Up and at it, and on the bus by 7:00 am, we are off to meet our patients. We’re only about 2 miles from the hospital. Wow, its a beautiful, new facility! We were greeted by 60 patients and their families (the rest showed up over the course of the day). They were anxious, apprehensive and excited to see us and we were thrilled to see them, too. They came from all over the region, including small villages of native peoples (The Embera) who speak their own language. The new hospital was a treat for the experienced Rotaplast medical staff. The facility is new, clean, well equipped, with lots of power, and brand new OR equipment. Our doctors are delighted with room enough for three OR tables to be in service a one time. The local staff are competent, helpful and very hospitable.

Each patient was registered (Craig, Molly and Victoria), photographed (Millie), and examined for vital signs, current conditions and medical history, plus planning by the medical team for the surgeries needed. We saw 92 people.

Because of the ‘hurry up and wait’ factor none of the families left the building for fear of missing something. By the end of the day, many folks were hungry, thirsty and very tired. Imagine many tired children with no place to nap. Still families were exceptionally patient. The schedule was set at the end Clinic Day so that families could plan for their accommodations. The accommodations and food are an economic hardship for these hopeful families.

A lovely woman, Maria, with a beautiful necklace and earrings. She needed a bone graft not a palate surgery and was turned down because we didn’t have the specialist. One of our nurses, Margo, called around to other hospitals and got a maxillfacial surgeon to do it. Just as she was leaving in tears, Margo went running out to the parking lot and nearly tackled her. The good news changed the tears from heartbreak to happiness. She was SO happy she came to the ‘front desk’ and gave the earrings to Victoria, a Rotarian from San Rafael, who checked her in, and gave Millie the necklace! She will bring her more jewelry next week when her surgery is scheduled. Maria makes this jewelry by hand (sewing).

This is usually a day of hard work and our mission was no exception. I’ve noticed no one is afraid of hard work! We will spend 10 days with our new community!