Friday, November 30, 2012

Last Surgical Day!

The Operating Rooms are being packed up, medical records are separating charts, and post-op. has a new batch of children all with beautiful new lips.

It is bitter sweet to be ending today! I am exhausted, but have gotten really close to a handful of patients. It makes me sad to know there are some we could not operate on for a variety of reasons, and that some had to be turned away for others!

This mission has been exceptional, from all angles. We screened 242 patients, and did 185 surgeries in 4 1/2 days. That is 185 lives changed with surgery, and hopefully more by receiving other medical services.

Our team of international and local volunteers have all been incredible to work with! They are all so very patient, compassionate, and put the children and families first. I am going to miss my international friends! I only hope we can all stay in touch and see them again on a mission.

There were bumps in the road on this mission, and I have to admit I shed a few tears and got really mad! However, in the end the children were our reason for being here, and that is evident in what we accomplished.

I wanted and needed to do something meaningful! Something that would recharge my battery, because we all get complacent in our jobs no matter what we do! I needed to be reminded that meaningful does not always have to be something like going to another country on a medical mission, which is truly amazing, but it can come from a simple smile or validation of feelings for those who really need it!

I hope I can use this reminder in my own life at home and don't allow myself to get so caught up that I feel like making a difference cannot be done on a daily basis!

Being here has reminded me of who I am, how I want to feel daily even at my own
job, and has given me something back that has felt absent in my life!

I am truly humbled by the people of the Philippines, their hospitality, trust, and gratitude. They are amazing people who enjoy life for the opportunities it provides them.

I am off to the second leg of the journey tomorrow, and hope that it will be as inspiring as the mission has been!

Highlights for today:

My buddy Frank went home! I hope he emails me! See picture of me and Frank below! He is 13 and is such a sweet kid!
Ciriaco went home as well today! His letter is still in my bag! Sweet young man!
Surgeries were over by 1:30 but stayed to help until 4:00, so little early day!
Grisha finally chatted with me- this was one if my goals this week! He is so shy you can hardly get anything out of him! Really nice, and has come to talk more now!
Beautiful lips out of O.R. today! Families so happy!
Hanging out tonight!!! No Function to go to!!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Last Full Day of Surgery

It is amazing to me what we take for granted In the U.S. a simple thing like a magna-doodle is new to a lot of these children and adults. It is fun to watch their excitement over new toys or when they figure out it does something cool.

The movies are exciting for the kids and the parents. Today I had to ask parents to leave the area to make room for new families simply because they wanted to watch the movies. It really has been a great distraction for their very long wait!

I just don't want to see Tangled, Up, Cinderella, or Rio for a long while!

Our schedule was packed with 43 surgeries today, which was busy! However, I really enjoyed the patients! I was sad to see we had a lot of older palates again today, but I have to feel the surgery will give them opportunities to work on their speech!

I received another letter today from a young man. I don't know why he gave it to me, but it was a lovely letter thanking the team and expressing his desire for God to bless us. It was a really sweet letter that I hope I can read in our team meeting tomorrow! No proposal letters yet, but I can always hold out for one!

It really breaks my heart that these children have to wait so long without food or drink. The schedule really works to get the youngest in first, but with so many young children some have to wait until 4:00 or later to go to surgery. In a third world or developing country food is very important, take that away and it is hard for young children especially to understand.

I plan on organizing the pictures when I get back to a better before and after sequence. It is hard to do from my phone. It really is amazing to see the difference, especially if I can get shots of the kids as they come back for follow up.

Highlights of the day:

Another smooth day of surgeries with little complications.
Letter from Ciriaco Torres
Giving out toys to kids
Michael and Finola- wonderful couple from Ireland who are still so much in love! Inspiring to watch them.
Being able to see some if the follow up patients. Don't usually get to do that!
Mary Joy doing well and went home

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Hump Day

It is Wednesday and it is the hardest day of the mission. Everyone is pretty tired, a little cranky, and if not careful can make mistakes. Good thing our theme today is wacky hat day!

So the morning started with eight tiny little lips, 28 palates, and ended with five lips again! It was a quicker day because the average age even for the palate was 2-4years of age, with a few older ones added in, which is such a drastic change from watching Wilson who was 26 and still had an open palate. The younger the better!

The kids today were really happy, especially in the morning! Even the little babies seemed to go back to the operating room with no problem . The whole day had just been smooth, which I hope continues for the next day and a half!

It was hard this morning when all the young mothers were crying when their babies went back! Me not being a mom I can't fully relate, but I can see their fear, which then makes me cry. So basically we all were a crying mess this morning at 7:00.

However, the day got much better! I had a lot of fun toddlers and young school age patients, which is always fun! We spent time playing ball, rolling cars over and over, and coloring, which is very therapeutic! A lot of the slightly older kids got into puzzles, which thank goodness I have a ton of! Even the parents like to put these together, so it works to keep the 2 hour wait from becoming too mind numbing.

