them laugh, cry, and share stories with many of the patients. I’ve heard the stories about how they have had to tell someone they can’t help; that they have to take that child home to die; how they want to be able to do more. Stories about the little boy or girl who return for a second surgery to complete their care. Stories of a child that can move their fingers after extensive hand surgery from burns. So many of the patients become a part of their lives and they remember them year after year.
The impact on our Guatemalan friends is beyond words, but the impact these trips have on all of us that volunteer is even more profound. We feel blessed that we have been able to participate in all parts of these missions.
Cammy Olsen is an OR nurse and HELPS team leader for the Minnesota Medical Team. She has volunteered with HELPS since 1999, serving on more than three dozen trips.