Scenes of Healing: Guadalajara Medical Mission

From the Field

Child life specialist Alejandra Canales of Honduras sits with a patient before they receive surgery. Having been on more than 10 missions, Alejandra understands the vital impact that the child life area can have. For many children, arriving at a mission can be a frightening experience, especially if it’s their first time traveling away from home. Child life specialists help those patients relax as they play fun activities with other children who have cleft conditions. Photo: Laura Gonzalez.


Uriel catches and blows bubbles in the child life area before entering the operating room. Both Uriel and his sister, Diana, traveled to our mission site with their mother, Rebeca, from Mezquitic. While Uriel filled the room with his contagious laugher, Diana was much more reserved with a gentle, creative spirit. She passed the time before her surgery by making bracelets and decorating dolls for the other children. Photo: Laura Gonzalez.


A local staff member checks the vitals of a patient before they receive surgery. Photo courtesy of Iván Ramírez.


Cleft surgeon Dr. Humberto Aguirre of Mexico and an operating room nurse from the local hospital work together to perform surgery during the mission in Guadalajara. Photo courtesy of Iván Ramírez.


Dr. Hector Lino of Mexico works with a surgical resident from the Instituto Jalisciense de Cirugia Reconstructiva to perform surgery on a patient. Photo courtesy of Iván Ramírez.


Post-anesthesia care unit nurse Zunilda Dominguez of Paraguay checks on a young patient in the post-operative ward. Photo courtesy of Iván Ramírez.


Electronic medical records team leader Lorena Arellano gently wakes up a patient after their surgery. For Lorena, attending our mission in Guadalajara was very special to her. “I’m so happy to be back in my country, helping my people. And to be back in the city where I grew up,” she said. Lorena is originally from Guadalajara, but she currently lives in California with her wife, Kristi Loveridge. Her role is very important because our team of doctors, anesthesiologists and nurses rely on each patient’s medical record to administer medicine and customize their care plan. Lorena hopes to continue to volunteer her time on medical missions for as long as she can. “It’s a part of me that I didn’t know I had. It makes me feel so happy that I found this other side of me that I didn’t know thanks to Operation Smile,” she said. Photo courtesy of Iván Ramírez.


Uriel rests the morning after his cleft lip surgery as his sister, Diana, prepares to receive surgery on her cleft palate later that same day. At a prior mission, Diana received care from Operation Smile for her cleft lip. Uriel plans to return in a few months for surgery on his cleft palate. They were two of the 109 patients who received safe surgery at our mission in Guadalajara, Mexico. Photo: Laura Gonzalez.


Eight-year-old Norma shares her new smile. With help from government workers, she and her father – along with a group of Huichol people from their community – left the mission and made the 13-hour journey back home. Norma looked forward to getting back home so that she could show her mom her smile. We talked to Rafael after Norma’s surgery and asked him what he would do if he saw another child with a cleft condition. He said that he would tell them to come get surgery from Operation Smile Mexico because, “you fix things here.” Photo courtesy of Rodrigo Avina.