Sunday, April 10, 2011

Last Day of Surgery

Today was the final day of surgery! We still had bags and bags of donations in our hotel room on Thursday night, so we packed everything up. Throughout the week we had carefully tried to ration out the donations we brought to the hospital each day. In the end, we realized that we had more donations than we thought. We had sooo many leftovers to pack up for the last day that we had to have Brittany and other team members lug it in and out of the bus. So, the first thing we did when arrived was sort out all the donations we had brought along with shoes that were left over from the week for the patients in post-op. In order to carry all of our donations to the other side of the hospital were post-op is, we had to use a large gurney and wheel it there and back to pre-op. Even though we had given out donations to all of the Op-Smile patients in Post-op, we still had more donations! So, we went to the other pediatric wards in the hospital and gave out dresses and toys the children. They were so grateful and acted as if they had never gotten a gift before. Their faces just gleamed with happiness and gratitude.
While we were in the non-op smile pediatric wards, we got to see a whole different perspective of patient care. There were about 5 patients to only 1 bed, no were to walk, and baby incubators crowded with swarms of people. Also, there was poor ventilation and despite it being early in the morning, there was no light or sanitation. This made us thankful for the facility that the hospital was generous enough to give us space for our patients to be comfortably treated even though some had to share a bed.
Our friend and wonderful translator Rosalyn from our first day of screening, had returned for her surgery and was very excited to see us again. We got spend some time with her in Child Life before she went in to surgery and she was so happy to be able to get treated today. Her surgery went very well and we visited her in the post-op after.
We also made a trip to Pre-Op but since there were not a lot of surgeries being done, there were only a few patients in there. We did a presentation on Oral Re-hydration Therapy and Burn Care. Once we had finished, we had a ton of donations to hand out so we decided to give some to the local nurses for their children. They lined up as we handed out our goods with smiles hung from ear to ear while receiving.
With most of our donations gone, we saved a box for the mission coming up in June that will be held in Nairobi, Kenya. We were so fortunate to have received so many supplies to not only help Operation Smile patients but also many other children in need. We knew that no matter where we gave out the donations, they would go to a child who would greatly appreciate it.
We are so thankful to have enjoyed the company of such a strong and dedicated team. Even when a child with a cleft lip showed up for screening just a couple hours before pack up time, the doctors managed to squeeze her in to the schedule.  It is amazing to see such a global team of volunteers come together to complete 128 surgeries.  Although we physically changed the lives of those children receiving surgery, the impact we made rippled to each patient’s family, friends, and community.  Each team member played a valuable role in the success of each surgery, from medical records to post-op, each team member put in an extra effort to make sure each patient was comfortable throughout the whole process. That is what a team is all about.
After a long week of surgery, the team headed back to the hotel to clean up for the final party. It was such a change to see everyone all dressed up! We hopped on the bus and drove a short ways to a nice hotel where we would have our final party.  It was great to see each member there for one last gathering before we would depart Nakuru. After an entertaining Maasai tribal dance show, the student team presented superlatives to team members who we thought deserved special recognition for their talents and hard work throughout the week.  All in all, it was a fabulous day and final party.  We are so happy the mission was a success, but sad to have left Kenya. 
p.s. a few more posts are still to come :)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Jump Ropes and More Orphanages !

We started off our day at the hospital today by visiting the Pre-Op room to see who will be having surgery today. We brought prince and princess crowns so that the kids could decorate them. When we started handing them out, we realized that not only the children wanted a crown but also their parents. By the time we were done handing them out, the whole room was filled with kings, queens, prince, and princesses. We also did a dental hygiene presentation and handed out toothbrushes to the whole ward. As we were getting through the door to leave, 5 girls followed us to the patio to play jump rope. We tried to join in, but wow they were flying! Out of breath, we crawled over to the Post-Op rooms.

We had been in this room many times before but today it was different. Today we got to visit all of the patients that we had seen in surgery the day before. This was such a unique experience. Most babies were awake and although some were cranky, many of them looked content. Since we had extra supplies from Pre-Op, we decided to crown all of the babies as well. We also gave out get well soon cards to Op Smile patients as well as some Non-Op Smile patients in a different part of the ward. They were all so grateful to see that they were cared for as well.
Then as we walked back from Post-Op, we met Peter, who became a lifesaver when it came to presenting and going to orphanages. Peter is the 13 year old son of one of the nurses who volunteers for Operation Smile in Pre-Op, and he is on school break from boarding school and wanted to get involved in Op Smile. He did a magnificent job translating when we presented to a group of patients waiting to be screened  for surgery (we are so happy the team continues to try and fit in as many surgeries as possible!).
After lunch, we headed out on our way to visit some orphanages to present to them and bring them some supplies.  After driving down several bumpy dirt roads, we arrived at this pretty, well-kept large house.  Around 30 children live at this orphanage, and it was run by this really sweet woman who truly seemed to care about the children and the sense of family amongst them.  All of the children were extremely polite and introduced themselves to us right as we got out of the van. We got a tour of the home and then the kids came inside and welcomed us by singing to us. On our way out, we played with the kids in the front courtyard and did a Dental Hygiene presentation. At the end, we handed out toothbrushes and a bright orange soccer ball. 

