First team message of Day 2 “Breakfast 6 a.m., vans to hospital 7 a.m. sharp. Lots of eager patients waiting for you!” And indeed there were! Just over a hundred families made their way to Seventh Day Adventist Miller Hospital – some by boat from nearby islands, some driven by volunteers from up to 75 miles away, and some walked for miles to bring their children to be screened for the life-changing surgery offered through the Rotaplast program.

Our group of non-medical volunteers from Rotary District 5300 came together as if they had been doing their assigned jobs forever and that is in no small part thanks to our seasoned volunteers helping from the Rotary Club of Cebu Port Centre. Medical Records greeted each of the families who were waiting in the hallways, then sent them to be photographed for their “before” pictures, then to be screened by the individual surgery teams where the child received a green or blue dot to indicate where they would be in the surgical schedules. A couple of children received red dots which indicated no surgery due to the complexity of their condition.

Once cleared by the surgery team patients and families were escorted to pediatrician, dentist and speech pathologist. Then the waiting…remaining on site until given their child’s schedule. The patient/families scheduled first, spent the night on cots in the gymnasium, nervously waiting for morning. One mom emotionally shared she wasn’t sure she could close her eyes until the surgery was done and her son was back in her arms since he hadn’t been able to get the surgery in years past. It felt more like a dream for her at this point.

With the business side of our nearly 8 hour day checking in our 107 new patients, we would be remiss if we didn’t share a few of the personal impact stories. Young Aliyah made her way through the process with tight hugs and blessings for several of us. When both parents of sixteen year-old Ronald died, he wasn’t previously even able to be considered for surgery until his sister had at last turned 18 and could sign as his caregiver. This young man already seemed confident and articulate with his current condition, but we are certain surgery will continue to improve his life for the better. Little Rhiana may have smiled the biggest with her cleft lip, all the while showing a peace sign. The final child who stole our hearts was eight month old Khaled who was brought in by his grandmother. Khaled’s facial and nasal clefts were so severe, and with apparent signs of poor nutrition and possible pneumonia, he didn’t appear to be a viable patient at this time. The poor nutrition, per one of the surgeons, would have been a major concern for proper wound healing. His grandmother broke down and cried; her heart was broken. We had all, too, been so hopeful.

We will continue to strive for another day of hope by Savings Smiles and Changing Lives for so many – including ours!