The bright morning sun flooded through the huge skylight shining on about 60 families gathered for our pre-operation clinic. It was beautiful to see moms and dads together holding their babies along with brothers, sisters and grandparents.

The Oaxacan children’s hospital is a welcoming complex painted in bold crayon colors. The purpose of the opening day clinic is to screen potential patients to see if surgical intervention would improve their quality of life. Certain basic characteristics of body weight, age and general health must be met to qualify for surgery this week.

First stop is registration and medical records. Local staff were hunting and pecking on old manual Royal typewriters that I haven’t seen since my junior high school typing class. Barbara Barney, our Rotaplast maven of medical records handled the digitized version. Patients then were off to three other stations with surgeons Dr. Janet Salomonson, Dr. Wan Ho and anesthesiologists Dr. Thomas Ryan, Dr. Arthur Davidson and Dr.Kay-Kyoung Kim; pediatricians Dr. Elizabeth Wuerslin and Dr. Joseph Herbert.

Dental evaluations done by Dr. Gary Howard and Dr. Rosie Ziaie Matin will help patients with everything from orthodontist referrals to palate resizing. Speech pathologist Kathi Hoffer will be working with the children and also conducting a one week speech camp here in March.

After being poked, prodded and peered at Linda Andreae had the unenviable task of cheering them up so I could take their chart photograph. Thanks to the compassionate skill of our medical staff and many volunteers from the local Rotary and Rotaract clubs, the kids were really still in pretty good spirits. Head nurse Sharon Newton commented that there were a surprising number of children that failed to meet the minimum requirements for surgery this week, mostly due to being underage or underweight.

Fortunately, the hospital has a permanent cleft team that will be able to treat them at a later time. What may have appeared to be organized chaos in the morning turned out to be a well run clinic where everyone had a chance to be thoroughly screened. One interesting feature of the waiting area was a large, elevated trampoline where children bounced away excess energy, thankfully avoiding any spills onto the hard, tile floor.

Jerry Meshulam
Photojournalist-Oaxaca 09