The early morning ritual of getting up and ready for breakfast in time to hop on the bus for a twenty minute ride to the hospital had almost become routine. The hotel food has always been good, the company great and the mission goals clearly in focus.
The ward where the children and their families stayed before and after surgery is a large L-shaped room with approximately 60 beds. A spacious nursing station is located at the corner, and next to it, is a sparsely equipped critical care room. There are no curtains between the beds and privacy for personal care, wound care, nursing mothers and other usual inpatient activities does not seem to be an issue.
At any time of the day the activity level of the children in the ward ranges from peaceful and calm to loud, busy, crying, hopeful, happy, and laughing within a family like atmosphere. It is a wonderful place to be. The nurses are pleasant, respectful and professional and they do an incredible job under circumstances that are remote from any North American hospital environment.
Transferring the children from the ward to the surgical area and back involves navigating several sharp corners, in and around equipment and boxes of supplies and past waiting families and friends. Many of the children walked or were carried to surgery by our transport coordinator John. Some required a trolley. A few of the children were frightened and he gently guided them into the arms of the waiting OR nurses.
The Operating Rooms were the center of all the activity. One suite had two OR tables and the other a single table. Each was staffed with plastic surgeons, anesthesiologists, our single orthodontist, and circulating and scrub nurses. Their work involved the repair of lips, palates, old and newer burns, contractures, and limb, foot and hand releases. The outcomes were always positive and each surgery will make a significant contribution to the life-style and daily living of each of the children.
The children recovered in another operating room that the Post Anesthetic Care Unit nurses converted into suitable surroundings. Creative thinking solved any equipment issues. After surgery and recovery, all of the children returned to the ward on a trolley and were quickly reunited with members of their family.
Our clerks were in charge of accurately recording and documenting the children while dealing with new and unusual patient names, other information, and then keeping track throughout the pre- and post-operative periods. Identification was crucial to the safety of the children and our clerks were precise, professional and very successful. Our photographer/journalist took highly detailed pictures of the children pre and post operatively for accurate identification and inclusion in their permanent hospital record.
Surgical instruments and trays were skillfully prepared and sterilized on site by our lone sterilizer mission member. The quartermasters kept the supplies well organized and readily available for all physicians, nurses and other team members. Their job had been made even more challenging due to an apparent rearrangement of the box contents while in the possession of customs officials. Even so, they were always up to the challenge.
The support of the local nurses, aids, helpers, maintenance, and janitorial staff was vital to the overall success of the mission. Considering that the team had suddenly invaded their place of work, every individual was friendly, helpful, professional and a pleasure to work with at all times. The food provided to us for lunch by a very gracious server was always tasty, fresh and nutritious and at times rather spicy.
Our medical director, mission director and head nurse worked in concert to keep the mission functioning at a high level. Problems and issues surfaced frequently and they readily found solutions.
The mission shirts bore the statement ‘Saving Smiles – Changing Lives’. The combined team work of the medical and non-medical volunteers made that philosophy a reality. As well, the actions and dedication of local Rotarians, mission Rotarians and non Rotarians exemplified ‘Service above Self’.