The majority of people in Egypt are Muslim. Five times a day, the hundreds of minarets located in the town of Sohag issue calls to prayer. The first call to prayer is at 1 am in the morning.
Wake up calls for the team begin at 4:30 am, coinciding with the second Muslim call to prayer. Breakfast starts at 5 am and the advance team of ten rush to the hospital at 5:45 in order to set up the operating rooms. The rest of the team follows 15 minutes later in the larger bus. The bus ride is an hour through the Egyptian country side which in the early morning light is very picturesque. The bus is not permitted to depart until the police escort (complete with quipping sirens) is ready to escort us. The team has quickly learned to use the bus ride to and from the hospital as nap time. By 7:30 to 8:00 am, the team is ready for its first surgery. There are three operating tables in two rooms. Sometimes a fourth table is added to handle cases that can be done under local anesthesia.
By the third call to prayer, approximately 8-10 surgeries have been completed and it’s time for lunch. The medical and non medical volunteers, as well as the very hard working Egyptian staff, take turns eating lunch in the nicely chilled break room. As the day progresses, the temperature steadily rises to over to 100 degrees F. Though there is AC in the key rooms, the hallways and third floor, where several consultation rooms and waiting rooms are located, do not have that luxury, and are lucky if they have a fan. By 5:00, the surgeries are winding down. The last kids, tired and cranky from fasting all day long, are brought down for surgery. By the end of the day, 14-16 people have been given new and improved faces. The volunteers pack up for the day and are bussed back. A very nice buffet dinner coincides with the last call to prayer, about 8:30 pm.