It was a beautiful day when we arrived at 7:30 AM from our bumpy bus trip from Oaxaca City. Our patient transfer group felt very confident as we had a very good idea of where the important places, people, and things necessary to the work ahead were located. When one has never worked in hospital before, especially in a new location in a foreign country, the first day can be a little hectic and confusing.

The patience of the entire team is in evidence everywhere and the team works so well together from day one as we all get our bearings in new surrounding. Since it was our second day of the Rotaplast Mission, it began much more smoothly than our first. We were able to locate the ward and pre-operation room quickly and as these areas are the "heartbeat" of our work as patient transfer coordinators and recreation volunteers; this was a good start for us with fewer moments of controlled panic.

Our group has the responsibility of moving the patients and their parents from the ward to the pre-op room and them on to surgery. We also facilitate the movement of the children out of recovery back to the ward when their procedures are completed. Linda Andreae, DeWitt Garlock and Polly Keegan are the team members. Linda and Polly and in close contact with the parents and children throughout the day as the surgical team completes their work and preparations are made for the next child.

The first two patients went into surgery at 8:30 AM. As the day progresses the movement of our patients in to pre-operation, surgery, recovery and then back into the ward went well. One of the best experiences in this process is the opportunity to get to know the older children. All of the children who come to the hospital to receive cleft palate treatment and lip repair are very special.

No one can miss the heart warming experience of holding a tiny infant of perhaps only 3 or 4 months of age with their beautiful eyes and not be moved very deeply. I have seen more than one of the team (including this author) tear up. Also each day one of the children in the older age group of youngsters seems to stand out as extra special only because we can communicate by voice, hand shake, and hugs as well. Today was one of those special opportunities for me, and his name is Sergio.

He is a very fine 10-year-old who was quite “into” his experience at the hospital and seemed to be quite comfortable with the surroundings and all of the attention he received. He has a calmness that made all of us who got to know him feel good. And, he loved drawing a picture of a sheep, his favorite animal. After his successful surgery and following recovery, my last time to spend with Sergio was so say good by to him, give him a hug and wish him well.

I knew as he waved goodbye to me that his life had been changed greatly and that his future would be brighter in many more ways than I could count. And I think he knew also, that in some way, that he had changed my life as well by giving me a gift of hope and renewal and by putting a bright spot in my heart. Both of us have been changed for the rest of our lives.

Dewitt Garlock
Patient Transfer Coordinator-Oaxaca 09