[L->R David Stellway (Anesthesiologist), Joe Anderson (Lead Anesthesiologist), Michelle Benedict (Photojournalist), Jodelle Myhre (Head Nurse), Katherine Gallagher (Lead Pediatrician), Mohammed Hannan (CRNA), Wally Chang (Surgeon), Angelo Capozzi (Surgeon), Helen O’Keeffe Vajk (PACU Assistant), Monica Morales (Ward Coordinator), Paula Fillari (Lead PACU Nurse), Randy Floyd (Mission Director), Adnan Uzunismail (Surgeon), Tony Scheppmann (Medical Records), Jan Epstein (OR Nurse), Milton Solis (Surgeon), Nan Madden (Pediatric Nurse Practitioner), Marilyn Santiago (OR Nurse), Simon Rios (Sterilizer), Michael Fallon (Anesthesiologist), Margaret Watson Hopkins (PACU Nurse), Diana Deleon (Recreation Therapist), not pictured: Lois Borie (OR Nurse)]

Our last day in Chittagong we had closing clinic to do a final exam of the patients who would show up for their last dressing change and the scrupulous eyes of highly-trained American & Guatemalan Surgeons to reassure them of the healing process. We evaluated 126 potential patients, performing 89 procedures on an admitted 76 patients.  All of this would not be possible without the mission team, our local Rotarians, AND the generous donors who funded this mission—THANK YOU!

[Surgeons: Angelo Capozzi, Adnan Uzunismail, Wally Chang, Milton Solis]

There was one patient I kept hoping to see turn the corner. But she never came. I heard later that she had already been checked out in the Ward and had since left. My heart dropped. I had been saving my meal portions and bringing them to her every day for a week since she was admitted without family or any other support. I would use little secret gestures to hand her off the goodie bags so that other patients didn’t feel jealous. We had our own little language. And now she was just gone, into thin air.

Then just as we were packing up our final bag to head to the airport, she materialized. I rummaged through my bag for the last goodie bag I had made for her of all the snacks left in my bag I had brought from home. I felt ashamed I forgot to bring any gifts on this mission and so I had prepared to give her the only thing that felt valuable this morning when packing and thinking of her— my sunglasses. As I handed them over, I was so embarrassed that they were kind of cheap and had scuffs from all the adventures they’d been on with me. It probably sounded like pleading as I asked the interpreter to apologize and explain for their disheveled shape. Maybe she would understand that I was really trying to give her the last piece of me I had left to offer.

Before I knew it she was hugging me and crying uncontrollably. Of course, I held her back. She told the interpreter that she was so sad that I was leaving, her heart was breaking, but that she would wait everyday in the hopes that I would return to Chittagong on the mission next year. As soon as she left, I quickly turned to the corner and started crying— humbled that I had meant that much to her, grateful that she had meant so much to me, and deeply sad about the lack of access to health and social services for people like her abused in Bangladesh. In the corner, a little flag that read, “Trust Me, I’m a Doctor”.

As we left the hospital for the final time, crowds of children and adults hugged us, blew kisses, and hovered near our cars to soak up every final moment. And I realized then more deeply that Rotaplast does more than repair cleft lips and free burned/contracted skin. On our ninth mission to Chittagong, Rotaplast has built deep relationships with this city and given people hope— not just that their lives may now have improved function, but that traveling from so far away to come to offer these surgeries represented that there are people that care this much for them.  What Rotaplast really does is give people, who may be experiencing it for the first time, purposeful attention and validation that their lives have value— that they are worthy of this kind of care and love.

[Marilyn Santiago (OR Nurse) plays with a baby in the village across from our hospital]

[Wally Chang (Surgeon) gingerly inspects the leg of a potential patient]

[Diana Deleon (Recreation Therapist) plays with a young, smiling patient before her surgery]

[Milton Solis (Surgeon) gives the “thumbs up” after inspecting his patient Israt]

[Katherine Gallagher (Lead Pediatrician) and Paula Fillari (Lead PACU nurse) sing “Mama’s Gonna Buy You a Mockingbird” to a waking patient)

[Randy Floyd (Mission Director) dancing with children from the village]

[Angelo Capozzi (Medical Director) shows hospital staff how far we’ve traveled to work with them]

Goodbye for now!