Many of the patients and their families have heart touching stories surrounding the circumstances that brought them to the hospital. I found this story particularly interesting and felt the need to share it with you.
Little Diego and his mother Argelia are from a village named Aldea Rio Zarco. This rural village is predominately inhabited by indigenous Mayan Guatemalans. There are rumors circulating throughout Aldea Rio Zarco that it is unsafe to take their children to have their cleft lip & palate repaired because the "foreigners" performing the surgeries will steal their organs. As a result, there are many children in need to cleft lip & palate surgeries who do not receive such procedures.
In a neighboring village called El Estor-Izabal lives Isabella. She learned of Rotaplast through a commercial on TV. Isabella decided to travel several hours to visit Argelia and convince her to take Diego to have his cleft lip repaired. She assured her the rumors couldn't be true and it would be in the best interest for little Diego. She also promised to accompany them on the trip. Thankfully, Isabella convinced Argelia and they immediately began to travel to the hospital. Their journey to the hospital took over 72 hours on 5 different buses and on foot.
Here is Diego sitting for his registration folder photo
Diego and Areglia in the recovery ward
Areglia, Isabella and Diego
Argelia requested a picture of Diego and Dr. Hal, the surgeon who performed the surgery. She wanted to take it to her home village to show everybody that the rumors are not true. She is extremely happy with the outcome of Diego's surgery and wants all the other children in her village to benefit from Rotaplast's help. She said "the distance she had traveled does not compare to the service that Rotaplast provides."
Left to right: Dr. Hal (Surgeon), Diego, Areglia, and Dr. Kathy (Lead Pediatrician)
Even though all the patients we helped are superstars, Anthony was the only superhero I came across. Anthony is 3 years old and traveled over 11 hours to the hospital by bus with his mother. He previously had his cleft lip repaired on a prior mission and is back to have cleft palate surgery. His cheerful personality made him an instant favorite among the team members.
Here is Anthony before he enters a phone booth:
Here is Superman in the post-op room - As you can see surgery is no match for him!
Sue and Anthony in the recovery ward. Sue and Anthony share a birthday.
I'd like you to meet Edgar and his younger brother Henry. Edgar already had his cleft lip repaired on a prior mission, so he was back to have some corrective surgery. It is very common for a cleft lip repair to require several follow up surgeries. This will be Henry's first cleft lip repair surgery. Edgar and Henry were inseparable during the duration of their stay at the hospital.
Before: Waiting in the hospital hallway
After: In the recovery room just before their discharge
This entry is one of two parts. I'd like to introduce you to some of the amazing people I have had the opportunity to meet and work along side on this mission. They are some of the most hardworking, caring and giving people I have ever met.
Dr. Hung - Lead Anesthesiologist - Carefully monitoring a patient in the operating room.
Lori, RN - Operating Room Nurse - Carrying a patient from the OR to the PACU after surgery
Dr. Hal - Surgeon - Sitting with one of his patients in a post-op room before their discharge
Sue - Interpreter - Sitting with a patient and his mother in a post-op room
Paul - Sterilizer - Taking a short break in the sterilization room
Left to Right: Dr. Ricardo, Anesthesiologist - Barbara, RN Operating Room Nurse - Ed, DDS Dentist Lifting the spirits of a patient before he enters the operating room for surgery
Left to Right: Victoria, RN Operating Room Nurse - Sandy, RN Head Nurse Comforting a patient and her mother before surgery
Jack - Quartermaster - Diligently guarding the supplies in the supply room
Zoel, MD - Anesthesiologist - Carrying a patient from the pre-op room into the operating room
Sue - Medical Records - Sharing a moment with her "favorite" patient because they share a birthday
Do you remember the first time you played with or saw bubbles? If not, relive that experience with Kimberly Dayana who is one year old. This is her first time seeing bubbles! She is in the pre-op room waiting for surgery to repair her cleft palate. It was her laughter that caught my attention while walking past the room. This is what I saw:
In an earlier blog entry I introduced you to Marina. Marina stood out from the crowd because of her beautiful vibrant dress. Marina, age 7 and her father Rolando, age 29 traveled over 9 hours by bus to arrive at the hospital. During Marina's surgery I had the opportunity to speak with her father Rolando through a spanish interpreter. He said they learned of Rotaplast and the mission through Marina's school teacher. The school teacher came across the ad in a newspaper that was placed by our gracious hosts and local Rotary Club of La Asunción in Guatemala City.
