A group of half awake Rotarians met at YVR – Vancouver airport at 5:00 AM on October 26, 2008 to start our journey to Chengde, China. Each one of us had our one suit case stuffed with two weeks clothing and teddy bears. The second piece of luggage is a box of medical equipment and supplies needed on the mission. It is assigned to us and loaded in San Francisco. Each medical and non medical volunteers checks one box of supplies.
After clearing US customs we are on our way to San Francisco to meet the rest of the team. In SF we meet our team and onto United airlines flight bound for Beijing. A few old acquaintance from past Rotaplast missions renewed their friendships. We are then off filled with excitement, and for those of us who are new to Rotaplast, uncertainty. Most importantly, we know there are children waiting for us and we have an opportunity to make a difference.
We arrive in Beijing on October 27. It is a long process in Beijing to sort out the bags and boxes. The customs officials want to search all the medical boxes. The truck is moved to a parking lot where this can occur. The bus proceeds to Chengde and the truck follows later.
A long slow three hour bus ride gets us to Chengde where we are met by the local media. A few interviews, check into our rooms, a quick welcome dinner and everyone quickly crashes.
On October 28 we are up early and walk the one block to the hospital. There were the official welcomes and many thank yous. We were all treated royally on our arrival at the hospital. A large contingent of the nursing staff was waiting in the lobby to meet us and escort us to the welcome ceremony. The local media was out in force.
Hospital representatives, the mayor and state officials all gave speeches thanking the Rotaplast International, Rotary International and the volunteers from Canada and the United States. They also said thank you for caring about the children of China. The medical and non medical teams had the opportunity to tour the hospital and were pleased with what they saw.
We had an official photograph taken in front of the hospital and then we were treated to a luncheon banquet at our hotel.
In the afternoon the process of moving the boxes of medical equipment started and setting up the surgical equipment. The medical and non medical teams started working together. The team members had to put on their scrubs and move the boxes into the operating rooms. The process of sterilizing the equipment has started. All the electrical equipment needs to be checked and the inventory verified. Another long day – all in preparation for the children who arrive tomorrow. More than 130 children have been selected by the local hospital staff and area medical representatives as being in need of surgery. This is possibly more than can be accommodated in the ten days we are here. We will see when the pediatricians start to examine the children tomorrow.