Patient stories

Meeting Elsa Lorena


Elsa Lorena and I bonded in the car listening to La Mega Mundial, one of the local Spanish radio stations here in Atlanta. The hit song right now is El Perdon. When the song came on, It was a moment when we both felt like we were back home in Guatemala, where there is family, work we’re passionate about, and tortillas.

We also spent a lot of time in the airport together. That’s a long and boring story, but to say we spent three days together and two were in an airport. With that and swapping stories over coffee, black beans, eggs and tortillas, I learned a little bit more about Elsa Lorena.

Elsa Lorena, who also goes by her second name (Lorena), is a public high school teacher in San Andres Semetebaj. I had the pleasure of knowing the institute where she works when I went to give an adolescent pregnancy workshop in May of this year. By coincidence we found out we were both there that day, but that her students were taking a test and not in the workshop.

IEB San Andres Semetebaj, May 2015  (Junior High School where Elsa works)

IEB San Andres Semetebaj, May 2015  (Junior High School where Elsa works)

Of course with my Americanisms in mind, I asked if they were in summer vacation yet. They are not. She is actually taking unpaid leave and may not have a job when she comes back. Finding a teaching position is very competitive in Guatemala, and oftentimes it is hard to even be able to work at a school within an hour of where you live, so it’s a big deal that she is HERE in the United States and potentially sacrificing a position that is conveniently located in the urban center of San Andres Semetebaj, where she lives.

And did we mention she’s expecting? She is just entering her second trimester! This will be her fourth child, which she is excited about. Lorena Guiselle is her oldest daughter and she has left two small children at home, just another sacrifice she’s made to be with her daughter during this time.  However, she is doing her best to not feel worried, because her husband says it isn’t good for her to be worried all the time. She’s willing to make the best of it though.

I wish she could contribute her own voice to this conversation, but later on when things settle down hopefully she will have a chance to write her own story. For now, its second hand, third person and the best I can do.

Lorena Guiselle makes it to the U.S. for Medical Care!

In May 2014, we met Elsa and Lorena, a family from the small city of San Andres Semetebaj, Sololá, Guatemala. They came to the medical mission for a consultation with Dr. Devan Griner, a pediatric plastic surgeon and committed volunteer.

Lorena Guiselle

When we met Lorena Guiselle, we learned that 40% of her body was burned when she was 4 years old and that has led to loss of use of her left arm and scarring across her body. It is a miracle she survived the burns that she sustained after touching a high voltage device that launched her from the roof of their home to the roof of another building, leaving her body badly burned without proper specialty care. While the national hospital in the capital city (about 4 hours from her home in Sololá) did everything they could to help, the lack of resources and specialized medicine left Lorena with scars that have affected the development her muscles and limbs. The treatment she requires is advanced and required more than could be done in the span of a one week medical service trip. Our volunteers were not satisfied with sending her home without treatment, and explored the option of sending her to the U.S. for surgery.

After nearly a year of fundraising, organizing paperwork, obtaining visas, and homestays for the family, we have accomplished bringing Lorena Guiselle and her mother, Elsa Lorena, to the Shriner’s hospital in Salt Lake City. This is a big moment for us, not just because it accomplishes our desire to create binational relationships that can enrich lives and share the gift of health, it also demonstrates the strength and commitment of our volunteers to do the same. We are impressed by the amazing hearts of many volunteers, including new volunteers who have joined our family to support Lorena Guiselle and her mother. We appreciate everyone who has contributed to making this possible in the past year! It would not be possible without your support! And of course, we also recognize that this would not be possible without the commitment of Lorena’s family to her wellbeing and their willingness to make this sacrifice. It has not been easy.

One of Love in Action volunteers Jami Huntington requested medical assistance from The Shriner Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah where she previously worked. The Hospital required Lorena Guiselle to travel with her mother or father to the United States with her. Also it was required us to show proof of living accommodations in the Salt Lake area transportation arrangements to/from the Hospital.

There were four families who were willing to host Lorena and her mother. One of those families was selected to host them. After several months of getting all the paper work in order, passports, visas and airplane tickets purchased thanks to donations of generous volunteers.
— Miriam Lemon, Founder of Love in Action Mission

We will be keeping you updated on Lorena’s story as she and her mother take on this journey. We have received permission from Elsa Lorena (her mother) to share their background and experiences and she gives this access in gratitude to all those who made it possible.

So keep your eyes open, because you will get a chance to peek in on a special moment for Lorena Guisellse her family, the Love in Action Mission, and for the family who has so graciously welcomed them in their home. Always keep in mind that this will come in fragments, and can’t always fully give voice to Lorena Guiselle, her mother, their culture, their experiences and perspectives. (But we’ll try our best!)

Lorena Guiselle and Elsa Lorena First Days in U.S.

Lorena Guiselle and Elsa Lorena on the Walnut Street Bridge, Chattanooga, TN

Lorena Guiselle and Elsa Lorena on the Walnut Street Bridge, Chattanooga, TN

Lorena Guiselle’s first stop in the USA was in TN and  Atlanta.  Since they had to stop somewhere between and Guatemala and Utah, we decided to provide the opportunity to see a little more of the USA and spend time getting to know our family.

Guiselle and her mother  Elsa Lorena arrived to Atlanta  on a Friday May  29 and spent the weekend in Chattanooga where they learned  a little bit of American Life.

She enjoyed a visit to the Aquarium,  Coolidge Park  where she  was  able to go on a merry go round  ride.

We also walked  across the TN river. She was shy but we were able to know she was enjoying her time.


She told me her favorite food is Hamburgers.  My husband thought she has to try  a home made  grilled hamburger so  he prepared some for dinner.


After dinner we watched cartoon movies in Spanish.  On Sunday Lorena Guiselle and her mom went to church with me.  After church a blessing was given to Guisselle . It was a  beautiful blessing promising that she will get heal and a reaffirmation of the great love our Heavenly Father has for her.

After church we had dinner with my family. They both enjoy the time since all of us speak Spanish.

Lorena  later that evening we went for a walk around the lake. She enjoyed the ducks.

I wish was able to spend more time with such sweet ladies. Listening from Elsa Lorena the story of what happened to her daughter when she was 4 years old and what they have gone through  was very touching. 

My daughter Emily spent the following couple of days as they had some challenges with the airline overbooking their flight.  Emily took them to the store purchased a prepaid phone so that they had a way to communicate in case of an emergency. She prepared their everyday Chapin meal for them.

It is such a good feeling to know that they will be well care for amazing families and doctors  in Utah. As we said bye we promised to keep in touch  to pray for them daily and continue helping them in any way possible.