The mission trip offered an opportunity to witness the Honduras medical system first-hand and help educate their orthopedic and plastic surgeons. Their hospital, Hospital Escuela, is in a state of disrepair with numerous broken and out-dated surgical supplies and instruments. The conditions were often hot and humid without a functioning air conditioner. The surgical trainees were hard working, but limited by the facility resources and manpower. Often overworked and grossly underpaid, these surgeons-in-training tirelessly ensured that patients were taken care of in the best possible way. Despite the conditions and limitations, patients were often very appreciative and happy. Pain medication is a rarity in Honduras and long waits to be seen or have surgery could easily exceed 8 hours. Nevertheless, patients remained calm, pleasant, and positive throughout their ordeal. This experience was eye-opening and serves as a valuable reminder of how lucky we are in the United States to have efficient and effective health care delivery, despite its imperfections.
In April 2016, Dr. Franko joined a 17-member medical mission trip to Tegucigalpa, Honduras to participate in a 1-week intensive hand surgery mission trip for the citizens of Honduras. As an invited guest of the departments of Orthopedic and Plastic surgery, Dr. Franko had the privilege of participating in the treatment of over 100 patients, including over 80 operations performed that week alone. The people of Honduras were very appreciative and grateful for the care they obtained and services they would otherwise not be able to receive. Machetes are a common weapon in Honduras and as a result, Dr. Franko saw numerous patients with varying degrees of machete injuries, including deep skin lacerations, complete nerve injuries, ruptured tendons, and many amputations. Some of these injuries had been partially treated, while others had been entirely neglected. By carefully assessing each injury and developing an operative plan, the group of hand surgeons from the United States was able to offer functional improvement for as many patients as possible. This included a combination of repairs and reconstructions for tendons, nerves, bones, and skin. In some cases, nerve and tendon transfers were performed to return function to previously lost parts, and at other times amputations were performed to improve function. In addition to the adult patients, there were numerous pediatric patients that required treatment for conditions such as syndactyly (fused fingers).
Based on his experience in Honduras, Dr. Franko hopes to continue performing medical mission trips in Central America, the Caribbean, and Africa depending on specific needs. To learn more about Dr. Franko’s mission trips, feel free to ask him about his experience during your visit.