Memorial Staff Partner with Community to Provide Care Abroad

Members of ER Abroad helped deliver baby Marco on the first day of their February 2009 visit to Mercy Clinic in Guatemala.

Somewhere in the rural countryside near Tululche, Guatemala, a young boy named Marco has a team from Memorial Medical Center’s Emergency Department to credit for his safe birth three years ago.

The medical team was in Guatemala as part of ER Abroad, a group that visits the Mercy Clinic in Tululche at least twice a year. ER Abroad is an independent 501c(3) organization with which several MMC nurses and other medical professionals, as well as their family members, travel to help provide much-needed healthcare services, medical supplies and money to an impoverished area of Guatemala. The team has made seven trips to Mercy Clinic and its adjoining orphanage, Casa Angelina, since February 2008 and recently expanded with a trip to Kenya in September 2011.

Typically, the type of care the team provides involves treating parasitic infections, lice and scabies, fungal skin infections and aches and pains. But when Marco’s mother arrived the first day of the team’s visit in February 2009 with regular contractions and her water broken, they quickly realized they were about to embark on a team first.
The only supplies the team had brought with them that would be helpful for a baby delivery included a bulb syringe, a neonatal stethoscope and some hygiene kits with clean washcloths and towels. They found a fetal Doppler at the clinic to monitor the baby, and made a makeshift bassinet from a Tupperware crate.

“It was quite something doing that delivery with just parts and pieces we put together,” said Dennis Danner, RN, CEN, ExpressCare at North Dirksen and president and co-founder of ER Abroad. “That clinic is not set up for a delivery. It’s got minimal supplies even for suturing.”

Danner said the trips to Guatemala, which the team tries to make twice yearly, are rewarding because of the obvious good they are able to do while there for just a week’s time. In addition to helping the orphanage and clinic in Tululche, the team also travels to remote villages in the surrounding mountains.

To date, the team has visited 14 different villages plus Guatemala City to help in an orphanage there twice, Danner said. Nearly 40 different nurses, doctors, nurse practitioners and techs have gone on these trips over the years, from several different Memorial departments and from out of state.

Randy Burge, a retired EMT who worked in Memorial’s Emergency Department, said the ER Abroad team was the first organized medical team to visit Mercy Clinic. Most others who travel to the area do construction work for widows and the orphan homes, or provide dental exams.

For he and many of the participants, the trips are addicting.

“In some ways, it’s almost been a spiritual experience, where we’ve all gotten so much out of it,” Burge said. “It’s a very gratifying experience.”

To learn more about ER Abroad, visit