Three missioners have submitted their stories and experiences. The mission was so very special that it is hard to really communicate the emotions that we felt during this spectacular week but we are going to keep trying (I grouped the pictures for each other). Jay
Friends of Mending Faces:
One of my favorite parts of the mission trip was playing with the children. The Filipino children are amazing, brave, intelligent, and a lot of fun to work with. One of the little girls that we worked with especially caught my attention. I cannot remember her name but she was number 72.
This little girl would sit in a bed next to a window and keep opening and closing it as soon as someone looked at her. She had such a big smile on her face anytime one of us would make faces at her through the window. When it was time for her procedure she was so brave. She stayed perfectly calm and playful while she waited for one of the surgical staff members to come and get her. When the time came she marched herself right back into the OR without a second though and never looked back. After her palate repair she was one of the few children that still wanted to get up and look around. I was so impressed with how strong she was. I know that I won’t forget her anytime soon.
(Notes from new Missioners but long term supporters of Mending Faces – Steve and Cindy Lowe)
Day 1 – Screening
Cindy and I had only imagined what Mending Faces did in the field from the stories and pictures of its volunteers. We finally made the leap and committed to our first mission this year. What the stories and pictures don’t tell are the amazing doctors, nurses, assistants and volunteers that devote their skills and compassion to changing the lives of these wonderful children.
Lining the humid hallways were over a hundred families and children awaiting the screening process. I had to walk outside, wipe the tears and take a deep breath. The stories and pictures don’t prepare you for what the Mending Faces team takes on in one week, in conditions that are to say the least, a bit challenging. When I walked back into the screening room the mix of hope on the parent’s faces, uncertainty in the children’s eyes and compassion in the voices of the volunteers calmed my own selfishness as I contemplated the week ahead.
The volunteers who do this year after year are a colorful combination of characters from the Philippines, South Africa, Great Brittan, Hong Kong and the United States. This experience is impossible to express in stories and pictures.
We are truly blessed to be part of this incredible Mending Faces medical mission. Due to the efforts of many unselfish and compassionate people, the Philippine children and families will be left with, well, mended smiley faces.
Thanks Sami and Carrie for pushing our comfort zone.
Day 2 – First day of surgery
As first time “outreach” volunteers, Cindy and I were waiting for our assignments and quickly discovered you need to operate in an environment with little direction. Actually this is a good thing as the aggressive schedule, the adhoc needs of the day and the unknown requirements of doctors, nurses and patients would be impossible to schedule.
You need to get to know the families and children; this will guide your assignments. They are organized into hot, crowded wards by their day of surgery. Most will have to spend days waiting in the hospital, multiple families on each bed in the hot, humid conditions. From the rambunctious twins Kelvin and Kevin who ran up and down the halls nonstop, to Alexandra who needed her photograph taken every time we saw her, to the 16th year old John who never moved from his corner on a bed in the ward, they all appreciated the attention. While we could never get John to smile, after giving him the “thumbs-up” up sign countless times, he finally reciprocated with a “peace sign”. Cindy manned the SpongeBob Band Aids and Bennie Babies to keep the kids focus off the wait. I went to work with scissors and cardboard to create a dozen makeshift manual fans. Back into the ward, within minutes there gone and I am back making more. When I returned, Cindy had a crowd of children surrounding her with Band Aids up one arm and down the other. This is the work of Outreach.
You need to get to know the Mending Faces team; this will guide your assignments. A lesson in patient management from first timer Sam (the aspiring liberal arts student) who’s dedication to making the children’s experience as comfortable as possible was the example to follow. If we ever needed to know where a child was, just ask Sam. A lesson in hard work could be learned from everyone, but Amy is an animal. While the Doctors are all amazing, a lesson in life could be learned from Wolfgang and his lovely wife Daisy. Between them I think they have several thousand years of experience. Then there’s Jay “the Answer Man”, I think he is part Doctor, Lawyer, Atmosphere Coordinator, and Pharmacist. How can we make this team more productive? Oreos, Coke Lite, Nescafe, Chips Ahoy, and Cheetos.
