Thanks to clear planning as well as the efficiency of the experienced volunteers, our first day of work here was much less chaotic than I imagined. We met in the morning and got our group assignments for the day. Some volunteers were to screen (pre-op) the patients for surgery tomorrow, while others would be taking patient “before” pictures and distributing beanie babies to the children, (just one set of the many wonderful items donated for the mission). I was assigned to the team that would set up the operating rooms (OR).
When I got to the OR and saw box after box of miscellaneous equipment and supplies being brought in and unloaded, I was incredulous that all that stuff could be successfully organized into functional operating rooms in a single day! Then some of the volunteers who have been working with Mending Faces for years swooped in and really got things moving. The “newbies” quickly got into the spirit and pitched in wherever necessary. In a whirlwind, supplies were arranged and labeled, machines were assembled and equipment was set up. Things that didn’t quite work were jury-rigged; have you ever seen the 1980’s show “MacGyver?” Well, we had several real-life MacGyvers in action today, and their ingenuity was amazing. A little duck-tape especially went a long way! Would we practice like this in this in the U.S., well, no, but the fact that the volunteers are skilled and creative enough to make things work without the resources available back home is inspiring.
I also spent a little bit of time in the screening clinic. The younger children were definitely frightened of the examination process. There were also older children who have already had a surgery (in some cases, a cleft lip already repaired, while their palate is yet to be done) who were stoic. With them all were their families who conveyed a sense of hopefulness. As a parent myself, I know that the feeling is more than just that. “Is this one of those chances that will change my child’s life?” I’d probably be wondering. They are putting their trust in us, total strangers, because they want what we all want, to help make life easier and better for our children.
The patients have been screened, the operating rooms are ready. Let’s do it. Let’s change some lives.
Usha Barry, MD