We began the morning bright and early with breakfast at 5:30am with a quick meeting to follow.  Then we boarded a bus around 6:30am and took a 15-minute ride to Hospital General de Medellin.  After checking in with security, we got to work setting up our respective areas.  There was a line of hopeful parents and children waiting for us to admit them for evaluations.  Most of those here today have travelled a long distance to get here, some as many as 9 hours.

When the prospective patients and their families entered the reception area, they were given a COVID test and asked to wait 15 minutes outside until the results were in.  Only those that test negative can be treated.  Arzoo Salami is in charge of our infection control.  Being a physician, someone who is organized and very safety conscious, she is the perfect person for the job.  She has been a member of the Rotary Club of Claremont, California for about a year now.  Arzoo precured and brought with her 1500 COVID tests.  She even got the airlines to let her bring them with her in a big carry-on duffle bag since they are temperature and pressure sensitive.  This is her second Rotaplast mission.  She went to India in 2020, right before the pandemic. Photos: Arzoo Salami putting drops in test kits; Med student volunteers, Camila Luna Valasquez and Sofia Martinez Restrepo, administering COVID tests (parents did the nose swabbing)


Next, families went to the medical records station where Sangita Seshadri interviewed the patient/parent with the help of three volunteers: Manuela, Margarita, and Nicole.  They got a medical history, age, and other vital information.  Then they created a file and Sangita entered them into the computer.  She is a pharmaceutical consultant, and immediate past-president of the Rotary Club of Saratoga, California. Sangita knows how to get the job done.  This is her 7th Rotaplast mission, the first being in Guatemala, and all have been as Medical Records keeper.  She loves to travel and learn about different cultures.  Her favorite saying is, “Be the reason someone smiles today.”  Rotaplast is the perfect fit for her. Photos: Sandy Christensen and Sangita Seshadri (facing camera); Volunteer Nicole helping Sangita with translating medical history.

The family’s next stop is photography.  As Historian for the mission, I get to take a picture of each patient for their file.  This was definitely not something that can quickly be done by one person.  Lucky for me, I had an amazing volunteer helping me for most of the day, Lena.  Before she had to leave in the early afternoon, she took it upon herself to train her own replacements!  Her replacements were her friends, Manuela and Laura.  Laura is a member of the local Rotaract club.  She recruited her friends to join her to help out where needed.  They helped with the printing of the photos, translated for me, and even helped get some of the children to look at the camera.  As you can see from the photos, I lost a few of my toys in the process.  Who could ask those faces for the toys back?  It was precious watching the fascination on their faces as they watched their photos print.

After their photo was added to their file, the patients and their families are escorted to the nurses where their vitals were taken and other medical screenings were done to make sure the patient is healthy for surgery.  From the nurses they went to the surgeons for evaluation.  The surgeons did a thorough examination of the area requiring surgery and explained what they could and couldn’t do to the families.  The pediatricians were next.  In addition to examining the children, the pediatrician acted as general practitioner for the adults.  The dentist was next on the list of medical professionals to examine the patients.  Lastly, the speech pathologist examined the patients bringing the total to 5 medical professionals.  Photos: surgeon Dr. Todd Farnworth with OR Nurse Victoria Slama; OR Nurse Margoth Nunez and surgeon Dr. Ian Wilson; surgeons Dr. Angelo Capozzi and Dr. Rod Simonds with a hospital resident and OR nurse Evelyn Snyder checking a potential patient; Dr. Ian Wilson consulting with a patient; a hospital resident translating to patient.

The medical team discusses the cases and categorized them as green (good to schedule for surgery), blue (maybe-needs further evaluation/discussion), or red (not good).  If red is assigned to a patient, they are counselled as to what they need to do to be a good candidate in the future, if possible.  Sometimes the child is under-weight and the parent is counselled on nutrition for the child.

Those families that were coded green, were asked to stay in the local area until notified of when their surgery would take place.  The families coded blue were also asked to stay local until the final decision was made.  Since many of these families have travelled a long way, they are given a place to stay while waiting for the news or the surgery.  Many are staying at a local Roman Catholic Convent and are given free meals as well.

We have one more clinic day tomorrow.  We will also be performing 6 surgeries.  We are told it will probably be busier than today.  Time to get some rest.