Thank you PAHS Op Smile!

Connection of the Day:
Century:While we were playing with a few of the patients in Child Life, including both Margaret and Margaret, who we met on the first day of screening, Rachael’s name was called to go in for surgery.  Her mom had just left to go to the grocery store because she was told it would be a few hours before she would go in the OR. I saw Donna, the clinical coordinator, sitting with Rachael outside the theatre, and I went over and tried to talk and comfort Rachael, but she was not scared one bit. She has had palate surgery before, so this was nothing new for her.  Once Donna took Rachael back into the operating room, I changed into my scrubs again and walked back to where Bob and Theresa would be operating on her.  I watched the whole surgery, and the surgeons were so kind as to explain what they were doing and why. Her palate looked awesome when they were finished! I cannot wait to see her tomorrow in Post-Op.
Century with Rachael and her mom

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A day in the OR

Today we had the wonderful opportunity to spend a few hours in the operating room to observe all the hard work of the doctors and nurses. We saw smiles transform in a matter of a few short surgeries.  After a visit to post-op to help out the nurses and check on a few patients, we changed into our scrubs and were all ready to see the excitement of the OR! A little nervous at first, we had visions of ourselves passing out but in the end when we got in, it wasn’t as bad as we had thought it would be. We all survived with no problems.
Walking in to the OR, we were able to choose from 5 tables to observe. Each surgeon was working on a different case whether it be a cleft lip, cleft palate, skin graphs for burns, or just a birth defect. It was nice that all the surgeons were willing to talk to us and explain what they were doing with each instrument. We were very happy to have been able to see a wide spectrum of the work that goes on in the OR for Operation Smile.
One of the surgeries took about 3 hours long. This case was the little girl, Joyce, a 7 year old girl who had been caught in the refugee tent fires(we talked about in one of our previous blog posts). It was a bittersweet feeling watching that surgery happen; grateful that Joyce got to receive surgery on her arms and some parts of her face, but also very sad to see the horrible fresh looking burns. Even with this 3 hour surgery, Joyce is still going to need tremendous amounts of more surgeries and follow up care which will require her to stay strong for the next few years. For this, Joyce will forever be in our thoughts and prayers.
Seeing the before and after results of surgery in itself is wonderful but, today we got to see the process from before to after in action and it was truly amazing. Being able to see the talent and effort of all of the professionals in the OR as well as how beautifully the cleft lips and palates were repaired in such a short amount of time gave us strength and determination to keep doing our part in making sure the children do get to be treated.  We are so thankful that we are part of such a wonderful team in Nakuru!
After 4 and a half hours of watching surgeries, we finally headed out of the OR and visited with patients waiting.  The rest of the afternoon, the waiting area was pretty mellow with mostly adults in the Child Life room.
Some team members headed to a historical museum nearby on a hilltop named Hyrax Hill and we decided to join. We got to see the different areas that various tribes occupied throughout Kenya. We hiked to different sights outside of the museum to see archeological sights were a tribe had lived a long time ago. It was very interesting to see the kinds of things that this tribe did to survive, ward off their enemies, and also provide themselves with entertainment.
We really learned so much today from surgical procedures and cases to how a variety of Kenyan tribes live. “You learn something new everyday”, but how lucky our we to have learned so many things in one day that we probably wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for this tremendous opportunity.

