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Revue Magazine in Guatemala, Articles by Lori Shea

Follow Your Heart

Aortic Valve Replacement in Guatemala City

Sit quietly, breathe deeply, meditate inward, and appreciate the rhythm of your heartbeat. The thumping sound you hear is the mitral and aortic valves of your heart opening and closing to allow your blood to flow like a river of healing energy. Every day, the heart pumps about 2,000 gallons, or 7,500 liters, of blood through these chambers, then throughout 60,000 miles of blood vessels. The heart beats about 100,000 times per day to supply all 75 trillion cells in the body with freshly oxygenated blood.

Four heart chambers work in unison: two atria, or “entrance halls” in Latin, and two ventricles, meaning “little belly” or “Panza chica”, below them. The heart’s contractions force blood through the three leaflets of the aortic valve to the body’s primary artery, the aorta. More importantly, the leaflets snap shut to block a leakage of blood back into the left ventricle.

Delicate valves can suffer from stenosis, becoming blocked by calcification or hardening, so that they constrict the blood flow. Others become floppy and inefficient, allowing for regurgitation, typically known as a “leaky heart valve”. Replacement aortic heart valves could be mechanical, made from durable substances that can exist within the body without infection. Bioprosthetics are biological valve replacements, made from tissue from the patient or a donor. 

Our day starts early at UNICAR Cardiac Surgery Hospital in Guatemala City. By 7:00 am, today’s patient is calm and prepared, ready to undergo open heart surgery, an aortic valve replacement.

The operating room, or “theatre” to our British friends, is exactly that. As with any major production, a crucial part of a live performance happens behind the scenes. Skilled and devoted technicians prepare every tiny detail of the setting, to assure an absolutely flawless performance. 

Wardrobe has selected a sea of blue surgical garments from head to toe, the only exception being the frame of the patient’s chest, at center stage. Lighting design includes huge disks, with specialized O.R. bulbs, which drop from the ceiling to illuminate the scene, because we wouldn’t want to miss a thing.

Entering stage left, the surgical staff interacts seamlessly, with respect and affection, like a tight-knit cast who have been rehearsing their lines together for many years. The doctors’ playlist choice for today’s procedure is Brazilian jazz, Spanish guitars, and “Imagine” by John Lennon. 

In the opening scene, Dra. Carolina Gallardo administers the anesthesia, and Dr. Morales, the cardiovascular perfusionist, prepares the cardiopulmonary bypass machine to take over the patient’s circulation during the operation. For more than an hour, cardiac surgeon Dra. Sandra Dominguez and her assistant prepare the chest cavity and open the pericardium.

Enter our star and director, cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr. Rodolfo Bonilla, with over 30 years of experience performing thousands of cardiac procedures, from angioplasties to CABG, or coronary artery bypass grafts. In this role, the script requires Dr. Bonilla to stop the heart from beating, redirect the blood to the heart-lung machine, remove and replace the faulty heart valve, and then resume blood flow and normal heart rhythm. 

Every sixty seconds, five liters of blood flow over valves that open and close 70 to 80 times, but the doctors and their assistants need to work on a calm heart, with neither fluids nor motion. They must divert the blood to a desk-sized heart-lung machine filled with oxygenators, filters, gauges, pumps, reservoirs, tubes, plugs and clamps. It’s astounding to contemplate the miraculous efficiency and reliability of our little 11-oz heart, squeezing and sucking, opening and closing, doing exactly the same thing for 24 hours every day of our lives.

Four hours later, the delicate surgery is a brilliant success, worthy of the highest critical acclaim. But we hear neither applause nor ovation. Dr. Bonilla and his cardiac surgery team will repeat this procedure tomorrow, and the next day too, just as they have done together for years.

This real-life drama does not end with a curtain closing, but with a following act, the ability to appreciate every day that our hearts continue to be active, healthy and rhythmic. 


It’s important to note that some people experience no symptoms, not even a tiny heart murmur, and still live with the threat of severe aortic valve disease. Without timely surgical intervention, a patient could experience major complications, like an enlarged heart muscle, potentially leading to congestive heart failure.

If your doctor recommends a heart valve replacement, be sure to investigate the level of insurance coverage you can depend on, because without financial assistance, prices for open heart surgery can exceed $200,000 in the United States. In Guatemala, you can depend on medical providers with the same surgical skills and technology as many other private hospitals worldwide. This superior medical attention, including VIP personal care with your medical advocate, will likely cost you less than $26,000. 

Breathe deeply, consider carefully, and follow your heart.

Fun facts about your heart…

  • Every day, the heart creates enough energy to drive a truck 20 miles. In a lifetime, that is equivalent to driving to the moon and back.
  • When the body is at rest, it takes only six seconds for the blood to go from the heart to the lungs and back, only eight seconds for it to go the brain and back, and only 16 seconds for it to reach the toes and travel all the way back to the heart.
  • A kitchen faucet would need to be turned on all the way for at least 45 years to equal the amount of blood pumped by the heart in an average lifetime.
  • Five percent of blood supplies the heart, 15-20% goes to the brain and central nervous system, and 22% goes to the kidneys.
  • In 1929, German surgeon Werner Forssmann (1904-1979) examined the inside of his own heart by threading a catheter into his arm vein and pushing it 20 inches and into his heart, inventing cardiac catheterization, which is now a common procedure.

Aortic Valve Replacement in Guatemala City Sit quietly, breathe deeply, meditate inward, and appreci...

Cancer Treatment in Guatemala ...

