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Three Sisters

They came by bus, a two day trip, from the Peten jungle located in the northern most region of Guatemala. They were 6, 8 and 10 years old and they made the trip with their father and 2 small bundles containing their belongings. Several months earlier a missionary doctor had visited their small town. He told them that in early September a group of doctors from the U.S. would be in Antigua to treat children with their disease. All three sisters had been born with large cleft lip and palate defects.

They arrived in Antigua early in the morning while it was still dark and timidly asked for directions to the clinic where the foreign doctors would be seeing patients. When they arrived at the clinic they found a crowd of hundreds of children with their parents huddled in small groups, waiting to see the foreign doctors.

The oldest and middle sister immediately noticed something very odd about many of the children in the crowd. They noticed that many of them had the same ugly defect over their mouth as they did. The youngest sister was too young to go to school and so other children had not made her feel different yet.  She didnít notice anything different about the other children. To her they looked the same as her two older sisters.  The older two sisters knew better, they had already suffered the cruelty of their classmates at school they knew they were very different from other children.

Suddenly the attention of the crowd focused to the street where two large busses pulled up and stopped in front of the clinic. The doors of the busses opened and out stepped many tall, fair skinned foreigners all dressed the same with blue shirts and pants covered with white lab coats. They stayed close together as they pushed their way through the crowd to the front door of the clinic and as quickly as they appeared on the buses they disappeared through the clinic doors.

It was as if knowing that the foreign doctors were in the clinic changed the crowd, all the families became anxious and they seemed to lean both physically and with their hopes toward the entrance to the clinic as though to say, please doctor, treat my child first. The three sisters huddled close to their father, they didnít really understand the crowd, they just felt the push toward the clinic door and so they too pushed toward the door.

Months of hoping had passed since the missionary doctor first told them of the foreign doctors. After months of expectations days of travel and hours of waiting outside the clinic it was time, suddenly they heard their name called and they pushed their way in through the clinic doors. As they were escorted across a large room filled with waiting children it was as though all the eyes in Antigua were on them.  Finally, there they were, standing in front of a small table looking shyly at the ground as the foreigners now focused their attention only on them.

As they stood in front of the doctor he spoke to them but they didnít understand. One of the foreigners spoke words in Spanish that they did understand words like Hola, Como te llamas, cuantos anos tienes, abri la boca, cerra la boca, mira arriba. As one by one each of the sisters followed the orders the doctor looked closely into their mouths and discussed what they was. Even though the sisters didnít understand what the doctors were saying when looking into their mouths they felt safe as the doctor held their hands and caressed their hair. These tall, fair skinned foreigners had something kind about them and just them looking at them made the sisters feel as though everything was going to be fine, these doctors were going to help them. When the doctors were finished examining all three sisters the one foreigner who spoke Spanish told their father that not to let them eat anything that night from midnight on since the next day they would have surgery.  The sisters and their father then left the clinic and found a place under a tree where they would spent the rest of the day and the night waiting for the surgery.

Early the next morning the sisters awoke and made their way with their father to Orphanage Hermano Pedro where they would have surgery. The day was frightening and confusing with waiting, being bathed and dressed in strange clothes, the smells and masked people everywhere in the operating room,  falling asleep on a table with lights everywhere, awakening from this dream and still the same masked people all around talking a strange language.

At the end of that seemingly endless day the three sisters woke one-by-one and were relieved to see a familiar face, their father, even though he too looked frightened. Then as the anesthesia wore off each sister looked around and with a puzzled look saw one another. Though familiar there was something very different about each others face. Their sister now looked like the other children at school.  One of the foreigners brought a mirror and each sister looked at themselves and they too looked like the other children at school.

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Last Updated: February 06, 2008