by Leonard Friedland, M.D.
I am one of the pediatricians, from Philadelphia and this is my first Rotaplast mission. It is thrilling and rewarding to be in Udaipur. We have a fantastic team of medical and non-medical volunteers. It feels great knowing that we are all here for the same reason, to help these children and their families.
My role as pediatrician is to work with the team to evaluate the patients before surgery making certain it is safe and appropriate to operate, and after the surgery to care for the children as they recover (fluids, pain medications, nutrition, medications, wound care).
I am fortunate that my co-pediatrician is Al Goldberg. Al is a veteran Rotaplast volunteer who is teaching me the ins and outs of cleft lip/palate care. Al and I both trained at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, though several years ago Al saw the light and moved to sunny and beautiful Northern California.
Our team of three anesthesiologists are all from Stanford. Dr. Echo is taking a young one to surgery, below.
I enjoy being in the OR observing their attention and focus on pain management, airway control and patient safety. Our 4 plastic surgeons and plastic surgical resident are magicians. They make new smiles and transform lives. In addition to their plastic surgery skills they are a friendly and fun group.
We have two dentists, who are a joy to work with as well. This morning when I visited the patient ward I found them holding a huge plastic set of teeth and a large tooth brush teaching the children how to brush their teeth. I took some pictures and can’t wait to show my dentist father. Our OR nurses and recovery room nurses are all Rotaplast mission veterans and it is fun hearing their stories from prior missions. I work closely with our two recovery room nurses Erin and Ellen who are caring, experienced and focused on our patients. They assure that our patients are safely cared for immediately after their operations as they recover from the anesthetic.
Carolyn and Frank Walchak are our incredible head nurse and medical director. Carolyn has the difficult job of keeping everything in order - balancing as much as we can for the patients and doing it safely. She is a master. She and Jim Pinnell (Yakima Rotary) are calming a patient prior to surgery, below.
The non-medical team is a great group led by Steve Altmayer from the Yakima, Washington Rotary. They add so much to the team dynamics and compassionate patient care. Most of our volunteers are from District 5060 in Washington and Canada. We also have one Rotarian, Jo Kuchle, from North Pole, Alaska.
I just love being here. Meeting and speaking with the children and their families is the highlight of each day. The children and the families are friendly and love when we spend time speaking with them and taking their pictures. The women in their colorful dresses fill the wards with beautiful colors. Coming here and meeting these families who have no money in their pocket and struggle in ways I can’t imagine shows me that all parents are they same- we all love our children. The children we are operating on have an additional hurdle and the work this team is doing is transforming the lives of these children and their families. It is an honor being part of this – while we miss our families (and our air conditioners!) we know our families are supportive of this effort and are a significant part of our motivation to come so far and work so hard.