Just say the word “cancer” and all sorts of emotions arise. Maybe we remember the sadness and loss of a co-worker or neighbor. Sometimes the grief strikes closer to home, like my husband, or your sister, or worse, a child. But more and more, we are experiencing another set of emotions regarding cancer treatment today: Hope, bravery, triumph, relief, and gratitude.

In the United States, one in six people is expected to suffer from some form of cancer in their lifetime. With this sobering statistic regularly in the news, you have to wonder how this disease might affect your lifestyle, family relationships, and retirement fund.

Determining the most effective course of treatment is not always a clear choice, as it is the result of extensive testing and careful planning by a team of cooperating specialists. Having insurance is no guarantee that you will be protected from major, life-changing expenses. Patients with insurance are thinking carefully before agreeing to treatment because out-of-pocket co-payments for the drugs alone could easily run $20,000 to $50,000 a year in the United States.

In Guatemala, we are proud to offer several cancer treatment centers with top-notch oncologists, hematologists, and pathologists who are able to work in conjunction as a team, together with the surgeons, to impact the patient’s treatment plan toward a successful recovery.

For example, Dr. Linares of Hope Radiotherapy has over 30 years of experience performing 25,000 cancer-related procedures. From university studies in England to extensive research and work at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and then as medical director of the New Orleans Cancer Center, he has brought his skills and expertise back home to us in Guatemala. Offering radiotherapy and brachytherapy, Hope International opened in 2010 with state-of-the-art cancer treatment technology which surpasses the quality available in 60% of cancer hospitals in the United States.

Radiotherapy involves directing a specialized external beam into the tumor to diminish or destroy it, while brachytherapy is a time-release method of implanting seeds that release radiation in specific daily doses. In both of the non-painful treatments, no surrounding tissue is damaged. Comparing prices to the USA, eight weeks of radiotherapy treatment, with five sessions per week, costs under $20,000 in Guatemala, compared to $70-90,000 at private cancer centers in North America.

Also in Guatemala City, Dr. Zetina is a leading figure in Latin America in the field of immunotherapy. At Oncomedica Cancer Consultants, he conducts high-level scientific research on new cancer drugs, here in Guatemala, fully supported by the FDA. Dr. Zetina is a member of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the European Society of Medical Oncology, and of the Chemotherapy Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by Dr. Ezra Greenspan of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.  We are grateful to have the benefit of his many years of cutting-edge skills and research available to us here in Guatemala City.

In many local clinics, well-published hematologists and oncologists are researching the possible benefits of stem cell treatments for cancer patients. Although success rates vary, we look forward to the day when this exciting biotech application could be the source of reliable long-term positive results.

All of the physicians will tell you that early detection is the best hope for a positive outcome. Since it is more difficult to treat patients who may have been mishandled or misdiagnosed by other doctors, the most highly skilled cancer specialists agree that the personal situation of each patient must be carefully analyzed in a holistic manner by the entire team. With careful consideration and deep compassion, they will then decide which treatment plan protocol will fight the cancer growth most effectively for the long term. Patients in Guatemala are confident, relieved, and grateful to know they have the best possible care.

Just say the word “cancer” and all sorts of emotions arise. Maybe we remember the sadness and loss of a co-worker or...

It Can Happen to Anyone, At An...

My own medical adventure in Guatemala

The subject matter was fascinating. Dr. Zetina was presenting detailed clinical reviews of complex cancer cases recently brought before the newly formed “Tumor Board” of the top-notch oncology specialists, in alliance with Hospital El Pilar in Guatemala City. I need to know all about these important developments in order to accurately inform my medical travel clients and to disclose all the compelling facts in my next cancer article. I was studying the charts and listening to the presentation in Spanish, deciphering the medical terminology, translating it to English, condensing to digestible facts and writing my notes. Then, my world became hot, and spun around, and went black. Just like that, in seconds.

With the help of Dr. Linares, I recovered from the seizure a few minutes later, confused, weak and aching like I had just aged 30 years. Beyond the initial incredulity, I was absolutely indignant that my own body could have betrayed me so completely, with no warning, and no mercy. Clearly, I needed some top-of-the-line doctors and specialized high-tech diagnostics right away.

Ever practical, my next thought was, “and how on earth am I going to pay for all this?”  Thankfully, I am in Guatemala, and not some other country, to the north, with no universal health care, and an insanely expensive, convoluted medical system. I know that my Guatemalan doctors will have the skills and patience to diagnose my problem and guide my choices, within days, and for a very honorable fee. 

Well, I figure, I must have eaten something severely funky to have caused my head to detach from my body like the “Exorcist” child, so I made an appointment with my favorite gastroenterologist the next day. We enjoyed a lovely chat, but he recognized it right away as a neurological problem, and I still had a lot of questions to be answered.

Next stop is at the diagnostic center for cerebral magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), electroencephalograph (EEG) and a battery of lab tests. For my clients, I depend on cutting edge technology in Guatemala City every day for everything from pre-op exams to nuclear medicine and positron emission tomography (PET) scans for early cancer detection. I know several hospitals that offer the finest quality diagnostic instrumentation, equal to some of the best hospitals in the world. This time, it had to be perfect, with results delivered to my doctor the same day.

In the elegant 12th floor high-rise office of my neurologist, he patiently interpreted each frame of the MRI for me, with the clinical precision that comes from a lifetime of extensive experience. I was certain that his paternal tenderness and compassionate countenance was just softening me for the final blow: that monstrous, ghastly, grapefruit-sized tumor that had invaded my skull. But no, he assures me, “Everything is clear, well-balanced, and perfectly normal. I can’t find anything wrong with you.” Well, that’s good news, I suppose.

