Our day started with fifteen new patients who had arrived in hopes of being added to the surgery schedule. These patients were unable, for various reasons, to come to the regular clinic evaluation. So our medical records team (Louise Capozzi and Nora Manchester) were once again busy processing the new patients, and members of the medical team took some time between procedures to evaluate the new patients.
Today was our first day of surgeries. We have three operating rooms running on this mission. Each room is staffed by three Rotaplast volunteers, a surgeon, an anesthesiologist and an OR nurse. In addition, we have additional nursing staff provided by the children's hospital. Our surgeons are Dr. Angelo Capozzi of San Francisco, Rotaplast's founder, Dr. Sibrand Schepel of the Netherlands, who has also worked on countless Rotaplast missions, and a local plastic surgeon who has also volunteered his time to work with our team.
One of the day’s more remarkable background stories involves Nelson. Today is his first birthday, and his mother's 31st. We were delighted to be able to be able to give Nelson such an incredible gift on this very special day – he had both a cleft lip and palate repair. Nelson was born in a small village in Northern Mexico. Nelson is here today because the doctor in their small village told the family about this Rotaplast mission. Nelson, his mother Justina, and his nine-year-old sister Priscilla traveled several days to meet our team in Oaxaca. Nelson’s father, older brother and sister remained at home. Nelson’s father is a field worker and could not afford for the entire family to make the trip. Justina told us that the entire family works the fields at corn planting time.
Dr. Schepel performed the delicate surgery. After only two and a half hours Nelson’s life-changing operation was complete. He was moved to the Post Anesthesia Care Unit. In the PACU, nurse Sandra Stabile, patient volunteer Cyndie George and interpreter Ivonne Montes de Oca watched over him. After about one hour Nelson was reunited with his mother. She will stay with him tonight at the hospital and sleep in a small bed with him. Justina, just a bit teary, told me this was the best birthday that she has had, even better than the day little Nelson was born.
This children’s hospital has an albergue, a small hostel, which we all call "the pink house". This is a place where families, including siblings like Nelson’s sister, can stay briefly while their loved ones are in this hospital. The men and women are separated by two wings and sleep in bunk beds. The families cook and clean together in a cooperative manner. For families like Nelson's who have traveled such long distances with so little money, the pre and post operative housing provided by the albergue is a godsend.