Together, we celebrate the amazing changes that have occurred.
We’ve comforted our last patient...
We've given new smiles, and seen them through our tears. The whole story can be seen on Andres' mother's pretty face. His future is not yet written, but it is brighter today than it was just a few short days ago.
Anne and Jeannie are just as happy as this little one's mom.
Our patients salute us, and we salute them right back...
Thank you Barqusimeto for entrusting your children to us.
Mario Vegas Barquisimeto’s Rotaplast Mission director has been with Rotaplast in Barquisimeto, Venezuela for about 10 years. He is pictured above with Johanna Mendez who has had both cleft lip and palate corrections thanks to Rotaplast. She has been one of the 80 Rotaplast volunteers in Venezuela since 2008, and is very proud to be a former Rotaplast patient. Many of the Venezuelan volunteers are former Rotary Exchange students who are of great assistance with the patients who speak only Spanish. Aquiles Perez is the coordinator for these volunteers. He too has been a volunteer with Rotaplast for 10 years. The Venezuelan Rotaplast team has been an invaluable part of our success in Barqusimeto. Our hosts have been there for every moment - from meeting us in Caracas and traveling on the same 5-hour bus ride with the Team, to simply making themselves available on a day-to-day basis.
Above Dick Burkhalter, John Marshall and Linda Jenkins are pictured with an all women’s club Rotary Club of Barquisimeto. This is only 1 of the 7 clubs in Barquisimeto. So many Venezuelan Rotarians and other friends have been helpful in far too many ways to tell in this small space. Ask anyone who has been on this trip and be prepared for quite a heart felt story.
Bill De Shazo, MD has been involved in many miracles during his life. The photo above captures just one of those many miracles. When Andrea Olivo and her mother heard Rotaplast was in town they were prepared to wait for as long as it took until they could talk with one of the Rotaplast surgeons. Mother and daughter had lived in Boston for 2 years receiving treatment and trying to find a solution to a medical condition Andrea has had since birth. The problem was worsening and at this point in time it was very difficult to return to Boston. ‘Dr. Bill’ happened to be free and patiently answered questions while we found out this lovely 18 year old young woman, though her face was quite distorted, spoke 3 languages fluently and had been taken to Spain to play the violin in Gustavo Dudamil’s orchestra. During our conversation we also learned her 34 year old brother was now living in Houston. Is it a coincidence or another miracle that the good doctor went to medical school in Houston and knew the name of the Chief of Plastic Surgery there who could perhaps help with this problem? With a son living in Houston and a name of one of the best doctors for this condition the mother left with tears of hope, similar to mine, as she gave me a huge hug before leaving.
No Rotaplast Mission could happen without the selflessness of its medical and non-medical volunteers. If you passed by one of our volunteers on the street, you might not immediately notice his or her kind and generous soul. That's the amazing part - a Rotaplast is no different that anyone else, except that he or she is willing to take two weeks off of "life as usual", and go out into the world to help. Please follow the link below to read more about the fabulous people who are working together in Barquisimeto, Venezuela.
As I write this it is after midnight and I finally have time to look back on the day & what a day it was! Those boxes that were lovingly packed, paid many extra dollars to bring, included medical equipment as well as quilts made for the patients by hundreds of US women. Everything was unpacked and 3 surgical bed areas arranged for the first surgeries of the day. The medical equipment helps the doctors and nurses perform their miracles while the quilts keep the babies warm as they recover. These hand made quilts leave the hospital with the child. They are yet another treasured gift from Rotaplast along with their new smile.
This Rotaplast team expanded & became a much larger, more effective team by working closely with the local doctors. Below our two pediatricians consult with a local Venezuelan dentist and orthodontist through our “Interpreter Sallie”.
Our Rotaplast plastic surgeon "Dr. Sandy" talks with another dentist regarding another patient while our interpreter uses all her skills…..and her nose…. to help with the explanation.
Genetics are only one of the factors in the story of the cleft lip and palate, but when one sees a grouping such as the one below with the Grandmother, her granddaughter, and her great-grandson, all with correction via Rotaplast teams, it really makes one remember genetics as one of the contributors to cleft lips and palates. There is apparently another family relative grateful to the Rotaplast team. This little boy had a cleft lip repair and he went home tonight before some of the Rotaplast team. Others who have surgery will be in the hospital for longer, will return for a bit more work and then seen yet again by the Rotaplast team on clinic day, the day before we leave.
I already know, as this is being written, some of us will leave with smiles, new friends and tears. We are all happy to know that our patients will be leaving with new smiles and friends as well.
It may not be a record, but 228 people seen the first day is a big number when it brings with it at least one parent and often 2, and a couple siblings.That was the task for the first day…to register, photograph and have seen by the medical team…surgeons, pediatricians, a dentist, anesthesiologists & nurses.On the bus by 6am, the last bus of this team came home a bit after 9pm.Why do we feel so fortunate, excited, exhausted and grateful?Because we’ve heard stories like the woman who hoped we couldn’t do surgery on her 15 year old son to close a palate defect because he had tests at school but how if we said yes she would thank God because she couldn’t afford to have her son’s problem fixed in any other way.Our hearts were touched when we saw Jesus, a 5 month old asleep in his Mom’s arms.She had been up since 5am taken an hour bus ride to wait in line most of the day in the hopes that she could receive repair for her son’s problem. Another reason we can feel grateful is because of our work here this week, hopefully sweet babies like the one ‘Joe’ Grasso holds will have a better life.
One can see the compassion and interest in the face of Bryon Stamm, MD as he talks with the mother of one of the patients.The patient calmly looks on and waits as so many have done for most of the day.
Yes, we finally go to bed exhausted, many of us still at work on records or some form of planning for the next day until well after midnight but happy and most grateful for all the fund raising and support from all over the US and Barquisimeto, Venezuela that allows us to have this experience.
We’ve arrived in Barquisimeto, Venezuela. As this is being written it is 7:30pm or so Tuesday evening. Many are going to a dinner given in our honor by the Governor of this state of Lana. Grappling with the many boxes was made easier as we had no suitcases. Maybe tomorrow afternoon they will come..... with a few more boxes.
The 8 hour bus ride to our destination allowed some time for napping and taking in the beautiful sights and getting to know each other. The trip to the hospital, which will be filled with people tomorrow, gave us even more of a chance to get to know one another and adjust. An amazing group of 21 volunteers many of whom had never met, will by tomorrow be a team accomplishing amazing things.
People like Martin, who was hard at work helping transport these all important boxes is an example of why we are here.
Taunted until he was 9 because of a cleft lip and palate, he now, thanks to Rotaplast, is a confident, hard working Rotaplast volunteer and hospital worker.Shortly after I took this picture of him and Dick Burkhalter pausing to pose, he was delighted to show me the picture he had taken of me!
Long before we have headed out on the Rotaplast Mission trip to Barquisimeto, Venezuela much work has been done:
By the staff of Rotaplast in San Francisco (only 2 seen here).
The volunteers will be working hard in an unknown environment, with strangers soon to become friends, and bring a different life to people they may never see again but undoubtedly both will have changed lives due to this one time meeting.
At this point all some of us know is where Barquisimeto, Venezuela is, while others have friends on the team and have been there.For those needing orientation, one of the red dots, up in the hills about 5 hours by bus from where we land in Caracas, is our home for the next 2 weeks.
Our Mission team leader, Brian Walker has only now come back from a Mission trip in Oaxaca after midnight last night and is loading boxes less than 10 hours later.Dick Burkhalter, our quarter master, works right along side him.
Here they stop to show off our shirts before they pack the boxes away. What leaders we do have!