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From Minnesota to Honduras: A Mission Story

Published in Inside CentraCare, For the Health of It Author: CentraCare

For many, being a health care provider is a calling. Those health care heroes change people’s lives.

That has never been more apparent than when Amy Miller, RN, joined a medical mission team to Honduras in February 2020.

Amy was part of an oncology (cancer) surgery team led by Surgical Oncologist Todd Tuttle, MD, from the University of Minnesota Health. About 35 volunteers from across the United States traveled to Honduras to work alongside the local Honduran staff.

Amy Miller, RN, and Dr. Tuttle
Amy Miller, RN, and Dr. Tuttle
The local staff provides orthopedic surgeries year-round and follow-up care for the oncology and general surgery patients who are treated by medical mission groups.

“Participating in a medical mission fulfilled a lifelong goal of mine,” Amy said.

The week-long trip was organized by One World Surgery, which operates the Holy Family Surgery Center in Honduras. The surgery center has three operating rooms, seven overnight recovery bays, a dental clinic and an eye clinic.

“The trip was even more special to me because I could share it with my husband and nephew, who served as general volunteers, and my niece, who is a physician’s assistant,” Amy said.

Amy Miller, Austin Tersteeg, Olivia; Elizabeth Schlegelmilch,  Hershey, Penn.; and Steve Miller
Amy Miller, Paynesville; Austin Tersteeg, Olivia; Elizabeth Schlegelmilch, Hershey, Penn.; and Steve Miller, Paynesville
The surgery center shares property with a home for 300 orphaned and abandoned children, so there was plenty of work for the general volunteers.

“My nephew enjoyed cleaning and preparing the operating rooms, but my husband preferred working on the farm or in the kitchen, where he cracked and cooked 1,200 eggs over a wood stove one morning!”

In the chronically underfunded health system of Honduras, surgical care is widely inaccessible to the poor, and few patients can afford the high cost of surgery. But thanks to teams of volunteers, the Holy Family Surgery Center provides free, life-changing surgeries.

“I loved working pre-op because it gave me the opportunity to visit with the patients as I admitted them, started their IVs and prepared them for surgery,” Amy said. “Everyone has a story — and many of these were heart-wrenching. When I arrived at the surgery center at 5:30 every morning, many of the patients would already be waiting. Every patient I worked with was so grateful for the care they were receiving — never complaining about their 15-hour bus ride to get there or the long waits they often endured in our stark pre-op.”

One World Surgery is working to open another surgery center in the Dominican Republic. Amy and her husband hope to volunteer in the Dominican Republic next year. Even though she recently retired from CentraCare – Paynesville, her passion for helping people remains strong.

“We are so aware and appreciative of the abundance we have in our own lives, and hope to help those in need,” Amy said. “I highly recommend this life-changing adventure because the need is so great and the whole experience is so amazing.”