Rookies are generally treated like rookies, but not with this group. Between comforting the patients, making designer cardboard fans, trips to get supplies (I have never bought 200 tubes of tooth paste before), making outreach kits, handing out beanie babies, documenting the trip through pictures and getting acquainted with the team we can’t imagine how exhausted the operating room team is.
Day 3 – More Surgery
Today Cindy and I had the privilege of spending the entire day in the Operating Room. What an incredible experience.
Some of the children came into the room willingly with apprehension in their eyes, some came in crying at a high wail and then there were the one with legs and arms swinging every known direction to mankind. I never believed it would take 4 grown adults to hold down a 4 year old so Sami could send them off for a nice little nap.
By all accounts cleft lips are nothing short of a terrible disfigurement that will eventually affect the children unless corrected. I say eventually, in that the young children don’t have a care in the world as they run around the ward, interact and engage you with a smile. The older children understand and they hold their heads down as if they have done something wrong. Then the anesthesiologists, nurses, surgical assistants and doctors perform this incredible magic and transform their faces so they can lift their heads high again. Wow. The transformation is nothing short of a miracle.
During our operating room experience we assisted and observed, asked questions and learned, but most importantly felt welcomed by all the operating room team mates who I can only image have to exercise patience with the Outreach newcomers.
Steve and Cindy Lowe – Outreach
Not only was Steve able to locate hundreds of tubes of toothpaste in San Jose, he donated them as well. Then dental mission was a blast – thanks to all who made this new activity possible.
Report on Mending Faces Mission to San Jose in Philippines 2012
Daisy and Wolfgang Losken
The 2012 Mending Faces Mission to Philippines was a great success in the impact it had on so many children and adults with cleft lip and palate. The atmosphere during the week long mission was relaxed and friendly and exceptionally efficient. The 50 volunteers had a wonderful time and it seemed that every one of them was glad that they had participated and enjoyed every minute of it. From this experience their lives have been changed forever.
When we walked into the Hospital on Sunday morning we saw a sea of patients with so many cleft lips, that it raised the excitement level. All the children were smiling and looking at us lovingly and expectantly. What surprised me the most was the number of severe bilateral cleft lips among the group. These are a very difficult form of cleft lip and I loved doing these repairs. Their parents also looked at us hopefully and expectantly and what showed most was their appreciating that we had come a long way to operate on their children free of charge. So many of them were older and obviously did not have the finances to have the operation at the usual time. We usually operate on cleft lips at 3 months and there was a teenager and older boys and mother of 40. This was their time to be healed and cured.
It was decided that all the surgeons would see the patients together and on mental arithmetic it meant that we had 4 minutes per patient on average. We soon split into two groups to see the cleft patients. We saw cleft after cleft and documented them for an operation. Daisy came to tell me that there were twin boys with bilateral cleft lips. I am a twin and I know that people always compare twins and only once in my life have I operated on twins. In that case, one twin had a cleft lip and the second did not. It was a joy to watch them grow up and see how it affected them. What stands out in my mind was that 5 years later the parents shared that the child with the cleft lip had become the dominant child. In the Philippines we saw the twins and Kelvin was a severe bilateral cleft lip with a very prominent premaxilla and was obviously going to be a challenge. The second twin Kevin was milder. What struck me was that these two children were very close and loved to be photographed and wanted to see themselves on the camera. They were a joy to watch. I requested that I would like to operate on them. I thought it would be better if the same surgeon operated on both children so that the results would more likely be similar. This defined the mission for me. It was the mission of the Twins.
We managed to complete seeing all the children and we handed the lists to Amy to schedule. I did not envy her. The next I heard was that she had booked 5 cleft operations for each surgeon per day. The most I had ever managed on a day was 4 clefts. We were going to have a challenge. Usually the first day is chaos in sorting out all the equipment and getting the children in to operate on them. We had two operating rooms with two tables in each room. To my surprise we all finished by 7pm on the first day and most days after that. It was a wonderful and superbly organized mission.