Highlights of day:

Watching kids and parents reactions to movies. Those who have never seen a movie, it is priceless to watch their expressions
Wilson and Randolph went home today.
Playing cars, ball, and puzzles all day.
Having kids be happy even though it has been a long day.
Everything going much smoother for everyone on mission!
Team making sure they don't eat it drink in front of children.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Palate Day- Second Surgery Day

So today was chaotic but a really great day! The morning was spent running around trying to locate, assess, and clear patients for surgery. There were several cancellations due to low hemoglobin, sickness, and other lab or scan results. There were also two no shows.

It was really hard to watch our Pediatric Intensivist tell a family they could not have surgery today. The dad and child were already in my area, with an i.v., thinking they were going to surgery, when they had to tell the father no due to a low hemoglobin. The dad understood and was great about it, but it broke my heart for him and the mom. I hope they will return to another mission to try again!

So, a less number of surgeries, but more tricky ones. Palate day is always rough because the surgery is more extensive, takes longer, and there is a higher probability for complications.

The first group of surgeries were eight tiny, sweet, little babies (including my Randolph) all having lips repaired. The majority of the rest of the day was all palates.

My third set of patients were all older,15 and up, who needed their palate repaired. Here in the states that would be done in the first couple months after birth. When the palate is open, the person not only has to adjust the way they eat, but their speech is highly affected!

So, to be a teenager or young adult still needing a palate repair is not going to be easy, and a lot of the patients think it is going to instantly fix how they talk. Unfortunately that is not the case. Without speech therapy and a lot if practice, their life may not change as much as they hoped it would.

My friend Wilson is one if these gentleman that had surgery today! I pray for his sake that he is not disappointed that this surgery does not simply fix his way of communicating. I am very glad he got a chance to have surgery so he will know that maybe his speech will improve, but after 26 years of an open palate, that is going to take a lot of dedication and persistence.

On a happier note, I have to brag on the three Bolivian students we have here with us on the trip. For a high school student to get a chance to go on an Operation Smile trip takes hard work, money, and fundraising. They have to go to a big meeting with other students to train on topics that they then have to present on all week. Nutrition, burn care, hand washing, hydration , and dental care.

This is my sixth mission, and I think these ladies have to be the best students I have ever worked with! They have theme days for the whole team, which we have really gotten into, and will do anything you ask them to do! Not to mention their student leader is energetic, fun, and supportive.

So far the themes have been smile hero, we all received capes, big tie day, and funky glasses day. Who knows what tomorrow will have in store!

They travelled today to a school for the deaf and intellectually challenged, and will also be going to a local orphanage on Thursday. They not only did their presentations but also took activities for the kids as well.

Highlights from today:

Wilson and Randolph having surgery.
Mary Joy hanging out with me!
Simply bonding with patients and families! I love walking into the ward and having the kids and families wave and smile at me.
Being able to see kids before and after surgery. Smiles on parents faces when you admire their child, even before surgery, but definitely after.
Having dinner with Speech Therapist Janet

See the before and after shots below!
Mostly lips, because hard to see difference with palates! After the swelling is down and they are more awake, it truly is amazing the difference!

Monday, November 26, 2012

First Surgical Day

The morning started with chaos and simply trying to get everything organized for the day.

The first group of kids were waiting on me before I knew it. It took me a while to get the playroom ready, and my teaching material, but it all worked out.

The first set of eight patients all came with i.v.s started, which was what I was afraid of! I was not here early enough to help with that, but luckily they got the first group back quickly and the surgeries were underway.

My second group of patients and families were not far behind. So, it has gone smoothly with teaching. I usually can get all of a set of eight done together before they get too distracted.

With 45 surgeries today, repeating myself five times is not too bad! It is beginning to feel like the mission that my heart needed, and I am glad that the day has ended up being more positive than expected.

The kids are tired, hot, hungry, and frustrated. However, with the exception of maybe three or four they have been fantastic!

The battle of the i.v. before surgery was lost, but I would say less than half actually had them when they got to me. So, we saved half of the kids the trauma having to have an i.v. while awake.

Most of the patients and families have coped well with the long day, and for those that are not coping well, the medical team is very willing to change the order of the schedule to accommodate!

The Operation Smile team and most if the locals have been fantastic to work with!
I even got a tv brought in to show movies on tomorrow! I have to go buy a bunch tonight.

It really is amazing what these families go through to get here, and what they endure to do whatever necessary for their children! This is what being a parent truly is about!

Highlights of the day:
My new friend Christian who I escorted into the Operating Room
Watching Christian and his father play together.
The day being more positive than expected.
Working with Carolyn our nursing coordinator.
Sharing pictures of my life with the kids.
Consoling families as they wait for their child, and seeing their joy when they are reunited with them
Watching my last eight patients walk back into the operating room like champs!