All the best physicians know that family history plays a big role in diagnosing the medical issues that are affecting their patients today. So, now comes the dreaded phone call to my mother, to ask about some crazy old aunt who suffered a brain melt-down, or the poor cousin who “went away” and we don’t talk about him anymore. “No honey, you kids, and all the family were always in perfect health. I can’t imagine what….” 

For the major part of her 86 years, it has been my mother’s mission in life to impart to her children the reasons why things happen, with intuitive clarity, maternal wisdom, and normally a razor-sharp sense of humor. It was painful to hear her now, searching our history, grasping for clues. Then she rallied, triumphant, and gave it her best shot.  “You know dear, they are all alcoholics on your father’s side of the family.” I know Mom, I remember those parties, but I think this is something different.   

Oh no, dear doctor, with all due respect, I’m certain that you must be mistaken.  I couldn’t possibly have heart problems. I’m waaaaaaay too young for that. Up until this day, the only apparent indicators of my “advancing maturity” were reading glasses and a few gray hairs. Agggh, now this. Since the recent renovation, and installation of an entirely new cardiology wing, there is no better choice for cardiology than HHL. So, I had all the tests: 24-hour Holter monitor, ultrasound echocardiogram, and stress test, only for the head of the department to tell me that my heart is the right size, in the right place, and doing exactly what it is supposed to do. Stress? Well, I work 60-80 hours per week. Do you think that might be a problem?   

Within ten days of my medical issue, I consulted with three world-class physicians, had five state-of-the-art diagnostic exams, and eleven lab tests, and then had all the follow-up visits. Total medical expenses: GTQ7500, or US $965.  I’m certain that in some “other country” it might cost up to ten times more, and take a month or two. 

Final Analysis:  A seizure like that will probably never happen again. And I need a vacation. Maybe I should go to Florida and visit my mother.

My own medical adventure in Guatemala The subject matter was fascinating. Dr. Zetina was presenting ...

Dental Care in Guatemala

In the last 10 years, Guatemala has become known as a first-class destination for people seeking high-quality, affordable dental care. In North America and Europe, families are concerned with the high cost of dental procedures. Thanks to instantly accessible internet resources, they can save thousands of dollars by taking advantage of medical and dental options in Central America. 

Joy and Don were facing some routine dental procedures that would have been terribly expensive back home in Indiana. They began searching the internet for a more economical solution for their treatment plans, without sacrificing high-quality materials and personal care. They consulted with medical agents in several different countries before determining that Guatemala was their best choice. Together with the kids and their grandpa, they flew to GUA, knowing that they had dental appointments and all the surrounding details set up for them in advance. 

Having an indulgent spa-dental vacation, without the children, was Lilah’s preference of a treatment plan. She was able to enjoy massages and shopping in between root canals and lab work delivery. Within seven days, the pain was gone, her smile was glowing, and her suitcase was stuffed with textiles and souvenirs for all of her family and friends. The entire dental vacation budget was still $3000 less than what her hometown dentist estimated.

On the other side of the world, John is a civil engineer who has been working with the US government in Afghanistan for 15 years. John had wanted dental implants for a few years, but the cost was out of reach for him, plus he would need several other costly dental treatments to maintain his long-term oral health. When it took him ten days to get to Dubai for an “emergency” dental infection, John knew he needed to get all of his dental work done both quickly and economically. Excellent service, sensible prices and the opportunity to recover in an attractive tourist destination like Guatemala was exactly what he was looking for. 

Closer to home, Sam was on his sailboat in Rio Dulce, on the Caribbean Coast of Guatemala, enjoying the care-free life of a live-aboard cruiser. That is, until the debilitating pain of a dental infection sent him running for the best dentist he could find. Through his medical agent, Sam got a bus ticket, hotel room, and dental appointment at an ultra-modern downtown clinic within 24 hours, paying 25% of what he would in the United States. 

Other dental patients are already traveling in Guatemala, marveling at the architectural monuments, enchanting cultural events, natural wonders, and the genuine kindness of the local residents. Denise was enjoying a relaxing holiday at Lake Atitlan when she discovered that she could get new dentures, a permanent bridge, 3D laser sculpted and perfectly fitted for her here in Guatemala. The old ones were worn out and uncomfortable, so it was a pleasant surprise to buy high-quality dental restoration in Guatemala City at a price she could afford. 

Visitors to Guatemala can now return home with more than snapshots and T-shirts. Show off a dazzling new smile you can be proud of. For the emergency care you need, or an entire prosthodontic reconstruction, Guatemala offers dental professionals with the skills and experience to make it happen within both your budget and your itinerary.

In the last 10 years, Guatemala has become known as a first-class destination for people seeking high-quality, affordabl...

Cardiology Procedures in Guate...

Regulating the electrical rhythm of your heart

Just like the kitchen is the heart beat of your home, the blood pumped from your heart muscle delivers sustenance, stability and the elements of reconstruction to all parts of your body. Your cardiovascular system draws life-giving oxygen from the lungs and delivers it to the brain and organs in a perfectly balanced structural design. So, if the valves get stuck and the plumbing backs up or the electrical system goes haywire, all production slows or stops, and could result in disaster until professional repairs are made. 

