Patient Profile: Martiza Lizzeth

NAME: Maritza Lisseth Garcia Gutierrez
AGE: 8
FROM: Chinameca

Maritza Lisseth was one of the few patients the American medical staff and doctors at the Centro Medico David V. King had to put to sleep under anesthesia. Only eight-years-old, she had two hernias that needed repair — for at least one she had undergone surgery when she was five-years-old.

Maritza’s father is extremely thankful for the center and the American medical team that performed surgeries

Maritza’s surgery was completely free, thanks to a medical mission trip staffed by general surgeon Dr. Agostino Cervone and medical staff from Peconic Bay Medical Center, in Riverhead, New York. The group — which included a resident surgeon, general physician, five nurses and two administration professionals — each committed to raising $1,500 to cover the cost of the trip. A donation of $10,000 subsidized the trip for the medical professionals.

Eight-year-old Maritza Lisseth, with her father Jose, recovers after surgery to repair two hernias. Maritza benefited from a free surgery thanks to a medical mission trip led by Riverhead general surgeon Dr. Agostino Cervone and professionals from Peconic Bay Medical Center

Fundación Misión Médica de El Salvador — which administers CMDVK — organized the visit.
For Maritza’s father, Jose Pablo, he is extremely thankful for the center and the American medical team that performed surgeries during the third week in January. About a year and a half ago Jose and his wife noticed that the area below Martiza’s stomach was beginning to swell. From the neighboring village of Chinameca, Jose was familiar with the center, taking advantage of its pediatric services for both his daughter and his son. One day he saw a sign in the clinic that an American surgical team would arrive to perform procedures free of cost. The center is highly subsidized, patients are asked to pay around $2 per visit and may have to pay for special tests. While the center has operated since 2004 as a daily clinic, the operating rooms were added only two years ago. Medical missions help the center achieve it’s bottom line, either free or highly subsidized care for El Salvador’s most vulnerable population.

Jose says that before he heard of the medical mission, his family had started the process of putting Maritza in line for surgery at the national hospital. In the recovery room, protectively standing over his daughter, he was grateful the surgery took place in CMDVK. “The problem with the national center is that there is too much work for the staff and not enough attention given to the patients,” he says through a translator. “Here, it’s different.”

Jose, who works as a carpenter, says that for life in El Salvador, you work very hard to own very little and is extremely gracious for the team visiting El Salvador and the center. “Thanks to God, I am feeling good about the experience here.”

I ask Maritza if she wants to say anything else. Groggy from all the medication, she nonetheless looks up and says, “I wish many blessings for you.”

by Laura Kelly

Patient Profile: Paola Elizabeth

Paola Elizabeth Rivas Garcia is an energetic 15-year-old from Jucuapa. She came to the Centro Medico David V. King to receive a free surgery, to remove a mass on her back. The surgery was performed by Dr. Augostino Cervone from Peconic Bay Medical Center, along with a team of volunteers from PBMC, and in coordination with Medical Mission Internationa

NAME: Paola Elizabeth Rivas Garcia
AGE: 15
FROM:  Jucuapa

Fifteen-year-old Paola Elizabeth Rivas Garcia can’t hide her positive energy. No amount of nerves or fear will dampen her spirits. She wants to be a pediatrician when she grows up and her favorite sport is volleyball. Yet, she had to stop playing the sport after she started feeling a pain in her back. When she went for an X-Ray at a local hospital, the doctors said it was a mass of fatty tissue, a lipoma. Paola was advised to find a surgeon and her mother recommended they visit Centro Medico David V. King. Paola’s mother had heard about the subsidized clinic from a friend who works there as a nurse. For her visit, Paola only had to pay for an ultrasound. She was scheduled as a patient for the visiting American surgical team from Peconic Bay Medical Center, her procedure free of cost. Paola was kept awake during her surgery as the team only needed to numb the area where they removed the mass. “It was weird!” she said afterwards in recovery, her eyes wide, but her smile still bright.

by Laura Kelly

After surgery, Paola Elizabeth receives a handmade bracelet presented by Amy Douglas-Smith, the medical staff coordinator at Peconic Bay Medical Center and one of the volunteers on the mission


Paola Elizabeth shows off her new bracelet while recovering from her surgery

Centro Médico David V. King hernia surgery

Patient Profile: Maria Josephina*

Centro Médico David V. King poster

A poster at the Centro Medico David V. King announcing the arrival in January of an American medical mission trip staffed by professionals from Peconic Bay Medical Center on Long Island. The team, working for one week, performed various general surgeries free of cost to over 60 patients at the center.

NAME: Maria Josephina*
AGE: 39
FROM: Jucuapa

In 2005, Maria Josephina* gave birth to her third child in the national hospital in El Salvador’s capital, San Salvador. While she delivered her son normally, complications from the birth led to an additional surgery. She was sent home and told to rest but when she got there, she found an infestation of ant’s on her mattress. With no one with her to help, she lifted the mattress herself to take it outside. She needed to take the mattress outside, but the physical exertion and her recent surgery, caused an hernia in her abdomen. She went back to the national hospital and they put her in line for reparative surgery – but she never got it. Six years later, with increasing violence between the gangs in the capital, Maria was forced to leave.

One day she heard a radio announcement about free surgeries at the Centro Medico David V. King

The city of San Salvador ranks number three in the world for the most murders per capita, and gang violence, murder and crime are a daily reality for the 6.8 million people of the country. Maria doesn’t give her real name and asks that her photo not be used, out of fear for her safety and the safety of her family. Together with her three children, she fled the capital. Now outside the zone of influence of the hospital, she lost her place in line for her surgery. She moved once more to the district of Usulutan, in the south-west of the country. At this point, Maria had lived with her hernia for 10 years. Maria says that when she went to the national hospital in this district, she was told she needed to find someone to donate four quarts of blood so that she could get the surgery. “I didn’t know anyone to ask for blood,” she says through a translator.

Centro Médico David V. King hernia surgery

Dr. Cervone (left, on operating table) and Dr. Jake Gingerich (right) operate at the Centro Medico David V. King with local medical staff

Maria works as a vendor, selling clothes off a folding table in one of the ubiquitous outdoor markets. One day she heard a radio announcement about free surgeries at the Centro Medico David V. King. “It said, here in the hospital they are going to start general surgery, hernia, and more.” Maria came to the center and was told her surgery could be preformed in January by the visiting American medical staff from Peconic Bay Medical Center. While the surgery would be completely free, she only had to pay a fee of $13.85 for blood tests. “The worst problem is the bad economy,” Maria says. “People can’t do anything because they don’t have the money.” For her surgery, Maria didn’t need to find donations of extra blood. “Thank you for this opportunity,” she says of being at the Centro Medico David V. King. “I am praying to God that everything will go well and trusting in God that everything works out.”

Centro Médico David V. King hernia surgery

Dr. Cervone, Dr. Jake Gingerich, American and El Salvadorian medical staff observe surgery at the Centro Medico David V. King, near Jucuapa, El Salvador

Working together with El Salvadorian medical staff, including an anesthesiologist, surgeon and surgical technicians, Dr. Agostino Cervone – a general surgeon from Long Island’s Peconic Bay Medical Center – and surgical resident Dr. Jake Gingerich, completed a successful hernia repair on Maria.

“I was very impressed with the anesthesia,” Dr. Cervone said after surgery, which lasted two hours, with the patient awake, having received an epidural and medication to help her relax. Dr. Cervone said he was impressed that medical staff in El Salvador – operating with a lack of resources and a small budget – are able to do more, with less.

by Laura Kelly

*the name has been changed to protect the safety and privacy of the patient