Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Rinaldi Christmas family reunion at Hospitalito Atitlán
Italo Rinaldi and his wife Anne Parrotta–Rinaldi (originally from Virginia) live in Umbria in Italy, where he is a board certified Neurosurgeon, and Anne has retired as a nurse. Their son, Aldo, is a medical student a SUNY downstate, and Aldo’s fiancé Ashley Saloman is a medical student at Rush Hospital in Chicago. The Rinaldi family volunteered for the entire month of December, when many medical volunteers leave to return to the states to be with their family. They brought their family to work at HA! It was fun to see Italo and Ashley dance the tango (in scrubs and on the grass) at the Hospitalito Christmas convivio (music by the Juan Sisay trio). Thanks to all of them, they are a great family, and have been a great help when HA is short staffed over the holidays.

Lee Cohen, MD is a family practice physician from Two Rivers Minnesota who volunteered a month as the supervisor for residents and medical students, and was loved for his gentle nature. Lee left the warm Atitlán climate for Minnesota this week, and then is off to Breckenridge to ski. The staff hopes that he will plan to return to the Hospitalito again!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Merry Christmas Hospitalito Atitlán!
The people of Santiago Atitlán, Fundación K’aslimaal and the Hospitalito received a magnificent gift today… towards the construction of the permanent hospital. Juan Francisco Pira, director of Granos Especiales, a Guatemalan coffee buying company, presented a check for $50,000 to Dr. Juan Manuel Chuc and K’aslimaal treasurer Lyn Dickey. This generous donation comes from Starbucks and will be matched by the Kendeda Challenge grant.... Peace on Earth.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Many Atitlánecos are asking how they can help with the construction of the new hospital, and on Wednesday, the first group arrived. Twelve young members of the youth group of the Alfa y Omega church started early Wednesday morning to excavate a hole in an area that was believed to be free of the huge rocks that are on most of the construction site. They enthusiastically moved dirt. The church will continue to organize volunteers with pick-up trucks, and block masons as needed. It is great to see the community so eager to build their hospital!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


This is not a medical story, but it is important none the less. Linda Jones, wife of EMT Rob Jones, has been baking fresh homemade cookies for the Hospitalito staff since they arrived in 2007. Today she brought peanut butter and oatmeal raisin, but we can all say that her chocolate chip cookies are excellent too! These cookies are important to the moral of the staff and volunteers as you can see in this photo or Narda, Linda and Rebeca.

Monday, December 08, 2008


Chris and Carol Rizzardi have been involved a long time with Pueblo a Pueblo and the Hospitalito. They sponsor two students at the Panabaj School through the Child Education/Health Sponsorship Program and they have donated in many other ways. Nowadays they live in Guatemala City and after receiving a shipment with their home supplies they contacted us to see if some of their kitchen ware could be of use. Of course! Our volunteers who stay at “Las Milpas” were tired of cooking and eating in old and funky plates! Their donation was greatly appreciated and some of it will be donated to the Lunch Program at the Panabaj School at the beginning of the new school year in January 2009.

Photo; Chris, Kathleen, Tracy, Jared (volunteers) and Carol.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Scenes at the Construction site

Thursday's construction commission meeting involved many visitors. Fundación K'aslimaal members met with Architect Mollander and the representatives of Productos del Aire to discuss the installation of medical gases. The structural engineer arrived to inspect the first footer that was completed. Pictured here (under Dr. Juan Manuel Chuc) is one of the smaller footers made of 3/4" steel. In a meeting with workers, Betty Esquina completes the worker's applications for health insurance provided during the job.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

It was wonderful to see the smiling faces of three caring friends return to the Hospitalito will suitcasese full of much needed medicines. Lea Pellett, and sisters Kathy and Judy Royer pose with Dr. Juan Manuel Chuc in front of their generous donation. Judy is an ER physician who had helped the local rescue company (Bomberos compania 45) in Santiago Atitlán, by purchasing oxygen tanks and regulators. For the first time, this company has oxygen available for patients. Thanks so much for the commitment to the people of Atitlán!

Friday November 21st, a group of 45 Swedes traveling in the footsteps of a national treasure, sing-and-songwriter Evert Taube, veered off their path and visited Hospitalito Atitlán. Ulf Lewin, the country’s former ambassador to Guatemala, headed the group. We got a chance to show them the current hospital and the new site, where huge rocks are split by hand to make way for the foundation.

Taube traveled the highlands of Guatemala by mule in the 1950s, and came very close to its people, whom he deeply admired. Besides songs, he also wrote magazine articles, which have been collected into a wonderful book. What better way to end the group’s visit than with the Evert Taube song Sololá on the porch of Hotel Bambú? Swedish television’s sing-a-long leader Bosse Larsson, in the colorful hat, led the much-appreciated performance.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Boat Accident on Lake Atitlan


I went in to the hospital this morning (Saturday, November 22) to do laundry and ended up doing CPR on a drowning victim, a 77-year old gentleman from France. Sadly we were unable to resuscitate him.

There was a boating accident and three people were confirmed dead.

There were four of us in the hospital: the Guatemalan doctor on call, nurse, guardian, and I.

Ten minutes after receiving our first patient, the patient's wife was wheeled in, she was cold and barely conscious. I believe we saved her life. We warmed her and she started responding.

As soon as we got word out, hospital staff came pouring in --- nurses, local doctors, volunteers, the lab tech… even the laundress and the Spanish hotel owner from next door, to do what they could. It is an honor to work with such caring people.

Police were everywhere and the public municipal police performed a respectful, careful and thorough investigation. I know because I also acted as official translator for two young British survivors of the boat sinking.

There were other deaths that were not brought in -- at least two that I know of -- a Guatemalan and a Lutheran Bishop from Malaysia. Three people are still missing, according to reports from the authorities. There were also a few other patients who are not seriously injured -- including the boat pilot, who's hand cuffed to his bed, a foolish young Guatemalan who had the carelessness of youth and whose life has now become a horror. I feel for him too.

We heard from the American Embassy within minutes after the accident, as they were concerned about American citizens involved. Soon we received calls from the French and British embassies, as friends in Panajachel helped contact them.

Our surviving French patient is 72, status post a near drowning, with completely unknown medical history. We all insisted that SHE CANNOT STAY!!!!! If she were to worsen overnight, we could not save her. In Guatemala City she can get the same level of care (at a private hospital, almost certainly staffed by North American and European-trained specialists) that she could in the States -- including ICU. I hope the four-hour trip to the Capital is uneventful. We have regular cell phone contact with our doctor accompanying her. We tried to get helicopter transport (30 minutes, I think) but it was too late in the day by the time we got her temperature up and her vitals stabilized --- mostly. Also the winds are violent today and the airport wasn't allowing helicopters to leave.

After the extra med staff arrived, I switched to administrator/organizer mode. I know and was able to remind new volunteers that lives were saved today because we are here. And gentle care was given to the survivors (thank goodness we have plenty of extra scrubs to give out). This is a hugging culture.
The patients arrived at 2 and 2:10 pm. Now it is 7 pm and the French lady (72 yo) is on her way to Guatemala City in one or our ambulances with two volunteers and a local nurse -- one is a volunteer doctor from Quebec who speaks French, which is the only language the patients speaks, according to her accompanying guide.

The municipal police took her husband to a morgue in the public hospital in Sololá, 90 minutes north of here.

I am glad I went to do my laundry today.
I am proud of everyone at the hospital.
But it is all very sad.