It is always with a certain amount of excitement and trepidation that one approaches a new Rotaplast Mission. Unknown conditions, a new country, an unfamiliar hospital and a whole newly configured team. By good luck and careful planning, this year’s team consists of several groups of people that know each other either from their Rotary Clubs or from adventures on previous missions.
I have always been impressed on how quickly these teams come together. Right away at the airport in San Francisco, the first order of business is to move our two tons of medical equipment and supplies from the delivery truck to the ticket gate for check. As usual, superman Tom Fox was Johnny on the spot arriving at curbside exactly when we were getting off the bus.
Instantly the whole team jumps into action unloading the trailer, loading the carts and moving the tonnage towards the gate. Mexicana representatives asked if we wanted to start an early check in….and immediately we were already off to the races. I began to get that feeling that this was going to be an exceptional team. Big smiles with an eagerness to help and cooperate sets the tone and feel of a mission…and the early signs were good.
I was happy that we were able to check the bags all of the way through to Oaxaca. We were taking the redeye from SFO to Mexico City arriving in the early morning. We then had about an hour layover in MEX before taking off for OAX. I was concerned that we were going to have difficulty getting all of our personal bags and medical equipment through customs in that time frame. This with the whole group flying all night with little or no sleep could spell disaster. However, we got through the entire journey without incident or problems and arrived in Oaxaca in the morning.
Sharon Newton, our Head Nurse, and Brian Walker took charge and marshaled our considerable heap of stuff through the gate and to the waiting customs agents. Everyone was in good spirits and exhibited phenomenal patience as we labored through the usual circus that is customs. It was really wonderful how Sharon worked with our particular agent as he insisted on opening approximately one third of our boxes and checked the serial numbers of every single piece of equipment. Eventually, one by one, we all made it through with all of the necessary stamps, seals, signatures and official letters.
It was really wonderful to be greeted by the nearly the entire Club Rotario Guelaguetza. This trip was really starting well. All of the months of preplanning and communication were paying off. Most of the team at this point were shepherded to our hotel. Sharon and I were greeted by the most gracious Dr. Corres, the Director General of the Hospital de la Ninez of Oaxaquena. He escorted us and our truckload of equipment directly to the hospital.
I could sense that the cooperation of the hospital, which is crucially important, was going to be wonderful. Dr. Corres is a kind and gentle man who greets everyone, whether they are a high governmental official or they are in charge of sweeping the hallway, with warmth and affection. We quickly unloaded our supplies in a secure room and proceeded with a hospital tour.
This gave us an idea how the patient flow was going to go during the screening clinic. We were also told which operating rooms we were to be assigned as well as the hospital protocol for scrubs and sanitation. The briefing and tour concluded, we were off to the hotel to join the others.
What a beautiful hotel it is, the Parador San Miguel is a wonderful facility that has been stylishly decorated blending the modern with the traditional aspects of Mexican culture. It is owned by Judith Ilescas Lopez, one of our Mexican Rotarian hosts and I feel fortunate that our team gets to stay here.
I have always felt that the Quartermaster is truly a great job. Aside from facilitating the movement of our equipment, a Quartermaster in my opinion has another purpose. It really just boils down to keeping everyone supplied with the stuff they need to do their job when they need it and perhaps more importantly, keeping everyone happy. Anticipating needs or desires, creating a sense of camaraderie, and making sure that everyone on the teams knows how much they are valued are the central goals of a Quartermaster.
I am amazed how all of these gifted plastic surgeons, nurses, pediatricians, anesthesiologists, orthodontists, dentists and speech pathologists give so much of their hearts and valuable time to dramatically change the lives of children. This program could not exist without these incredibly professional individuals. If a team has an upbeat morale and they feel appreciated, I feel they are more efficient and effective.
Everyone is under stress and pressure and must work in less than perfect conditions. So a lighthearted mood is essential and certainly more fun.
I want to thank all of the contributing Rotary Clubs, Rotarians, Rotaplast staff, volunteers, and the medical staff for making these miracles happen for the children. I have been truly moved by these mission experiences.
Those on this mission who know and love Dennis Bourassa have personally dedicated this mission to him.
Chris Brannan and Brian Walker