Day 10 (D-day minus 2)

Most of the team returned to the hotel late last night, the last surgery was a long and complicated one.


The good news this morning is that the lights were on at our hotel and we were able to see what we were eating for breakfast.

Earlier in the week I introduced you to all the medical volunteers, today Scott Wheelwright will introduce you to our non-medical volunteers.

Non-medical Volunteers

Brian Walker, a member of the Garberville Rotary Club in northern California, serves as our quartermaster, which means he provides all our materials and solves all our problems.  From sutures to medicines to happy hour snacks and drinks, Bryan is always on the run.  He packed up the boxes before they were shipped to us and will see they return intact.  Having completed over ten trips in the three years since his retirement from operating a grocery store, Bryan is well experienced in this assignment.

Rick Waltonsmith, a member of Saratoga Rotary Club, is special assistant to the pediatricians and assistant sterilizer.  He runs errands for the doctors, brings patients to the operating room and conducts them to recovery.  Retired after a long career in high tech, Rick spends his time in travel and creating welded-metal sculpture.

Dennis Bourassa, a member of the Garberville Rotary Club in northern California, serves as translator and assistant quartermaster.  A  contractor involved in house construction, Dennis has served on over ten missions and is a help in working through details with hospital administration, soothing the concerns of patient's families, and solving the myriad problems that arise every day.

Scott Wheelwright, also from Saratoga Rotary, is responsible for operation of the instrument autoclave, which involves checking each tray to ensure the 20 or 30 different tools is each recovered and cleaned after the previous operation, sterilizing each tray and delivery to the proper operating room of a set for a palate or lip operation.  Scott is otherwise a consultant to companies manufacturing pharmaceuticals.

Bob Araldi, from Saratoga Rotary, is our team photojournalist, taking pictures, writing stories, and maintaining our blog.  We are indebted to Bob for the interesting background on our patients and their families that inspire and encourage us.  Bob is retired from a career in global sales for a major technology equipment manufacturer.

David Mimeles, from Saratoga Rotary, is our medical records manager, and as such he makes sure each child is registered and tracked through the operation and recovery.  Each step of the way includes documents that record testing, procedures, outcomes and history.  David is also supporting technology-related issues such as the photos and blog.  David owns a software firm that provides specialty applications for non-profit organizations such as Boy Scout Councils.

Rosalie Wells, a member of the West Grove Avondale Rotary Club in the Philadelphia area, is our team leader, with overall responsibility for the success of our mission.  She has served on seven missions and when she is not leading missions she is a professional translator (English to Spanish) with an emphasis on medical device manuals.

Bruce Hodgin, from Saratoga Rotary, spends his days working with the children and families.  He takes pictures of every child before and after surgery and then helps relieve their anxiety with games, activities, toys and other diversions.  Bruce works in property management and real estate.

Bella Mahoney, from Saratoga Rotary, serves as translator and provides a shoulder for families to cry on.  Every family has made sacrifices to arrive here and has a story of the challenges they have had to overcome.  Bella’s compassion and empathy draws these family stories out and provides an outlet for the families to release their tension.


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Bob Araldi, David Mimeles, Bruce Hodgin, Brian Walker, Rick Waltonsmith, Dennis Bourassa, Rosalie Wells, and Scott Wheelwright

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Bella Mahoney

When Pedro, a 10 1/2 year old boy was born his parents noticed a small growth on his upper lip, but didn't think much of it. Over the years the growth continued to grow and wrap itself around the muscle in his upper lip and began to grow and protrude outward.  Dr. Dennis removed most of the growth which was entangled around the upper lip muscle. 

Although Dr. Dennis does not think this is malignant, he still sent it to a pathologist for an analysis.  The physical problem was not the real problem, it was an emotional problem brought on by school bullies. Before Pedro attended school, and prior to the growth protruding, he was a happy, talkative and outgoing little boy. However, over the last 5 years he has been in school where the other kids tease him, pick on him, and call him "duck lip".  He has become withdrawn, timid, and is a loaner, and has no friends to play with. Although his upper lip is swollen, you can see that it is 100% improved. Let's pray he will grow out of his timidness and be accepted by the other children.

Let me tell you something about the family and where they come from.  They are a family of mom, dad and 3 boys and come from an extremely remote pueblo of Se Los Cuchumatanes, a Mayan pueblo far up in the mountains about 12 hours from Retalhhuleu.  They started their trip on Monday morning at 5AM, drove non-stop, only stopping once to use a toilet and arriving here at the hospital at 7PM.  They came to the hospital on Tuesday morning, in what we call a "walk-in", he went into surgery on Wednesday morning and is tired but doing fine.  In the picture below you will notice Pedro, his mother and her brother.  The brother came along so he could translate from their Mayan language to Spanish, and of course Bella did the translation for us.  Like many of the mothers we see here, she does not speak Spanish.  Her brother says " to the people who provided this service to Pedro and the poor people of Guatemala, it is hard to express my appreciation and gratitude".  Mom said she is very happy with the outcome of the operation and that this will give Pedro a chance in life.  But her heart goes out to the many children in her pueblo who are suffering with cleft lip and other serious problems.  Her neighbors daughter has a cleft lip and there is little chance she can get to a Rotaplast site to get it repaired.  She says "Thank you to all the people who help my Pedro".

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It started to rain earlier than usual today.  Coming down in buckets. 
More to come later…


Speaking of the rain…

When we first went to the pre-surgery waiting room, we couldn't find Emerson or his mother.  Bella had to go out in the pouring rain and find them and finally did.  Little 4 year old Emerson comes to us with a cleft lip problem, which means this little boy previously had a cleft lip repaired, but something didn't heal correctly and Dr. Milton Solis had to do a cleft lip revision to repair the initial surgery.  While we were interviewing the boy's mother, the boy said "can I eat tomorrow, and I want to go home".  As you can see in the photo below, this is one cute little guy with the sweetest little voice.  Then we asked his mom a couple of questions, and all she could say is " may God find a way to pay you (Rotaplast) because as poor as we are, this surgery is a dream come true.  There is no way I would have been able to provide this for my son."  As we are talking with her, she begins to cry with appreciation for all we have done for little Emerson.  She continues, "I pray to God that He gives you long lives to continue to do this work for the poor people of Guatemala and I pray He gives you the strength to return." 

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We had a visitor on Monday morning from the University of San Carlos in Guatemala.  His name is Dr. Byron Leivq, and he has just earned his dental degree and is in the process of studying oral surgery at the university.  He spent the last three days observing Dr. Milton Solis and watching the many surgeries he performed. 

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Byron said he will be happy to participate in a Rotaplast mission some day. 

Daniel Chay Vincente is a 14 year old boy with macrostomia, and enlarged mouth.  Actually the right side of his mouth is severely extended.  The repair has made him able to eat and drink normally.  Before surgery he had to use his fingers to keep the food in his mouth between chewing so it wouldn't spill out, and when he drank, he had to be careful so the drink would not seep out.  Daniel is one of 6 children, 5 boys and 1 girl, and the family lives in the same area as the hospital.  We talked with the parents and this is what they told us, "first I want to thank God, he has given us the hope to wait for you (Rotaplast) to come and help Daniel and the many poor people of Guatemala. God is the one who gives us faith and believes in people like you to come and help us, the poor. Thank God for bringing you here, and thank you for following his direction."

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It's the end of the day and we completed 14 surgeries which brings the grand total to 108 for our mission.