Mentally this is the day that all of us have been preparing for since the we signed up with Rotaplast for this mission to the Philippines; today is the first day of surgery. No surprise that everyone is up early and more than a little ready to get this day underway. By 6:25 it is wheels up, a full five minutes ahead of schedule, something we have been encouraged to make happen by our head nurse!
During our short drive over to the hospital Carolyn Walchak outlines how the day will likely progress reminding everyone to be flexible and patient as things seldom go as planned. Bryan Stamm our lead pediatrician is also the team’s doctor (after all we are just kids at heart) and as such he takes a few minutes to check in with the group to make sure all of us are feeling well…the verdict…so far so good; we’re ready to roll.
Looking very official in our in scrubs, everyone quickly disperses for their posts while the medical team runs through a mock code while some of the non medical team listen in. Shortly thereafter the first two of the days twelve patients are ready to be taken down to the operating area. Each of us manages to get our departments, there various systems and processes, working smoothly and there is surprisingly little confusion as day one moves forward.
Karl Seidel is “transport” tasked with moving each patient together with mom or dad to pre-op. Here they are greeted by Carolyn to ensure we have the right patient for the right procedure at the right time. They will stay briefly in pre-op under the watchful eye of Eugene Dolinsky who also provides some entertainment until the operating team is ready to collect them.
There is a palpable change in the parent’s emotional state as they are moved from the waiting area upstairs to the pre-op area just prior to surgery. Where previously they had been elated at this opportunity for their child, suddenly coming face to face with the reality of the moment their eyes portray the worry, fear and panic that is in their hearts. Everyone concerned offers words of encouragement and employ various techniques to allay the parents concerns until finally it is time for surgery.
What happens in the next 1 ½ – 2 hours is nothing short of a miracle as our Doctors including Rod Simonds, Frank Walchak and Devi Tantri work with immaculate precision on the little lips and little palates of these children and babies; some not more than 6 months old.
For the parents and family the time passes slowly as they wait with anxious eyes on the doors leading into the recovery area. In truth, surgery finishes relatively quickly and our PACU team including Jean Petro and Bruce Hickey watch over these young charges in the recovery area, monitoring vitals, ensuring overall wellbeing and assisting them in waking safely. Finally it is this team that has the enviable task of retrieving the parents and watching the almost inevitable smiles and tears of joy when their children are placed in their arms.
Twelve times today this story played out each one as truly moving as the next. How do you ever forget the look in parents eyes when they realize that what they have managed to have done for their child, regardless of the sacrifice to get here, was not only the right thing to do but has been a success.
October 9th our first surgical day has come to a end. Twelve surgeries are complete and a tired, happy team heads back to the hotel for an early night, 6:30 departure comes early and there is a lot more work to do tomorrow.