Connection of the day:
Karina: After two hours of watching children come in and out of surgery, Donna, the surgical coordinator, asked me if I could help her walk in a baby to the OR. I think that she could tell that this was something I had been itching to do ever since I got into the OR. I walked outside to talk to the mother of the child that I was about to take in to surgery. She seemed a bit nervous but I tried calming her down with a smile and a pat on the back. The baby boy’s name is Kevin. He is 2 yrs old and had an incomplete cleft lip. I had no idea what to expect when I took the baby out of the mother’s arms. I was terrified that he would start to scream and cry for his mother out of fear. Baby Kevin was so calm. As I walked away from his mother, I reassured her that he would be taken care of and made the baby wave back at her. Kevin stayed calm as I walked him to his operating table. He kept looking around the room, very curious of his surroundings. As I tried placing him on the table, he started to cry so the nurse told me to just hold him until it was time to operate. Back in my arms again, baby Kevin seemed pretty content. I rocked him until his eyes slowly began to close. They placed him under anesthesia and I watched his entire surgery from start to finish. I can’t even describe the feeling I had when I saw the completed lip. I am so excited to go see him tomorrow morning when he is fully awake from the surgery.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

School Visits and Baby Dresses

 Today was another successful day of surgery! We began this morning with a visit to the post-op ward, where we were able to play with the children who had received surgery the day before and stayed over night. The members of the Turkana tribe were all there, including the beautiful baby girl whom everyone fell in love with the day before. We decided to first try to sew her torn up, dirty little dress but that didn’t really work out. Asking for permission from her mother first, we proceeded by going across the street to buy her a brand new dress. She looked like a princess when we put it on her. The mother was so thankful to be able to put something clean on the baby. We are so tempted to bring Bella back to the hotel tomorrow and bathe her!
We continued to rotate babysitting Bella, as well as Agnes, until their parents
Century at Moi Children's Home
Karina at Moi Children's Home
recovered. After a few visits to Child Life and Pre-Op, we headed off site to visit an orphanage and school with Afia, one of the local coordinators. First we went to Moi Children’s Home for orphan children.  The youngest child was less than 1 month old, and they keep children up to age 18. We brought lots of school supplies and a soccer ball for the children, and they were all so excited to see us. As we whipped out our bubbles, the younger kids from ages 4-7 came running at us screaming in delight. It looked as if they had never seen such a thing before. We entertained them for a while with those and took some pictures which they enjoyed also.We can’t wait to do our presentations there later in the week!
Moi Children's Home

We also went to Moi Primary School, where they taught over 2000 students…in one primary school! The headmaster was so kind and welcoming to allow us to come and present, and she did an awesome job maintaining the school, teachers, and grounds. For every teacher, there was approximately 70 students per classroom! We taught burn care and dental hygiene, and presented each child with a toothbrush and pencil. The kids were all excited because they had visitors (and because tomorrow is the last day of school before break), and they all wanted to be in every photo we took. It was really neat to see how energetic and welcoming these children were, and hopefully we will have more successful visits later this week!

            This afternoon we checked to see if we could go into the OR to observe a surgery, so we are both super excited to be able to do that tomorrow morning. It is truly incredible and inspiring to see the amount of work and the long hours all of the surgeons put in to ensure the maximum number of patients possible receive surgery this week.

Monday, April 4, 2011

First day of Surgery

Today was the first day of surgery! Pulling up to the hospital around 7am, we saw the long lists of surgeries for the week, and then began our busy day. We set up the Child Life room, where the children go directly before surgery to help them become familiar and comfortable with equipment they may see in the operating room.  Century spent some time trying to talk to the daughter of a Turkana man who did not know any English and spoke a local dialect.   The student team took care of this girl, Agnes, along with her tribal member's young infant.  The infant went around to the arms of almost every female team member and each time the baby got to a new pair of arms, you could tell that motherly holders were secretly thinking of ways that they could adopt the little girl. At the end of the day, we were glad to know both of their parents' surgeries went well.

To make up for Saturday's lack of people coming in to  be screened, we had about 20 more people come in to be screened. We met a couple more patients and their families as we were put in charge of taking pictures for the medical record files.

Many of the patients we saw from Friday's screening came back. Unfortunately, Tony was not a candidate for an Operation Smile surgery. Karina was so disappointed, she had even brought him some special shirts and toys for when she would see him. It is so hard to know that someone had a special connection with a kid and then they will never be able to see each other again. The important thing was that many of the patients did come back.

Benjamin, one little boy with a kind of growth on his forehead came back for surgery. Karina got a chance to talk to him and his mother and really connect with both of them. Luckily, there was a translator, Sammy, who could translate basically the whole conversation between them. Her story was incredible. At age 14 she got married off and had her first child. In her community,it was looked down upon to be able to get some education for women. She has had 8 children since then and her husband just died last year. She is now a single mother and owes money to many people but still says that her daughters "deserve" this. Selling her chicken and chicken eggs, she makes enough money to send her daughters to high-school and manage to keep her children healthy and happy. Karina gave her 6 Op Smile t-shirts to pass them around her family. She was so grateful and glowed with happiness.

