The simplest toy can keep a group of children happy and busy while awaiting surgery or clearance to return home.

The team brought balloons, balls, coloring books, and soft toys. Our little ones have played together and shared these basic toys. Kathy Wiley, our medical records clerk, brought a DVD player and Spanish videos. The parents enjoy these films as much if not more that the children. Kathy’s love of children is evident, she is often found holding a baby or kicking a soccer ball in the pre-operation area which doubles as her office. This morning Kathy could be found at the copy machine making more coloring books. Each child goes home with a toy and a blanket made by Wrap-a-Smile International Quilts, sponsored by the Rotary Club of Wells, Maine. Kathy’s fellow Rotarian from San Jose California, Ramsina Babaoghli, is assigned to the PACU where she comforts the mothers.

We can’t imagine traveling for hours on a bus for surgery by a medical team from another country. The importance of the support that the volunteers give to the children and parents was expressed by a mother who said to Cyndie George, “You were my one companion.”

The anesthesia team arrived all smiles this morning. (Jenny Lindberg (CRNA) and doctors Helen Vajk, Mojca Konia and Oren Leong). Their job is one of the most difficult. They often only take one quick break for lunch or to check on a child in the PACU. The tracking of respiratory function during surgery is especially touchy here in Guatemala City. Because so many of the children come from homes with wood-burning stoves used for cooking or have arrived with low-grade colds, their little lungs are often congested.

The anesthesia team is also using local equipment which supplies oxygen to the patient during surgery but is not a breathing machine. If breathing assistance is necessary, this can only be accomplished by squeezing a bag manually.

A good example of the challenges faced by the anesthesiologists was provided by six-year old Melony. She wailed when separated from her mother in the pre-operative area. As Betty Pague, the operating room nurse, carried her to the operating room, Melany slipped away and ran to find her mother. Once Melany had been brought to the operating room and anethsesia was begun, Melany yelled to the doctors, “I am not going to breathe.” The operation was a success and this photo was captured when she was soundly sleeping.

This morning a child scheduled for surgery was turned away because of low weight coupled with a respiratory illness. This sweet child is a reminder to us of how much more work there is to do here.

Twenty-one children received corrective surgery today.