Physical Therapy Students Complete a Mission Trip to Guatemala

Nov 8, 2022

by FSC Staff

Current Florida Southern College physical therapy majors, Estefania Delgadillo ’23 and Phillip Ting ’22, went on a weeklong mission trip to Guatemala with Trustee Dr. Keith Berend ’92 and Team Hope in Motion.

“I think this trip allowed me to find my ‘niche’ in the sense that this is something I want to keep doing every year,” Delgadillo said. “I am hoping to go again in March depending on my school schedule, but even after I graduate. I was inspired when I talked to other team members and heard how some of them are on their 18th trip, and I thought that one day I would love to be able to say the same thing.”

Estefania Delgadillo teaching a post-op patient how to use the stairs.
Photo taken by physical therapist McKenna Shives

Delgadillo, who is a Lakeland native, was able to work in the pre-op room with one of the anesthesiologists, interpreting and aiding him with different nerve blocks, which she had never done before. She also worked in the recovery room the entire time as a student physical therapist.

“When I started physical therapy school, I never even imagined that a year later I would be serving others in another country far from home,” Delgadillo said.

Ting, who is from San Jose, Calif., was able to assist in two total hip and two total knee replacements. He said he was able to appreciate the physiological changes that happen to bones, ligaments, and muscles when injuries and deformities occur. The trip with Team HIM reinforced his education and career decisions.

“Being on this trip helped me appreciate physical therapy in many different facets,” Ting said. “This trip was the exclamation point to my decision to pursue physical therapy as a career.”

Ting Assisting Patient with Walker
Phillip Ting assisting a patient using a walker

Team HIM, formally Operation Walk Midwest, was started in Los Angeles in 1995 by Dr. Lawrence D. Dorr, M.D. It is a volunteer medical humanitarian organization that provides the gift of mobility through life-changing joint replacement surgeries, at no cost, for those in need around the world.

“Prior to the trip I was not aware of what Team HIM was,” Delgadillo said. “I had heard of other groups who go out to provide free medical service in other countries, but most of them were eye surgery or cleft lip repairs, so I thought it was very interesting to hear of a group that was just orthopedic, which involved physical therapy as well.”

Delgadillo and Ting found out about the trip towards the end of the summer 2022 semester. Dr. Nancy Nuzzo, Ph.D., PT, CEEAA, and Dean of the FSC school of physical therapy informed students about the requirements for the trip. Being bilingual was one of them.

“During this trip my responsibilities varied a bit since I am bilingual,” Delgadillo said. “The first day at the hospital all I did was interpret for the anesthesiologists during triage. I got to meet many of the patients I would later treat, and I basically acted as a mediator while the anesthesiologists collected all of their information.”

Ting Assisting Patient with Walker
McKenna Shives and Estefania Delgadillo with a post-op quarantine patient, taken by hospital staff

Ting was not as fluent in Spanish, but he was still able to provide care for patients.

“What stuck out to me during the trip was interacting with a patient who just had a total knee replacement and learning Spanish on the fly,” Ting said. “In the beginning of the trip, I remembered apologizing to the patient for not being able to speak fluent Spanish, but she looked me in the eyes and told me with a smile, ‘It doesn't matter.’”

Delgadillo said the Guatemalan patients taught her to be grateful and thankful.

“I will never forget the team meeting we had the night we arrived,” she said. “One of the speakers mentioned that while we put our life on hold for one week to go on this trip, the people awaiting surgery have been praying and hoping for this miracle for so long. I think it really put things into perspective of how blessed many Americans are, and how at times we forget to stop and really be thankful for what we have.”

Walk to hospital
The walk to the hospital, taken by Estefania Delgadillo

Ting also came back to the U.S. with an attitude of gratitude.

“I learned how fortunate we are in America to have easier access to healthcare and how grateful the people of Guatemala were to have life-changing surgeries and medical care regardless of the language and cultural barriers,” he said.

Delgadillo and Ting were able to go on the life-changing trip to Guatemala due to assistance from Dr. Berend who works with Team HIM.

“It was so rewarding and at the same time humbling to have the FSC DPT students join Team Hope in Motion for our annual Christian Medical Mission Trip to Guatemala this year,” Dr. Berend said. “With [Florida] Southern’s emphasis and dedication to experiential learning, it seemed like the perfect opportunity for the DPT students to provide hands-on physical therapy and translating services to the most critically in-need patients. While directly impacting the 61 lives we changed on our trip, Estefania and Philip’s lives were hopefully also changed through this collaboration. Perhaps this can serve as an example, a template, or a motivator for other FSC alumni to consider working with Florida Southern students in their careers, their outreach, or their own missions.”

The goal of Team HIM is to build their more than 20-year history of medical missions and to form a long-term partnership with Faith in Practice that will enable Team HIM to send groups to Guatemala on an annual basis.

Guatemala Lanscape