Saturday, December 17, 2005

Surgery Day

Fourteen people were scheduled for surgery on Thursday, but two were canceled. One teenage boy was anesthetized and an abnormal heart rhythm was seen on the cardiac monitor. He was awakened immediately and will see a cardiologist before surgery. Risks and benefits, heart vs. lip, it wasn't a hard decision to make. Another little boy had his surgery canceled because a necessary piece of equipment wasn't available. His burn reconstruction required a tissue expander and there wasn't one. I didn't learn exactly how it happened that he was there and the tool wasn't, but someone somewhere dropped the ball. Unfortunately, it happens everywhere sometimes, and it is always hard on the patient and the family.

Otherwise, it was a very good day. We did twelve cases in two rooms, with one anesthesiologist and two surgeons. The local hospital is a nice facility, generally spacious, well equipped, well staffed and air conditioned. We started surgery at 10:00 am which is a little late by American standards but we worked until 7:00 pm to make up for it. The cases turned over quickly, under 10 minutes, so a new patient was usually on the table shortly after the previous case had finished. I spent most of my time in one room, often watching the patient's status while the anesthesiologist was in the other room, and helping as the patients were put to sleep and awakened.

The atmosphere was always upbeat and relaxed. The team of doctors and the scrub techs from Guadalajara were experienced and efficient. They did without a lot of fancy equipment that we take for granted and still did great work. Latex gloves were used as tourniquets, Q-tips dipped in ink served as skin pens and a scalpel did what a dermatome does. Once when the laryngoscope light didn't work, the anesthesiologist yelled "NiƱa!!!" for the circulating nurse to find him one that did. Rather than wait, though, he took a look down the dark throat, and the headlight-wearing surgeon cocked his head, shining his light down the airway, and boom, in went the tube.

I liked the lively banter and how the surgeon would sing Mexican love songs as he worked. I liked the friendly atmosphere and the teamwork. I liked working with an organization that is lean and mean, where they make good use of the donations they receive and the time offered by volunteers. I liked seeing all these things in Mexico, like I saw them in Ecuador and like I have seen them in the U.S. To me, it means that there is a lot of good in the world, that people everywhere are caring and loving and giving.

But most of all, I loved the kids and their brave parents. I loved the terms of endearments that we all used to put them at ease when they were scared and to comfort them when they cried. Mi amor, chiquito, hijo, mamita - the warm rhythm of soothing Spanish. Some comments were made about how it is good of me to help, but always, for me, I get more from it than I give. Way more.

1 comment:

kim said...

Thank you for writing about your experiences with the cleft lip/palate clinic. For me, it's really made me think...

This time of year, my focus is on buying presents, decorating the house, and sending off the cards, when really, the only important thing is my child is healthy. My husband is healthy. I am healthy. We're together, and happy.

Everything else is just a bonus.