The “plumber”, or interventional cardiologist, might look for restrictions in the blood flow by initiating a cardiac catheterization. With these results, he can determine whether the vessels can be dilated by an angioplasty and supported by stents, or if a CABG (coronary artery bypass grafting) surgery is required.  In other cases, the valves might need to be repaired or replaced to regulate pressure at optimum efficiency. 

The “electrician”, or electro physiologist will look at the force and the rhythm of the heart to calculate an irregularity that might inhibit blood flow to the organs. He may determine that an ablation is required to destroy those malformations that are interfering with normal impulses, pressure and rhythm. 


On a Thursday morning in October, I was invited to observe a cardiac ablation procedure at Hospital Herrera Llerandi in Guatemala City. To treat the patient’s arrhythmia, the lead cardiologists insert various specialized wires called electrodes through the veins, and then carefully place them in predetermined areas of the heart. Together with the medical staff, they measure electrical activity to locate the origin of abnormalities and make precise corrections, by burning or altering the areas, to allow for normal electrical stimulation.

The mechanical precision with which the technical team cleared the room from a catheterization and prepared for the following procedure was astounding. No movement was incidental. Their preparations were calculated and reflexive. Every gown, glove, tube, wire and instrument remained sanitized and protected until its release was requested, to perform as required. 

The patient looked at me with a contented smile as he was comfortably positioned on the operating table and sedated. Next to him, a panel of three computer monitors stands ready to follow the catheters through the vein and into the heart, in high definition and real time, with the latest software efficiency from St. Jude Medical Instruments. 

The surgeons humbly explained to me that there is no director in the operating room. Every cardiologist, anesthesiologist, nurse, assistant, and technician is a valuable contributor to the operation, with a clearly defined responsibility. Each job is integral to assuring the success of the procedure. 

To my inexperienced eye, their gestures seemed larger than life, effortless and dignified. With a single nod of consent, the team performed precisely with only one goal in mind, to do the best job they could for the young man on the table. I knew I was watching a sophisticated team, exuding the calm and experience that we all strive for in our professional endeavors: They make it look easy.

The time flew by, and three hours after the patient was wheeled in, the series of procedures was wrapping up and reports were recorded and printed for his file. Between the sterile protection of the face mask secured with Micropore tape, and the blue skullcap pulled tight to thwart the escape of even a single strand, Dr. Leal’s unmistakable squint and twinkle conveyed the words we all want to hear, with all sincerity: “Everything’s going to be alright”.

Neither your home nor your heart can function properly without fluidity and balance. The enemies of your long and happy life, like high stress or deteriorating mechanical systems, can be reversed only with regular monitoring and a commitment to maintaining the highest possible standards.


Do you suffer from heart disease, and could you benefit from having an ablation or other potentially life-saving cardiac procedure?  Will your medical insurance cover the expenses?  If so, that’s great!  Now tell your insurance company that you want to have the procedure performed in Guatemala ($15,000), AND you want an all-expenses-paid, one-month vacation in Central America ($2000), AND they should give you $3,000 in tax-free spending money. You might be surprised by the response because your proposal just saved the company $20,000 compared to the $40,000 that they would normally pay for these procedures in the United States. We might be onto something here. 

Regulating the electrical rhythm of your heart Just like the kitchen is the heart beat of your home,...

Buying Medical Care vs. Buying...

Maintaining healthy bodies and minds is a serious responsibility that requires careful consideration in both our daily lifestyle choices and our long-term financial decisions. We exercise and eat well, drive safely and pay for our health insurance every month. But medical expenses are increasing at 8-20 percent per year while our incomes are not, and the rules are changing. For the benefit of ourselves and our families, we must learn about all the options in order to determine the best possible plan.

Many people would never dream of giving up their medical insurance, for fear of financial ruin due to catastrophic medical expenses. They live in the comfort of knowing their medical coverage is “free” from their employer, or the Veterans Administration, or Medicare. Well, when your knee replacement is $75,000 and a cancer treatment program is $150,000, while insurance companies rack up hundreds of millions in quarterly profits, and fraud is estimated at tens of millions of dollars per year, there is nothing “free” about it at all.

You, the patient or consumer, had your annual salary reduced by about $15,000 so that your employer could offer group health coverage benefits to you. The Medicare check that pays your doctor bills this year was funded by YOU, in the form of paycheck deductions, every week, for the past 30 or 40 years. And the veterans, well, we all know the price they paid.

Private insurance is expensive and many people opt out, hoping that they have enough in savings to cover unexpected medical bills. To save money, they might buy the fear-inducing, Armageddon-anticipating “catastrophic illness” coverage, with a deductible so high, and limitations so lengthy, that you might as well just pay for the bills yourself. We need to make the move to being informed consumers, purchasing quality medical services and products at a fair and reasonable price, instead of policyholders asking permission to get a good value from our health care expenses. 

Maybe cancer is your “worst-case scenario”. In Guatemala, our client paid $6500 for the delicate head &neck surgeon to remove the cancerous tumor that invaded the lymph nodes in his neck. Only four months earlier, he paid over $24,000 for cancer surgery with a well-respected surgeon in Florida to do the same job, but that doctor obviously did not. After a few weeks of healing, Peter was able to start six weeks of daily radiotherapy treatment to totally eradicate his cancer, for $12,000. Now, how do those prices compare with your kitchen renovation or your daughter’s wedding? Maybe it’s not so catastrophic after all.