Contently coloring in pre-op.
Left to Right: Dr. Adam, Dr. Ricardo, Lori - RN, Dr. Ed
Marina and I in the hospital hallway just before she leaves.
Marina and her father Rolando.
Marina looking at the photo I gave her of the first picture I took of her on pre-clinic. When I first met Rolando and Marina, Rolando asked me for a picture of his daughter pre-op. On their last day at the hospital I gave Rolando the picture of Marina. He was more than appreciative for not only the photo but also for our help in restoring Marina's beautiful smile.
One of my first observations while I was taking pictures of the Guatemalans was that some of the women dressed very "traditional" while others seemed to dress more "modern".
"Traditional" "Westernized" or "Modern"
After doing a little research, I learned the following:
The population of Guatemala is made up of two major subgroups - Ladinos and indigenous Guatemalans. The Ladinos live primarily near the cities and the indigenous Guatemalans live in rural towns and villages. The indigenous people are descendants of the ancient Mayans. Ladinos wear "westernized" clothing while the indigenous generally wear "traditional" Indian clothing. Westernized clothing is worn as a symbol of their desire to be more modern, wealthy, and educated. Indian clothing is symbolic of Guatemalan heritage, ancestry, and tradition.
The traditional clothing worn by indigenous Guatemalan women are made with fabric handwoven from natural materials such as cotton or wool. The colors and design they choose have a variety of different meanings from the village that they live to their martial status. Indigenous woman wear their traditional clothing every day, and it is very special to them. The blouses are called "huipils" and the skirts are called "cortes". It takes anywhere from one month and three months to complete by working several hours per day.
Although some of the men still dress traditionally, it is more common for them to dress in the westernized fashion. It's worth mentioning that it is very rare that men or woman wear shorts in Guatemala. Out of respect for the the local tradition, our team members did not to wear shorts.
The first day of surgeries finally arrived! Many months of fundraising and preparation have brought us to this point. The entire team is excited to begin the day and help change the lives of the patients and their families.
Pictured below is a group of young mothers in the waiting area with Nan, Nurse Practitioner.
Meet our very first patient Romelia and her mother Caterina. They both traveled by foot and by bus for over 12 hours to be here. Caterina is about to hand Romelia over to team members for surgery.
Romelia has a bilateral cleft lip & palate.
Team members are comforting Caterina after Romelia was taken into the OR.
Left to right: Dr. Anne, Dr. Zoel, Sandy RN, and Vasanth
Dr. Milton performing surgery on Romelia.
Caterina was just notified that Romelia is out of surgery and in the PACU. As you can see Caterina is very happy to be reunited with her daughter.
Paula, RN consoling Caterina in the PACU moments before she will hold Romelia for the first time with her new smile.
Mother and daughter reunited again.
Romelia resting peacefully in her bed on her way back to recovering.
Below is our bus arriving on the first day of pre-clinic. Pre-clinic is the day when all the potential patients are evaluated by the doctors and nurses. We were greeted by a very large crowd who were all calmly waiting to be let into the hospital to be examined by the doctors and nurses.
Pictured below is a young mother and her son.
Patients and their families are waiting for the names to be called to be let into the hospital.
This mother and her son were just called and were walking into the hospital.
This mother and her son are sitting for their close-up identification photo.
Nurse Practitioner Nan evaluating this little boy for surgery.
Dr. Kathy and Dr. Richardo consulting with a young mother.
Nurse Susan calming a little girl during her evaluation.
This little guy waits inside the hospital gate for his turn to get called into the hospital.
This is Marina. I took a particular liking to her because she is close in age with my daughter. In a future blog entry I will tell you more about her.
This little guy and his father were waiting in the courtyard.
As the patient names are being called out for the first day surgeries, this woman is waiting to hear her child's name.
Waiting for their name to be called.
Mission Director Randy with a patient
The children really enjoyed to have their picture taken. After taking their picture, I would show them their picture on my camera screen. In some cases, this would have been the first time they ever say their own picture. A few of the parents organized this group picture for me.
Left to Right: Don, Vasanth, Nurse Paula, Maria Elena, Susan and Marie. Prior to the mission we solicited donations for toys for the children. Pictured below are team members holding some of the Beanie Babies that were given to the children.
Lead Anesthesiologist Dr. Hung and Lead Medical Director Dr. Anne reviewing patient folders in preparation of the surgeries in the coming days.