Our meals are provided by the Rotarians of Bengalore North. Three times a day, we gather around two long tables in one of the open-air corridors. In a large adjoining room a buffet is set up and we are served a selection of Indian curries, stews, vegetables, rice and Nan or Puri-Indian breads. On surgery days there is a rolling lunch hour as the physicians and staff complete surgeries and grab a few minutes to eat. It is a given that surgeons and anesthesiologists eat too fast.

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Meal Time

The center of our mission is, of course, performing surgeries and there are four surgeons on our team. They bring a high level of skill working with laser-like focus making scores of decisions every minute. Their work is totally in the moment, discerning the anatomical parameters of the particular patient’s situation – where to cut, where is the muscle, the layers of skin, tendons and cartilage, how to structure the repair and all under the pressure of time, working with care, but also with alacrity. They have developed instincts that guide the multiple choices presented each step of the way. But they must keep moving and trust their quick judgments.


The work of the surgeons is possible because of the skill of the anesthesiologists. They evaluate the needs and tolerance of the patients for anesthetics and gently move them into a suspended zone between life and death and hold them there until the surgical work is done.

Operating room nurses are a breed apart. They introduce the patient to the operating table, not always a welcome sight to the child entering a room filled with bright lights, complex equipment, tubes and pumps and people dressed in strange clothes. They understand and maintain all the necessary tools for the work to be done, but also assist the Anesthesiologist in maintaining and reading the various monitoring systems attached to the patient during the surgery. They need to read the surgeon’s needs which can be a challenge in the case of a Dutch or American doctor and a local Indian nurse. They handle suction systems to keep fluids away from the immediate site of incisions and from clogging the patient’s air passages or flowing down the esophagus. On this mission, the local hospital surgical staff assists the team, standing in for our team OR nurses from time to time.

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Anesthesiologist Ari Djalali and Head Nurse Sandra Swiatek prepare Hosein for surgery

Our Surgeons are Dr. Harold Rosenfield, from Los Angeles, Dr. Karla Werninghaus, from the San Francisco Bay Area, Dr. Devi Tantri from Akron, Ohio, and Dr. Sibrand Schepel, the mission Medical Director, from Enschede in The Netherlands. All have been on prior Rotaplast missions. Dr. Tantri was originally from the Nagamangala region and speaks the local language.

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Medical Director and Surgeon Dr. Sibrand Schepel washes up for surgery on Hosein. 

The Anestheiologists are Dr. Helen O’Keefe Vajk, the Lead Anesthesiologist from Walnut Creek, California; Dr. Nisha Malhotra, from San Diego; Dr. Alimorad Djalali, from San Francisco; and Dr. Megan Olejniczak of Stanford Medical School.

OR nurses are Sandra Swiatek, our head nurse, from Pennsylvania; Vickie Slama, from Arizona; Margoth Escamilla from New York City; and Yipi Yang of San Francisco.


Submitted 11 August 2012, R. McAulay