Do you keep that insurance to cover a one-in-a-million rare, drug-resistant bone infection that requires an astronomically priced, month-long hospital stay and dozens of doctor visits? That happened to our GMT client, and he paid about $125 per night for the hospital room, and $70 each for visits with specialists in laparoscopic microsurgery and infectious diseases, for example. After receiving three surgical procedures, daily IV antibiotic drip for a month, and numerous therapies and medications, he paid only $10,200 in medical expenses until he was 100% healed and ready to return home. For some people, that’s less than one year of insurance premiums.

Kenny felt fortunate that his insurance company covered 80% of his hip replacement. But at $60,000, that still left him paying $12,000 out of pocket.  Total hip replacements are routinely performed in Guatemala’s high-tech hospitals, with state-of-the-art prosthetic implants and globally experienced surgeons, for around $13,000 in 2022. Sure, it’s a big dent on the credit card, but a far cry from bankruptcy or losing your house.

So, what is the best health insurance of all? Get serious about treating your body like the most precious, fragile possession you own, striving to maintain all of your systems in the best possible working order. Keep yourself nourished and lubricated; active and challenged; calm and happy. See your doctor to find out exactly where you stand, and keep enough cash on hand to self-insure in case of serious illness. You can tell those “Billions in profits” and “catastrophic expense” guys that you won’t be buying their products any more. 

You have a better plan.

Maintaining healthy bodies and minds is a serious responsibility that requires careful consideration in both our daily l...

Orthopedic Care in Guatemala

Let’s go for a walk. We lace up our comfy old walking shoes, aim for a scenic flat-surfaced road, and set out to increase our heart rate and muscle tone. With no conscious effort at all, our bones and joints and muscles engage as one miraculous mechanical unit. They propel us forward, as intended, with perfectly syncopated balance and strength. That is, until the pain starts.

Sometimes it’s a dull ache in the hips, or a “slippery”, unstable feeling in the knees that gives you concern while descending the stairs. Walking, especially for longer distances, may cause an uneven cadence or a limp. Ibuprofen and anti-inflammatories can work wonders to reduce discomfort. However, when the pain keeps you up at night and it’s difficult to rise from sitting, it is time to see the doctor.

Your orthopedic specialist in Guatemala City will inquire about your symptoms and perform a physical examination. X-ray images may show loss of the cartilage and a “bone-on-bone” appearance. Bone spurs and bone cysts are commonly seen on high-resolution diagnostic scans like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scans. The goal of arthroscopic or joint replacement surgery (arthroplasty) is to relieve pain and increase the mobility and function of a damaged joint. It is usually considered only when other methods, such as physical therapy, exercise, and medications have failed.

The materials used in artificial joints vary, depending on the type of joint being replaced and how it needs to function. Hip joints, for example, need to be sturdy and able to bear your body’s weight evenly. Knee joints need to be flexible as well as strong. In general, the components must be durable, flexible and able to function in the body without causing an immune system reaction. The implants used for hip and knee replacements in Guatemala are imported from the finest manufacturers in the world, usually ceramic on plastic and always biocompatible, meaning they’re designed to be accepted by your body. You can depend on pain-free function for twenty years or more.

Arthroscopy is a common surgical procedure in which a joint (arthro-) is viewed (-scopy) using a small camera. During the procedure, your orthopedic surgeon inserts the arthroscope, a small camera instrument about the size of a pencil, into your knee joint. The arthroscope sends the image to a high-definition monitor so that your surgeon can see the structures of the knee in great detail. Arthroscopy is a very effective tool that allows your surgeon to feel, repair, or remove damaged tissue. According to the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine, more than 4 million knee arthroscopies are performed worldwide each year.

Recovery is a breeze at the Guatemala Medical Travel recovery guest house in Antigua, known as Casa Muriel. You will be up and walking 24 hours after surgery, return to the house that same day, and enjoy a stress-free recovery. Your RN nurse will check the wound, and the physical therapist monitors your comfort and mobility until the stitches are removed and you can return home.

Guatemalan orthopedic surgeons offer the perfect balance of cutting-edge technical instrumentation, the latest biotech materials, and many years of global training with extensive practical experience. You will see them, together with local and international patients, striding gracefully and confidently into the future.

Let’s go for a walk. We lace up our comfy old walking shoes, aim for a scenic flat-surfaced road, and set out to incre...

Stem Cell Therapy

The future of curing disease and restoring youth

Your body is in a constant state of renewal. With every breath you take, the stem cells inside your body are renewing and regenerating themselves. These seemingly miraculous cells have the ability to transform themselves into brand new healthy cells to replace the damaged or worn-out cells in your muscles, organs, tissues, brain, glands, joints, and bones —virtually any cell in your body. Many scientific studies now indicate that increasing the number of circulating adult stem cells in your body is probably the single most important thing you can do to maintain optimal health.

Adult stem cells are released from bone marrow into the bloodstream. Then, they go searching for tissues and organs in distress. For example, if the heart sends out a cry for help, the traveling stem cells exit the bloodstream, migrate to the heart, multiply and become brand new healthy heart muscle cells to replace the old deteriorating ones.

The replacement therapy process is explained by the director of Medi-Center in Guatemala City: Stem cells are derived from the patient’s own bone marrow or umbilical cord. Blood, fat and skin are also excellent sources of stem cells. In adults, these cells are rare, isolated at a rate of about 1 in 1,000. Immunological reconstitution is done by isolating the patient’s natural killer cells, T cytotoxic cells. They are extracted in a painless procedure, isolated, stimulated, and processed in the laboratory. The new, multi-potent cells are restored to the patient intravenously, in a method much like chelation therapy or dialysis.

