Day 2

You can see this cross from just about everywhere in the heart of town.
You can see this cross from just about everywhere in the heart of town.

Antigua is a beautiful, historic city. Walking down many of the streets feels like you are in a Spanish painting--cobblestone streets, brightly colored buildings, gorgeous flowers and it is all surrounded by breathtaking mountains and three volcanoes.

The Obras Sociales del Hermano Pedro is just what you would expect in this fairy tale setting. The hospital, which is also the setting for the mission's surgical teams, is also far more modern and beautiful that I ever imagined. Most importantly, the Obras is well known in the area for the excellent care that they give their patients. As we toured the facility and met the staff and patients, I could not help but notice it was cleaner than any place that I had ever been. You could eat off the floors. The staff takes pride in showing the patients and permanent residents how much they love and care about them.

The mission began with a full day of triage for the surgical teams. You could tell that a lot of planning had been done both in the United States and here in Guatemala to make sure that everything runs smoothly. The volunteers will perform more than two hundred surgeries this week.

I took a walking tour of the city and quickly noticed a cross high up near the top of a mountain. You can see that cross from just about everywhere in the heart of town. I had to get a better look. It was as if I was being drawn to it. So, one of the mission organizers, Tom Inglesby, arranged for me and my photographer, Bob Wells, to get a closer look. We got a ride to the top of the mountain and then walked down several hundred feet of the mountain to the cross. It was absolutely breathtaking. I can now say that I too have been to the "mountaintop." It gave me a whole new perspective on things. Bob and I took photographs and shot video.

Then came the hard part, getting back to the top. With Tom's help, we started our trek. Then we quickly remembered that we were no longer in Savannah anymore. Antigua is high in the mountains. We've been told that it sits somewhere between an altitude of 5,000 and 7,000 feet. I had not had any problems breathing until then. All of us were panting and hoping we wouldn't need to be rushed back to the Obras to see one of our volunteers, cardiologist Dr. Eugene Nwosu. It took me at least a couple of minutes to get my breathing regulated before I could begin to speak at a normal pace again. In spite of the heart scare, the pictures and the feeling that I got there being near that cross were well worth it.

Send Dawn an email at