The two weeks is done, unbelievable. We just got here and it is time to leave. Seven days of surgery. We saw 346 potential patients at the beginning. Ultimately operating on 95 patients and performing a variety of surgical procedures on kids from several months old to teenagers. Seeing the change in patients in the few days we were here was amazing.
The last day saw us sent off to the Cumana Airport by a dance band and naturally the team danced. Many good byes and hugs before we boarded the Army transport to Caracas. It was truly a moment to remember.
We flew to Caracas and then flew home the next day. Many of the team parted company in Houston. Eleven of us went in to San Francisco, The others went on to different parts of the USA. I suspect we all were looking forward to being home but with many memories that we will all carry with us forever.
The team split up this morning. Most of the pediatricians and surgeons went to the hospital where the surgeries were performed to examine and discharge yesterday's surgery patients. They will join the rest of the team once this is done. The rest of the team went to the hospital where the original registration clinic was held to set up and start the post-clinic.
Many of the patients were waiting for us when we arrived as they had stayed at the hospital after their surgery. The Rotarians had arranged for dorms to be set up at the hospital.
All the surgeons, pediatricians, and several of the nurses participated in the post clinic along with numerous volunteers. Those team members that do not participate are packing up getting all the boxes ready to travel back to California.
Depending on the type of surgery, the patient will be examined, have stitches removed, have dressings changed, and be given instructions for continued care.
Over the next seven days of surgery the team performed 95 operations.
Quite a few of the patients that had surgery also required dental care which is provided by Dr. Rosie Mayro and the Cumana dentists. They did over 220 dental procedures during the time we were here. They also came to the Post-Clinic to examine their patients and to give instructions if required, on followup care.
It is great to know the work we do is really appreciated by our patients. This boy figured out how to say thank you in English on his cell phone.
Some of the kids are happy to entertain themselves at the clinic. I think we may have a future doctor or nurse with this little one.
There were many bitter sweet moments when the time to say good bye finally came. Relationships and bonds form very quickly but everyone knows they are most likely short term.
The post clinic is always very rewarding because the team gets to see how their efforts are already changing lives. When our work was done and we were getting on the bus, it was difficult to leave them as they stood in the hospital entry waving good bye.
Juan was one of the many volunteers that was indispensable to the success of the Rotaplast mission. He was special. His personality was infectious. He acted as an interface between the Rotaplast team and the patient. He loved working with the kids but was ready to do whatever was necessary. This is his story.
My name is Juan Pedro Hernández. I'm from Cumaná - Venezuela. I meet Rotary when I was 15 years old, I was starting to learn English and found the best way to practice was working with a Rotaplast Mission.
At that time I just fall in love with all the work, all the help, and all the little things that we can do to improve the life of a child.
Later in the time I found that "Rotaract" (Rotary in ACTion) exists! So I started with a group of friend that loves to volunteer our first Rotaract in Cumaná, and we did well!
So, some of my friends didn't know how to speak in English and part of my work was to help them and teach them the little that I could know.
Right now Rotaract Cumaná is one of the best clubs in the District and me, the DRR (District Rotaract Representative), so, the work that started just as a volunteer now is a committed with my Rotary, with my people.
I will always love and thank Rotaplast for introducing me to this world, this is the kind of world that I love, and this is the kind of change that we need to do, to make it better.
Well the last day of surgery is upon us. Everyone lined up at the hotel entry to wait for the buses which unfortunately were a bit late. We all have mixed emotions about today. Happy to know we will be home soon but sad knowing we will be leaving behind many kids that still need our help.
Once we got to the hospital the routine started again. The schedule was posted on the wall outside the surgery rooms. Changes begin almost immediately to accommodate no-shows and other patient issues.
Infants were first on the schedule so they did not have to wait any longer than absolutely necessary without being feed.
Brian and Jaime are starting to plan what needs to be done and when to move out of the surgical hospital and what is needed for the post-surgery clinic tomorrow.
We also honor the hospital staff and volunteers today with a certificate and small gifts to show our appreciation for their hard work and dedication to our mission. The doctors and others also give gifts to people that were especially helpful to them.
Today was also the day local TV stations came in to film and interview various staff and volunteers. We performed 17 surgeries today so we left the hospital on a high note. Tomorrow is the post-surgery clinic where we get to see the patients one more time for final exam by the surgeons.
Hiorger's family heard about Rotaplast from a friend. Hiorger was born with an extra toe and came to Rotaplast to have it removed. The family has been very happy with Rotaplast.
Joangelys' father heard about the Rotaplast Clinic through his local hospital. Joangelys was born with two fingers fused together on one hand and an extra finger on the other. She was sent to the Rotaplast Clinic so that her surgery could be done by doctors experienced in this procedure. The family is very pleased with the results.
Two-year-old Miguel is a return patient to our Rotaplast Clinic. Miguel has a cleft lip and palate and had more work done on his cleft lip. Miguel will be returning next year to our Rotaplast Clinic for his palate repair. His mother commented that "everyone has been very nice".
