Central Pa. surgeons perform lifesaving operations in Honduras

Midstate doctors and nurses traveled to San Pedro Sula, Honduras in October for a surgical mission with the World Surgical Foundation. abc27 news photojournalist Jon Eirkson and reporter Kendra Nichols traveled with the team for five days.

Dr. Domingo Alvear is a pediatric surgeon from Harrisburg and the founder of the World Surgical Foundation. He founded WSF in 1997. In his 40-year career he has performed thousands of free surgeries in over eight countries.

“You can see their faces and that's all that matters,” said Dr. Alvear.

Patients filled the hallways at the public hospital in San Pedro Sula, waiting to see the doctors. The patients were pre-screened before volunteers with WSF arrived in the country.

Dr. Paul Kunkle, a general surgeon who specializes in laparoscopic surgery, practices at Holy Spirit Hospital in Camp Hill. This was his second trip to Honduras. Most of the patients he saw were dealing will gall stones.

“If you came into America with those symptoms, you would get your gall bladder out that day or the next day,” said Dr. Kunkle. “Here they cant do that. The operating rooms are too full, no personnel. The patients get put on antibiotics and get sent home and they have to live with their symptoms for years. We have one patient that has been in pain for eight years.”

Dr. Alvear saw several children with malformations of the intestine and rectum. Many were given colostomies by the doctors in Honduras, but the families could not afford colostomy bags, so they wrap cloth around the children to soak up the feces.

“We have seen a lot of rare malformations in children that some folks will never see in their lifetime, ” said Dr. Alvear.

Dr. David Leber, a plastic surgeon from Harrisburg, has been to Honduras six times.

“Its a lot of hard work, but the people are so grateful for everything that we do it makes us want to come back,” said Dr. Leber.

During the trip, Dr. Leber performed surgery on a one-year-old name Ruth, who was born with a cleft lip.

“They are somewhat ostracized here. They don't  do quite as well in school and in public,” explained Dr. Leber. “We are going to repair her lip tomorrow.”

Tomorrow during Live at 5, we will bring you part two of this story. We'll take you inside the operating room and emergency room. And you'll get to see what Ruth looks like after her surgery.

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