A group of volunteers from Cape Breton's medical community are going on a surgical mission to Guatemala to help scores of people who would not otherwise be able to afford the operations they need to live a normal life.
Dr. Rex Dunn, a semi-retired surgeon from the Sydney area, and two other surgeons, along with an anaesthetist, and a number of operating and recovery room nurses form a group of 13 heading to Guatelmala City in early February.
This will be the third consecutive year Dunn, and the group's founder, Dr. Elwood MacMullin, have taken on this cause.
"It was amazing," Dunn said, "how many people jumped at the opportunity to go."
When the team arrives in the Central American country, he said they will examine about a hundred people in a clinic. Those selected as candidates for surgery are from what he calls "the jungles of Guatemala."
"They have no access to any kind of surgical care," Dunn said. "No elective surgery at all, unless they can afford it — and they simply can't."
Dunn said surgeries will range from gall bladder removal, to fixing urinary problems, to removing irregular cysts and skin tumours.
What stands out for him in prior missions is the satisfaction of repairing a hernia "sometimes the size of a football" that prevents a person from working and providing for their family.
He estimates that over the five-day period the Cape Breton group is there, they will perform 70 to 80 surgeries.
In the meantime the group is working to raise $50,000 to pay all costs for the patients, including transportation, lodging and food.
A fundraising concert has been organized for Jan. 23 at Glace Bay's Savoy Theatre, which Dunn is confident will bring in several thousand dollars. The doctors and nurses are paying for their own travel and accommodation.
Dunn gives a special "shout out" to the local business community for its generosity in helping raise funds for this trip.
"This is not a program for Cape Breton people, it's a program for the people of the world, and they get that. It's wonderful."