Day 5 and 6 were generally uneventful. The surgery schedule was in its usual state of flux during the day. There were no shows, walk-ins and cancellations due to colds and coughs. In other words, things had settled into a reasonable routine for us.
We are consuming much of the supplies we brought with us, so the store room is starting to look empty. Dr. David Low, Medical Director and Jaime Chavez can be seen removing supplies and equipment at the start of the day. Jaime is the go-to guy for everything associated with logistics and making things work and run smoothly.
We completed 13 surgeries on both days. The majority were associated with cleft palates and lips. We always leave the hospital wishing we could have done more as there are always patients waiting on the list.
Tomorrow is Surgery Day 7, our last day of surgery:-( It will be a longer than usual day as we try to get as many patients done as feasible.
His name is Christian Hernandez Malave. He is 13 years old and has already had 4 cleft surgeries. He and his mom drove 5 hours from their home in San-Felix near the Brazilian border to hopefully have another revision surgery on his lip. His mother, Jacklin, said it was his idea to come to Cumana.
He has such a great attitude and is so happy to be having the surgery the nurses and volunteers fell in love with him.
His Mom said, he does not want to be different from his friends any longer and is willing to undergo the surgery to make it happen. She is hopeful he will be happier and his interest in education will improve. He is in the 2nd grade of middle school and is just doing fair.
After arriving the day before the clinic and waiting for almost a week, Hernandez had his surgery on Day 5. The surgery was a success with no complications. He was discharged to return home the day after surgery.
One of the hopeful girls on Clinic Day had gotten the bear when she was 10 years old prior to surgery and was inseparable from the bear and slept with it every night. Five years later later, she was selected for surgery on the 1st day of the Mission in the morning. As part of the pre-op process volunteers give the kids small toys or games to occupy their time. Cyndie George gave this girl a stuffed puppy. Her eyes lit up with joy and her mom had a huge smile on her face. She clung to the new puppy the whole time including the post-op process.
Her surgery was a success and she found a new friend all in one day.
We leave the hotel about 6:45 am every morning and arrive at the hotel about 20 minutes later. Today is Saturday so traffic was much lighter and fewer people out and about. One of the reasons probably is the late night celebrations of the Bolivar Holiday celebrations last night.
Everyone hits the ground running when we enter the hospital.
People are checking the schedule to verify timing, patients, OR staffing.
OR's have been cleaned the night before so the surgical staff can start getting ready. In this case anesthesiologist Jennifer Krupp and nurse David Sparks were prepping OR#3.
The mission team is meeting the hospital staff members who will be assisting in the surgery.
The sponsor and local Rotary volunteers are being assigned to specific duties and in many cases trained as many are being rotated into the mission.
The first patients are being prepared for surgery by volunteers. In this case Lynn Devou is having to trim a surgical gown to match the patients height. The kids are starting to figure out this is not going to be an ordinary day and getting anxious. It becomes pretty normal to hear kids crying.
At roughly 8:00 am the first patients are taken to the OR's and the day is under way. Surgeries will continue until 7:00 pm.
The start up on Saturday was uneventful. This changed fairly quickly as a couple patients dropped out of the surgery schedule quickly for different reasons. Ultimately 11 surgeries were completed. We all gather in the hall to go out to the waiting bus as a group when surgery is complete. This usually takes a bit of time to round everyone up.
As we head out of the hospital to the bus everyone is talking about plans for Sunday our day of rest which is sorely needed.
Every morning starts with the pediatricians examining the patients from the previous day and hopefully being able to discharge them to go home. It is amazing how much improved the kids are less than a day later.
During the discharge process, you can tell just how much the kids are loved. You can certainly see this in the face Dr. Len Leonard Friedland, the head pediatrician.
We plan for a smooth surgical schedule every day but things do not always go as planned. Sometimes surgeries have to be cancelled. When these things happen Kim Capps, the head nurse, makes schedule adjustments on the fly to minimize the loss of OR time. Sometimes she actually finds a bit of time to help with surgery.In some cases dental work is required as part of the procedure, which is why Rosie Mayro is an important member of the mission team. She determines what dental work is required in consultation with the doctors. She has to coordinate the dental work within the other surgery schedules and make sure the dental information is being included by Shishir Doctor who maintains all the medical records. The required dental work is performed by local Venezuelan dentists under Rosie's guidance. Doing it this way helps insure there will be dental follow up after the team leaves. Rosie is very happy with the dentists that are associated with a new clinic near the hospital.
Today was a different day for the team. There were a wide variety of types of surgeries. We had planned for 15 but were only able to do 10.
Two of the surgeries involved reconstruction of ears. One was a new new ear and one was of an revision of an ear created last year. These take hours to do with the new ear involving removal rib cartilage from which the new ear structure is created. Happily both were successful today and overshadowed the earlier issues in the day.