Fifteen-year-old Bear Lake High School Sophomore Abbie Parslow recently returned from a trip to Senahú, Guatemala, located in Central America. Her grandparents, Neil and Cynthia Spackman, took her with them for a week as part of the Utah Medical Outreach Program.
Abbie and her grandparents left Oct. 17, flying from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles. When they were traveling from Los Angeles to Guatemala, they were detoured to El Salvador because it was so foggy. They then flew from El Salvador to Guatemala City. From there, according to Abbie, they took “chicken buses with no air conditioning” into Senahú.
Arriving in Senahú on Sunday morning, Oct. 20, they first went to their hotel, which in Abbie’s words was “kind of like a college dorm with three single beds that weren’t very comfortable, and the shower would never drain, so the bathroom was always flooded with water.”
They got ready for church, attending a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meeting, and then went to the hospital where they spent the afternoon setting up the operating room and getting the clinics prepared for the week. That evening, they had a fireside at the church.
Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were spent in the hospital doing surgeries. Abbie was able to work in the eye clinic, giving people reading glasses. The second day was spent working in the dentistry, pulling teeth. The two dentists she worked with were from Guatemala City, and Abbie still talks to them. She says, “It’s cool to have friends from other countries.” On the third day they worked in the operating room doing surgery on prolapses and lymphomas. Abbie got to scrub in and work with Dr. Mecham from Tanner Clinic. She got to hold the retractors. She said, “I don’t think a lot of 15-year-olds get to scrub in on surgeries like that. It was really cool.”
Thursday, they got back on the “chicken buses” and went on an excursion to Lake Atalin, also known as "The Waters of Mormon," where they went zip-lining and had lunch in a local cafe. Abbie said, “There were these little old ladies that came in and wrapped scarves around our heads, and we bought them from them because we felt we needed to help them. We gave them some of our food because we had more than we needed. One of the little old ladies sat at the end of the table and prayed for our food, and we thought that was really cool that she would pray for something like that.” Abbie also got to hold a monkey’s hand and feed it a banana while there.
After this, they got back on the buses and went into Guatemala City and went to the market. Abbie said this was, "Cool. And there was lots of food and clothes. There was a bunch of old ladies weaving a bunch of skirts and blankets and stuff. They also don't have places to put their chickens so they hang them on strings and in boxes and in bags. So, we said we had chicken in bags and chicken in boxes and chicken on strings. The women who took their babies to work with them would put them in boxes and set them down by their feet all day."
She also noted that the McDonalds there were "super Nice, too. And the hotel in Guatemala City was a nice 5-star hotel. A lot nicer than the ones in Senahú. They are super fancy with guards outside of them and clean. We only stayed in those Thursday and Friday before coming home."
When asked for her thoughts on the whole experience, Abbie said, "It was an eye-opening experience. We [here in the states] don't see what we have until we don't have it. Those people can't even flush toilet paper. We take advantage of that. The food there isn't really great. They don't have any way to cook it. They cook it over an open fire. We're really lucky here."
And her final statement: "I want to go back again next year!"