In the children’s hospital we are not only in the company of the children who are our patients, but also their healthy brothers and sisters. Rotary volunteers and social workers keep an eye on these siblings, but many of the siblings are very resourceful and inquisitive. This morning when I arrived at the hospital, I went straight to the ward to check on Nelson and his family, who were featured on Day 4. Nelson was tired the day after his surgery, but looked great. As I left, Nelson’s 9-year-old sister Priscilla took my hand, and led me on a spontaneous tour of the hospital. She pointed to various sites and I snapped photos. After each shot, Priscilla wanted to see the captured imagine in the digital camera and then we would proceed. For being such an excellent guide, Priscilla received a coloring book, a toy pony and photo of herself. Clever Priscilla found her way to dinner and our hearts this evening as we were eating pizza in the supply room at 7 p.m. It was the first time she had ever tried pizza.
Angel de Jesus, the four-month old son of Veronica and Ulises, is one of the patients who received surgery today. Angel de Jesus is receiving a repair of his cleft lip today, but he will have to wait another year for his cleft palate correction because he is still too young and too small for that operation. What makes this story unusual is the story of the father, Ulises. Ulises was born in Mexico, and moved to rural Oregon with his mother when he was two years old. Ulises grew up believing that he was an American citizen, and did not realize that he had sole Mexican citizenship, until he was twelve years old. Ulises was not permitted to stay in the United States after the age of eighteen, so he voluntarily left. Since then, Ulises has been desperately seeking a visa to return to the United States. So far he has had no success in this pursuit.
When Ulises returned to Mexico, he met and married Veronica. They live in a small town seven hours from Oaxaca, where Ulises is seeking work. Angel de Jesus is their first child. For the first few months of his life Angel de Jesus only drank from a syringe. As is often the case with these conditions, there is great deal of superstition about the cause. Vernoica’s family was convinced that Angel’s cleft palate and lip were the result of an eclipse of the sun and the moon. Ulises and Veronica did not agree, but, as deeply religious parents, they simply believed that Angel de Jesus’s condition was God’s will and that an angel would repair him. Ulises and Veronica believe that divine intervention led them to this Rotaplast team.
After Angel de Jesus’ evaluation on Day Three, he spiked fever which, thankfully, broke during the night. If the baby had remained ill, surgery would have been deemed unsafe and canceled for his health. Today Ulises and Veronica had their prayers answered. After waiting until 1 p.m. and rocking their baby in a blanket in the chapel, the surgery was performed by Dr. Capozzi. Anesthesia was administered by Tracy Gerrrero. The attending nurse was Judy Cummings.
Ulises and Veronica had an opportunity to talk with both Dr. Capozzi and Dr. Guerrero after the successful surgery. They cried after this chat and had to wait over an hour until PACU nurse Sue Fossum brought Angel de Jesus to his parents. He was then moved to a special care unit to watch his congestion and oxygen levels during the night. He looks beautiful.
Dr. Capozzi is the distinguished co-founder of Rotaplast, and has his own interesting history. He is a plastic surgeon, and has been a member of the San Francisco Rotary Club for 40 years. Dr. Capozzi spent thirty years in private practice in San Francisco, and ten years as Director of Plastic Surgery at the Shriner’s Hospital in Sacramento, California. He retired from that position in 2008. He looks and acts much younger than his actual age of 76.
Overall, this second day of surgery has gone very well. Four more potential patients arrived, although it is uncertain whether there will be room on the schedule for any of them. The team is working hard to accomodate as many patients as possible. The team members have settled into their respective roles, and as often happens on these missions, we have all bonded quickly and well. Today marks the birthdays of two team members, Ivonne Montes de Orca and Colleen Wynne. While we had planned to celebrate the occasion together this evening, as of this writing at 10 p.m., half the team is still at the hospital so celebrations will have to be postponed.