With all the things happening simultaneously on a Rotaplast mission, the one constant is that each patient is assigned a Medical Records number before they even come into the pre-clinic door on the first day.  In a perfect world, they would also get input into the computer at the same time. Retalhuleu did not turn out to be the perfect world from that standpoint.   We were delayed in arriving here the first day so there was no time to come to the hospital and get anything ready ahead of time.  There was a large tent set up outside where three translators met with the waiting families and took brief information.  We just used numbered charts for that first day.  Within a couple days we caught up with all of those who had been given the green light (a green dot) for surgery.  Eventually, I came to realize how everything fits together, and I am loving this job.  We record every action and each procedure so we have accurate spreadsheets of everyone we saw on this mission.

The set up of the hospital for each mission is different, but the way this hospital is laid out my Medical Records area is right in the center of things.  So while I have lots to do, it provides a great vantage point to see the parents and kids waiting for surgery (their bench is about 3 feet away) and everyone moving to and from surgery.   The children that are waiting are often really hungry, especially if they are babies who haven’t been allowed to eat for awhile.  Moms and dads are so patient with these beautiful little kids.  They sing, they bounce, they sway back and forth just like parents everywhere but they also have a more unusual way of comforting their children.  They rub the top of their heads really hard – and it seems to do the trick!   Moms here often carry their young children in a sling on their back and it is just magical to watch how they do it.  I am pretty sure I would have dropped my children on the ground.  If you watch the face of a mother right after her child is taken to surgery, they almost always have tears in their eyes and deep concern all over their face.  This is a direct contrast to the look I see later in the evening when their child has come back to recovery and is even more beautiful than before.  Their whole manner is light-hearted and relieved.

One of the most moving sights for me is to see the patients coming out of the OR, especially the little ones.   There is a group of quilters in the Northeast, coordinated by a Rotary Club in Maine that make beautiful, brightly colored quilts for each patient.  When surgery is over the doors bang open, and out comes the nurse and anesthesiologist moving very quickly, one holding the child covered with the quilt and the other carrying the IV bag.  They pause as they go by the parents so that they can see their child and then the whole entourage moves quickly to the PACU so that they can begin to recover.  It makes me grin every time I see it.  That’s why we are here.

— Mary Ann Avnet, Medical Records,  Rotary Club of  Las Vegas

Mary Ann photo