Dr. Helen O’Keeffe Vajk (I never know whether this time she will be Helen O’Keeffe or Helen Vajk) is one of our Anesthesiologists and definitely a Rotaplast veteran. She has been on over 35 missions and is retired from Kaiser Hospital in Walnut Creek, CA. As an Anesthesiologist she not only puts the patient to sleep-but is responsible for constant monitoring of vital body status indicators, but also giving medications during the surgical procedure, and then-bringing the patient out of the anesthetized state and following them in the PACU (post anesthesia care unit).

What does Helen do in her spare time? It is a long list. She is on the Board of Directors of Rotaplast International, on the Rotaplast Medical Committee, works with Pete Ogilvie on equipment and supplies in our warehouse, volunteers at Med Share, a non-profit medical supply organization in San Leandro, CA-and is a very active wife, mother, and grandmother !

Our Cebu Rotaplast Mission team will help Helen celebrate her birthday this week. She is not telling us how many!Dr. Alain Senerpida is one of our team “Newbees “. He is one of our plastic surgeons and lives in Cebu. Here in between operations he is going over the schedule with our head nurse, Mia Pena.Joe Grasso, from Sausalito, CA is one of our veteran non-medical volunteers. Each Rotaplast team consists of Plastic Surgeons, Anesthesiologists, OR nurses, PACU nurses, Pediatricians, and non-medical volunteers who make it possible for the medical team professionals to Save Smiles and Change Lives as they are trained to do. Joe is responsible for sterilizing all instruments between surgeries.Why do all of these Rotaplast volunteers take time away from their jobs and families to be a part of a mission, to spend their resources, and to spend two weeks on long plane flights and less than comfortable surroundings they came from ? All we have to do is look at this young boy, who has a bilateral cleft lip, and a cleft palate. Without surgery he would be subjected to unending ridicule, possibly staying home from school, unable to learn to speak like other children and adults, possibly suffer from a variety of health issues, and burdening his family. In a matter of 2.5 hours of surgery, followed by only a few days of recovery, his life and the lives of his family will be changed forever-that is why 26 of us are in Cebu, Philippines! Thanks be to God for the opportunity!

Here is a great view of the back of Ted Alex’s head! He is trying to put a patient identifying number on this boy who is about ready to go into surgery. Ted is a non-medical Rotarian from the Boston district. He has been on several missions. This time he is the ward coordinator. Previously he has been Sterilizer and Quartermaster.Debbie Dean is one of our veteran OR Nurses who has been doing mission trips since 1998. She currently lives in Lodi, CA and works at San Joaquin County Hospital. For several years she was a traveling nurse working in several hospitals across the US. She has that special skill to make the kids feel secure as she takes them into surgery.

Juan Gallego is a non-medical Rotarian from Revere, MA. Revere is near Boston whose Rotary District 7930 is the primary sponsor of our Mission to Cebu.

This is Juan’s fifth Rotaplast mission. This time he is our quartermaster, responsible for keeping track of all the equipment and supplies we bring from San Francisco, obtaining other items needed from outside the hospital, and taking care of snacks and drinks for our evening re-cap meetings at the hotel. Our local Rotary hosts are essential to assisting Juan in his job.

Our non-medical team members are also called upon to be flexible and help each other as needed. Pictured here is Juan keeping track of and entertaining pre-operative patients while Heidi Hall, our Rotarian and team recreation therapist takes a break.