There was also a very severe burn patient that came in to be screened. The burns were not the kind we had been seeing through the weekend screenings though. These burns were fresh on her face and all along her back. This little girl was named Joyce, she had been a burn victim of 2 weeks ago. This was also a unique story. Her family were refugees living in a community with tents. The tents caught on fire and Joyce was in one of them. Her sister went in to go save her but instead she got caught in the fire and Joyce got out with fire on her. Tragically, her sister did not survive. The doctors didn't think they would be able to do surgery but in the end, they have scheduled her to have skin graphs done at the end of the week. We are all so grateful for this.

After running around back and fourth from Post-Op to Pre-OP to the Child Life room, we finally ended our day at the hospital around 6. The surgeons were still doing work as we left. We went back to the hotel and went out to eat Ethiopian food with our new friend Porter, the Peace Corps Volunteer. It was very good (:

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sunday fun day ! (:

Today we got up at 5:00…earliest we’ve been up all week but in the end so worth it! We got in the buses on our way to Lake Nakuru National Park as the sun was coming up over the mountains. It was a very beautiful scenic sight.
            As we waited for our entrance tickets, little monkeys acted as our entertainment for the time passing. These outgoing, sneaky little fellows snuck into a van that was parked next to us through the cracked windows. 1..2...3 monkeys followed. It was hilarious to watch the owner come back and shoo them away.
            We made our way into the park and went for a safari trip all around the Lake. We were surprised by the amount of wildlife and animals that we got to see. From all different kinds of birds to hippos, giraffes, zebras and we even saw a lion taking a nap underneath a shady tree. The distance between the animals and us was incredibly close.
            Making our way up to the top of a cliff, we got an amazing view of the varying terrain from up above. On our way down, we visited a waterfall and found a skull of some kind of large animal.
            Although the experience of the safari itself was incredible, what made it even more special was being able to share this beautiful visit with all of the members from our team, local as well as international. We shared laughs, pictures, but most importantly memories that will last forever.
            After our Safari we got to go to a unique club to have lunch with the whole team including many more Kenyan volunteers that weren’t able to join us on the Safari. They sang to us and shared with us some Kenyan hobbies that they have. In return we shared things about ourselves and things we like to do in our spare time.
            All in all today was an awesome experience that we will always remember. 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

2nd day of screening!

            This morning we got to sleep in a little…6:30! Woohoo! When we got to the hospital things moved pretty slow. Roy, one of our program coordinators from Kenya informed us that by tradition, Kenyans usually have Saturdays to them selves and do more religious affiliated things. This explanation helped us understand why there were much less patients throughout the day.
Our first task assigned to us was to print out the pictures from the patients yesterday. These shots placed in their individual medical files to help identify the patients in the future when they get surgery and for future research studies. The printing of the picture took pretty long since the printer was pretty slow.
            Right after our first task was completed, we were assigned to make “no-no’s” for the surgery days. These cardboard rectangles will go around the arms of the patients so that they wont be able to touch the area that they were treated on after surgery.

            We had a patient come in from the Maasai tribe. She had very large holes in her ears and beaded earrings around them for decoration. Her baby had a cleft lip. They came from a four-hour walk along with another four-hour buss ride. A young man from the Peace Corps came over to the hospital to meet them there in order to take them back to their tribe after the little boy has his surgery.
            There was one little girl who came in, Jane, who had a burn on the back of her head the size of a tortilla. Her mother had braided her hair so that the burn was less noticeable. The little girl was beautiful but very shy and did not smile once while she was with us. The doctor came over to see if he could do anything for her. Unfortunately the procedure for that kind of burn could not be achieved in the amount of time that we are here. As the mother got up to leave after hearing this, she started to cry. This hit something inside and five of us started to cry as well. This was probably the lowest moment of the mission so far. Just being able to feel the mother’s pain of not being able to make her daughter that much happier.
            After lunch, we saw these two girls come in, Marcy, age 7, and Rachael, age 9, who were adorable in their matching braids, and later we would see how much personality and curiosity these two little girls had.  We sat in the waiting area with them for a little while decorating foam visors before they went into surgery, then when they came out they were so excited to do more activities with us.  We introduced them to Latifa, a girl of 8 years old who was waiting for her mother to be seen.  The three got along really well, and we had the pleasure of listening to their beautiful voices sing.  We also taught these families about dental hygiene, and by the end the girls were joking around with the pictures on our posters.  After blowing lots of bubbles, putting on tons of stickers, and coloring several pages, the girls came around and gave everyone a big hug and thank you.  Marcy, Rachael, and Latifa were truly a reminder of the joy of a simple act of kindness that can brighten a person’s day.  They made our day with their songs, and hopefully we gave them memories to cherish.