Guatemalan man gets surgery donated from Houston surgeon

HOUSTON – A man is recovering after an operation he's needed for 20 years. After numerous unsuccessful surgeries in Guatemala, a local nonprofit helped get the man to Houston for the procedure.

Twenty years ago this week, Juan Alberto Sandoval was hit by a bus in Guatemala.

He said he was hospitalized for three years following the accident, he's been through countless surgeries for pain, infections and the removal of one leg. More recently, he had a surgery in an effort to save his other leg.

"Mi esperanza es caminar," Sandoval said, noting that his only wish is to walk one day without a wheelchair.

So in Guatemala, the medical missionary Faith in Practice introduced him to orthopedic surgeon Dr. Brian Parsley of Memorial Hermann Orthopedic & Spine Hospital.


Parsley said the surgery he needed was not safe in Guatemala, with too many risks of more infection with very little bone left to work with on his left leg. So, with contributions from Parsley and others, Sandoval flew to Houston where doctors donated their time for the operation.

"We all have skills, we all have gifts, it's what you do with them that makes a difference," Parsley said.

During the operation, Parsley said the replacement knee should bond with the remainder of Sandoval's bone, which will save his leg.

However, there is an extraordinary amount of scar tissue from previous surgeries and he has to reconstruct a tendon. That means Sandoval might not have full range of motion, but the doctor is confident the end goal is still possible.

"The goal is to get Juan up and walking again with a new artificial knee that works for many, many years in the future," the doctor said.

For the immediate future, Sandoval will stay in Houston a few weeks before returning to Guatemala. If the recovery goes well, he'll be walking back into the arms of his children.

Parsley visits Guatemala several times a year with Faith in Practice. He is able to follow the progress of patients like Sandoval.