The highly skilled stem cell research and transplantation team at Medi-Center offer stem cell transplantation therapy to patients with the same degree of success as any other country in the world, from the United States to South Korea, but at a fraction of the price.

With just a few days of treatment and observation, our Guatemala Medical Travel patients now have the opportunity to live better and longer without resorting to dangerous drugs or invasive surgical techniques.

As an anti-aging property, stem cell regenerative therapies are increasingly used in cosmetic formulations. They work to slow down the aging process of the skin and the supporting muscles to restore not only a youthful appearance, but the vitality and functionality of the organs as well. In all cases, success rates depend on the patient’s age, lifestyle, genetic composition, and metabolism. 

The most exciting therapeutic possibility of stem cell therapies is that it enhances the body’s own natural inclination is to heal itself, effectively reversing the effects of disease and aging. We now have the opportunity to live longer, healthier, happier — feeling “good as new.”

The future of curing disease and restoring youth Your body is in a constant state of renewal. With e...

Guatemala Medical Travel Newsletter Stories


In our global collaborative economy, buyers can source from hundreds of countries, not just in their hometown. The greatest value of user-friendly websites like and is their ability to build trust between strangers to initiate brisk commerce, new friendships and enriching experiences, around the world and in real time.

Imagine learning about all the best medical specialists in Guatemala on-line, then having all the appointments and scheduling with them through Guatemala Medical Travel, in various languages, instantly confirmed. High-resolution magnetic imaging and panoramic dental x-rays can be shared in the cloud and be available for review by cooperating specialists in different countries before they can even answer the phone. By the way, that phone call is free from anywhere in the world with the app of your choice. These days, anyone with internet access is no longer a word-of-mouth common consumer, but a highly enabled virtual marketplace collaborator.

What if we had the power to locate the best doctors and dentists, and buy our medical procedures the same way? Patients and associates can participate by sharing actual experiences, to confirm the doctor’s “reputation capital” defining the value of his or her capabilities, experience and dedication.

Everyone wants to be able to depend on a physician who improves your quality of life, dispels your anxiety, cares about your lifestyle changes, gives you excellent advice, and maybe even saves your life. That authentic connection with your doctor benefits you, the patient and the people you love, for years to come.

Welcome to Guatemala Medical Travel. Take some time to look around the website and meet our medical associates, talk to the nurse advocates, then make an informed choice that’s right for you. You will enjoy a superior medical experience and recovery at a terrific price, in Guatemala.

In our global collaborative economy, buyers can source from hundreds of countries, not just in their hometown. The great...


Working for the airline has its perks – like free flights to local and foreign destinations. Jim and Laura can take advantage of a short 2-hour-20-minute trip from Miami to GUA, and through Guatemala Medical Travel, they can schedule appointments for superior high-tech dental procedures only ten minutes away from the airport. In the elegant 10th floor Dental Design clinic, foreign patients and frequent travelers know they will receive world-class quality dental materials and the warm VIP welcome offered to honored friends and guests – old, and new.

Come back in a couple weeks for bridges and crowns, or in a couple months to finish implants? Not a problem. GMT arranges for airport pick-up and personal services, even dinners and tours. After final adjustments on their new restorations, Jim and Laura head home from vacation with more than just souvenirs and memories. They have healthy teeth and glowing smiles that will last for twenty years.

From Laura…. “Just wanted to thank you again for all you do! We had a really great experience with everything in Guatemala! I have referred you (Guatemala Medical Travel) and the dentists to several people already, including my parents, who just may be coming for periodontal cleanings. After having the first phase of the implants, I’m feeling great! I’m having minimal pain but under control with meds and I slept fine. I’m doing great – All in all, everything is better than expected!”

Working for the airline has its perks – like free flights to local and foreign destinations. Jim and Laura can take ad...


“Sorry, I can’t attend the New Year’s Eve party – I’m having emergency brain surgery, you know.” Now there’s an excuse you don’t get to use too often.

Last December, Walter was a lanky, bright-eyed 70-something retiree enjoying his breezy bungalow, tropical garden and small-town neighbors only a few blocks from the Guatemalan Pacific coast. On an average day, he exited the motor launch and took a good hit to the noggin. This trauma seems to have been the start of the bleeding between Walter’s brain and skull. His hematoma grew slowly at first, then it invaded the entire space, eventually pushing his brain dangerously out of alignment.

Local folks thought it strange when he was acting disoriented, and even fell down several times. Christmas came and went with no improvement, so the neighbors sent Walter to a “free clinic” public hospital where his condition worsened to the point that he could neither speak nor walk. Fortunately, a resourceful friend phoned his family in Arizona, who contacted G.M.T. for help on the morning of the 29th.

The GMT fact-finding mission started with the village neighbors, the U.S. embassy and the Guatemalan Tourist Assistance Board, in order to locate exactly where he was. Then came another flurry of phone calls, hospital release, ambulance transport, and a pile of documentation copied, scanned, and delivered in triplicate to everyone involved. By 4:00 in the afternoon, Walter arrived at the ER at one of the best private hospitals in the city, and was admitted to the ICU under the cautious care of Dr. Matheu, neurosurgeon. 

I was finishing one of a dozen calls to his brother and sister-in-law that night when Dr. Matheu called me to say that Walter’s condition had deteriorated and was now life-threatening. “He needs surgery urgently for any chance of recovery.” They were prepping him for surgery in the morning. “But the wire transfer… there’s no money yet… this surgery is expensive…. No banking for two days, and processing, and delays…. Well, who knows WHAT could happen?” My 1-10 stress meter shot up to around 15 by now.