Each day I would visit the ward first thing in the morning to try to take photos of the children that were to be operated on by me. Our patients were in three rooms, with the beds very close together and some cots with three children in a bed. The beds were old and rusty and there were no mattresses. The bed was covered with cardboard or wood on which the children lay. There were a group of 4 nurses and two doctors who had come from England and they had collected money to purchase needs that they observed in the hospital. They had $5,000. They went out and purchased mattresses and beds and fans and 5 wheelchairs and a fridge. Fortunately the operating rooms were air conditioned but the wards were not and it was very hot in the wards. The fans were a Godsend. Some of the donations had come from Rotary and some from private donors. What an impact those donations were having on the Hospital in Philippines and countless future patients.
On the Monday some of the easier clefts were booked and I had a great mix of unilateral, bilateral cleft lips and a cleft palate. On the Tuesday the twins were scheduled and at 8am Kelvin, the wider bilateral cleft lip twin was ready for surgery. The challenge was to repair the lip muscle over the prominent premaxilla and this proved to be difficult. The nose correction was even more challenging and in the end it came together well with a good tip to the nose and a good airway.
We made a mistake of booking the second twin Kevin later in the day and he did not like waiting and was upset to see his twin brother return after the operation and he was hungry. We then scheduled him earlier. After the operation Kevin was not a happy little boy and did not want Liz and Sue to clean his lip or allow us to take photographs. We did manage. We are looking forward to getting post operative photos in many months when the lips have healed.
Since I took 3 hours to do each of the twins, some of the other surgeons took over some of the operations that were scheduled for me, with the theory that we will strive to get perfect results in each child, even if it took us longer to do. It was such fun seeing what the other surgeons were doing and having healthy cross pollination and discussions on the operations and conferring on difficult problems.
We rotated round the tables and so had different anesthesiologists each day. They were all excellent. Bonnie helped me superbly and I requested to have her stay with me for the entire week and it was a joy to work together. Of course that was no reflection on the other scrub nurses who stayed with their surgeons and developed their own team.
The cleft palates were another challenge. As many of the patients with cleft palates were older, they were very wide and I was worried that they would not close. Two of the clefts were 25mm wide at the posterior border of the hard palate and one was 20mm – that is very wide. Fortunately they all closed and looked great the next day.
One aspect of note was the noise in the operating room. There was a constant din of people talking and in high spirits and one thing was obvious was that everybody was having a wonderful time. It would have been a pity to reduce this specialness of the mission. It was obvious that everybody was having the time of their lives and enjoying being part of the mission to help poor children in a country so far from home. There were many volunteers and for some of them this was the first opportunity to be in an operating room and watch the surgery. They would see the surgeon mark the plan of action and dissect the lip and the nose and then put it all together – and what a transformation. There is a beautiful normal lip and nose. Each time it is like magic. We loved having volunteers watch and the joy of them seeing the transformation emphasized to us what a pleasure and an honor it was for us to be able to repair cleft lips and palates.
The volunteers were kept busy. They had 2,000 toothbrushes donated and Steve and Cindy Lowe purchased toothpaste and combined them in a package with a neat bow and gave them to the children in the hospital and in the orphanages. They were taught how to brush their teeth and encouraged to do it twice a day. They also visited a home for At Risk Children, Let us Care Foundation, run by Erna Vinkers. She is a Rotarian and was a great help. Rotary of Antique was wonderful in planning the mission and getting the equipment to the hospital and looking after us during the mission. They organized a great dinner. The Governor also had a dinner for us.
Each child received a laminated sheet of the pre and post operative photo of themselves. It was a very special souvenir. The patients and the parents loved it. Many were overwhelmed. Many had never seen photos before and the joy and gratitude were palpable.
In the week we operated on 80 patients. This mission had a great impact on all these patients. Their parents were so appreciative. It seemed that every member of the volunteers of Mending Faces had a wonderful time and were glad that they had joined the mission and visited Philippines to give of their time free of charge to help the poor children. Jay and Donna Lavigne were wonderful in the way they organized the mission flawlessly. For me it was a special pleasure since it was my 20th mission and a joy to work with my school friend David Charles. We were at school together since the age of 10 and at university together and he taught me how to ski. David Charles and Mimi Wong were the co-founders of Mending Faces. It was also a special pleasure to meet a co South African, Tony Soboil. He is the son of a lady who had her hair done by my father and then my brother in Cape Town for 50 years and I remember shampooing her hair when I was a little boy helping my father in the hairdressing salon.
Daisy and Wolfgang Losken