Dr. Matheu smiled at me in his normal light-hearted way, and said, “Don’t worry, Lori. We’re just going to go in and save his life and everything will be okay.” And they did. And it was. Okay!

Of course, there’s a whole lot more to the story, so if you’re down by the beach, look for the breezy bungalow with the lush garden, or find Walter walking his dog over at the beachfront hotel. You also might ask him to share his “death defying” story, so be sure to clear your schedule and settle in for a few hours, because you’ll be hearing about one crazy incredible odyssey.  

*Two months later in early March, Walter adds: “I continue to be active and have no symptoms resulting from the injury.  I am lucky and grateful.  I’ve been traveling nine days in Mexico on chicken buses and I am in excellent condition for a man my age.” 

“Sorry, I can’t attend the New Year’s Eve party – I’m having emergency brain surgery, you know.” No...


After enjoying a fortunate life of good health and plenty of physical activity, Linda was thinking that after turning 60, it’s wise to get some thorough medical check-ups, like tune-up and repairs, from head to toe. Considering the outrageous medical expenses in the United States, and the “low price for high quality” value in Guatemala, Linda knew what she had to do to complete her medical agenda.

The flight from Florida to Guatemala City is the easy part – less than two and half hours away. Linda knew that scheduling consultations, exams, diagnostics, procedures, and follow up visits with unknown doctors and hospitals in a foreign country would be nearly impossible, so she contacted the patient advocate specialists at Guatemala Medical Travel. Linda’s primary concern was to get some treatment and relief of that old shoulder impingement that was limiting her range of motion. The orthopedic surgeon in Guatemala determined that she would need an arthroscopic procedure to release her shoulder that had become “frozen”.

Moving forward with the schedule, a routine colonoscopy with our gastroenterologist extraordinaire was next on the list. Linda says, “In the States, it is an expensive procedure and therefore many people forgo doing it. It was a nice touch in Guatemala that I was served a nice breakfast, after 15 hours fasting, and had time to recover in a private room after the procedure. It was a very thoughtful addition.”

Linda had internal check-ups and diagnostic procedures with four different specialists in only two days. They discussed various options, but basically assured her that all organs and systems were operating efficiently and smoothly, as expected. To round out the “medical travel whirlwind”, Linda’s G.M.T. nurse companion accompanied her to the dermatologist for a methodical, magnified investigation of every little bump and spot. Linda left there with a positive evaluation and some excellent advice about how to keep her skin looking healthy and youthful.

Stress and worry upset the body’s natural inclination to heal itself. Linda’s entire medical experience was well under control with the business and nursing attention of G.M.T., so that her only responsibility was to relax, and heal, and plan how to spend the rest of her peaceful Guatemala vacation.

After enjoying a fortunate life of good health and plenty of physical activity, Linda was thinking that after turning 60...


If you want to celebrate your 70th birthday in style, with all of your sailing and traveling buddies, Rio Dulce Guatemala is the place to do it. Our friend Emy survived dancing on the bar and having a grand time with the old pirate crew, but on the short jungle pathway home, a stray tree root reached out and grabbed her foot. (Well, that’s the way she tells it, anyway).

Emy gracefully met the ground with both hands bracing, but on impact, the bones around her left elbow shattered. After a few days, the swelling and pain were increasing, so she knew it was time to call Guatemala Medical Travel, hire the pros, and go to the city for a proper evaluation with an orthopedic specialist. Her orthopedic surgeon said, “This is a terrible fracture, completely displaced, and the prognosis is worse when there is cartilage involved.” Elbow surgery was scheduled for the following week.

During that week, while we waited for Emy’s swelling to reduce, the GMT staff were busy with preparations: checking on patient progress, negotiating expenses with the hospital, securing availability of medications, scheduling accommodations, and discussing every detail in anticipation of Emily’s full recovery and total personal comfort.

At her one-month follow-up, the surgeon sees 80% fusion with the bones and very good range of motion. Even better, the patient is dedicated to continuing therapy, and she reports no pain at all.

Emy says, “I totally appreciate the exceptional care from the guapo Dr. C. and the professional competence carried out by GMT. I had not seen a doctor in all my time in Guatemala and had no idea where to look, so the guidance of a knowledgeable agent was invaluable to me and my recovery.”

If you want to celebrate your 70th birthday in style, with all of your sailing and traveling buddies, Ri...


“Of course, Mr. M., we would be happy to help you to receive the finest global-quality medical attention in Guatemala as soon as you arrive.” 

G.M.T. Patient Advocate: OK, now let’s review please, to be sure that I get this right….

#1 — The cancer patient has had first class work-ups at the NIH/ National Cancer Institute, Johns Hopkins Cancer Center, Georgetown U. Medical Center and MD Anderson.

#2 – All of their oncologists agree that a prescription for Yondelis/ Trabectedin chemotherapy will be the best course of treatment for the patient.

#3 – You have excellent insurance coverage with Blue Cross, and they agree to pay for all the medical expenses associated with the chemotherapy.

#4 – Yondelis was co-developed by Johnson & Johnson, approved for the European market in 2007, and is successfully used world-wide, but is still not FDA-approved in America?

Cancer Patient: Yes, that’s correct. We will need to fly from Virginia to Guatemala every three weeks for the injections.

GMT: I understand. Let’s get started right away.

“Of course, Mr. M., we would be happy to help you to receive the finest global-quality medical attention in Guatemala ...


Most Guatemala Medical Travel clients arrive from other countries, but sometimes we have a request from loved ones or guardians to care for local residents who may not have the contacts or resources to navigate the top-notch private hospital system by themselves.

After Sr. Perez, a resident of San Marcos Guatemala, suffered an industrial accident while working in Florida, he was in a terrible state, requiring several surgeries to bring his sight, hearing, balance and speech back to normal. His U.S. insurance company would pay for the expenses, but was impossible for them to oversee his care in a foreign country.

They trust Guatemala Medical Travel to coordinate procedures with the most skilled and reliable providers in Guatemala City, so that Sr. Perez was able to have all of his medical attention close to his home and at a fraction of the price.

When the son of Sra. Gomez was not able to travel from the United States to Guatemala to care for his dying mother, he called G.M.T. to arrange for transport to the best possible healthcare facility, with our known and trusted hospital associates. Both of the Guatemala Medical Travel clients, and their families, are grateful for the life-changing medical attention that they may not have received without an international medical advocate to be their representative.

Most Guatemala Medical Travel clients arrive from other countries, but sometimes we have a request from loved ...


Mia is a free-spirit and world traveler, well-known for several years around her pied-a-terre, Antigua Guatemala. During a care-free bicycle ride in Galway Ireland, she was struck by a car and suffered steadily degenerating back and neck injuries. The driver was at fault and an insurance settlement is in the process. Determined as ever, Mia continued with her round-the-world travel plans to Malaysia, South Africa, and beyond.

Fast-forward to this month — Mia returned to Guatemala to arrange for her medical care under the careful management of Guatemala Medical Travel, because she knows that the professional attention and personal care she receives here are of the highest quality. Another bonus is that the insurance funding will cover the medical expenses, with some much-needed cash leftover.

The orthopedic surgeon has diagnosed two fractures, requiring both lumbar and cervical procedures. The GMT administrative staff is busy preparing and submitting all the medical, legal and financial documentation from this end, in preparation of receiving a satisfactory settlement.

We hope that Mia will soon have the two successful surgeries behind her, so she can start working on the therapy that will restore her normal level of activity. But please, the doctor’s orders are: “No boogie-boarding, jungle trekking, or mountain biking”, at least not for now.

Mia is a free-spirit and world traveler, well-known for several years around her pied-a-terre, Antigua Guatemala. During...


Kieran had been back-packing through South and Central America, and then immersing himself in the various cultures and volunteering in villages of the highlands of Guatemala. He is young and active, so when a medical condition needed fast attention, he called Guatemala Medical Travel to handle the preparation and then schedule a routine procedure in Guatemala City the following week.

The operation and recovery were a great success. The staff of Angie’s Place even threw a little birthday party to be sure he wasn’t alone on his special day. Kieran had excellent medical care, and after a few weeks to relax and take it easy, a successful recovery. Overall, his medical outcome and impression of Guatemala were nothing but positive.

A week later, he says, “I felt very confident in my surgeon’s qualifications and ability. I had no problems communicating with him in English and I found him to be straight to the point. The clinic was clean and the staff were professional. I had originally thought of having surgery in México but I am glad I chose Guatemala and Dr Mishaan, as the service from the whole team was prompt and very helpful. Lori and Jade were both brilliant and I would certainly recommend them to anyone.”

Kieran had been back-packing through South and Central America, and then immersing himself in the various cultures and v...

Interviews with Lori Shea


Anyone who has ever hired a good financial planner, defense attorney, real estate agent or security consultant understands the value of having a professional insider by their side to guide choices, saving time and money, and ultimately assuring the best possible outcome. We have the contacts and organizational skills to effectively negotiate every detail of the process, offering VIP medical services in Guatemala, generously and sincerely, at a fraction of the price you might pay in the United States.
Years ago, I was helping my friends in Rio Dulce find medical care here and the quality of medical skills and expertise I found here was just astounding. When my friends from Key West started coming for surgeries, and paying 60-80% less than they would in the U.S., I recognized this as a tremendously valuable resource that more people need to know about.

I developed the concept, researched the global industry of medical tourism then wrote and designed the first GMT website. We went live on-line in November 2009.
We have spent many years establishing professional relationships with the absolute best doctors in the country, and we trust them completely. Other medical tourism companies sell surgical procedures in many different countries and know nothing about the quality of care the physicians provide. They sell hospital services based on who pays the most for advertising and patient referrals. The staff and managers of Guatemala Medical Travel live and work here every day, so we know the Guatemalan medical providers better than anyone.
The doctors we choose for the GMT network were educated at some of the best universities in the world. They demand surgical instrumentation, supplies and support staff of the highest global quality standards. Without legal, corporate and government restrictions interfering, they can be totally honest about what the patient really needs, and does not need, as well as what they might want to choose for alternatives. The Guatemalan in which they practice are on the same par with modern high-tech hospitals around the world.
Communication and coordination are what we do best. All physicians and GMT representatives speak Spanish and English fluently and many speak German and French as well. Detailed financial statements and complex insurance forms are professionally prepared by a US-trained accountant. And, we have sophisticated communication and financial outlets set up and ready to bring it all together seamlessly.
When patients leave the hospital, they return to our patient recovery guesthouse, Casa Muriel in Antigua with daily nursing care and 24-hour assistance in a luxurious, tranquil private home. The surgeons are grateful to have us overseeing their instructions beyond the office and hospital. They know that the patient’s successful outcome and stress-free outcome reflect well on all of the country’s medical providers, as well as the impression of Guatemala to the rest of the world.