Sunday, June 6, 2010

Last Days of the Philippines


These last few days have been a whirlwind. Our last day in Pampanga we packed-uped the hospital, pre-op, and post-op. Melanie, Adrienne, and I handed out the rest of the toys to the patients, families, and also to some of the local volunteers. We got to see all of the children and adults from the past day that got surgery. Their new lips made me smile and overjoyed. We saw the 30 year old man whose surgery we watched without a cleft lip. I met a boy that had cleft palate surgery that was my same age: 16. Meeting people with cleft lips and palates my age really hit home with me. His mother told me that he was graduating school soon (In the Philippines, you graduate from high school at 16). All of the patients and especially the mothers were so grateful for us coming. But in reality, I am thankful for them too. They have changed my perspective on life.
Reflecting back on those last few days in Pampanga, I do not only see the 140 lives changed but also the lives of the volunteers, the families, and the people of Pampanga changed. The impact the of the Operation Smile on San Fernando and Pampanga was greatly stressed at our Final Party. Many of the local volunteers and people from organizations that sponsored Operation Smile coming to Pampanga got up and talked about it. The Filipinos were very hospitable and had open arms from start to finish. I learned a tradition about saying farewells- You do not say “goodbye”, you say “see you soon.” We made a toast about seeing each other soon and returning back to Pampanga. If I had the chance to return, I would not hesitate. The warmness and openness of the Filipinos is hard to imagine until you go and visit.
I learned a lot about about the Philippines from the local volunteers and just by looking and watching. The poverty level is about 70%. I also learned that the other 30% is very wealthy and very ready to help and lend a hand to those in need. Another thing I learned is the the rate of cleft lips for developing countries is the highest in the Philippines. Our last day in Pampanga, we visited a famous church, San Guillermo Parish Church, that showed how the affect of the eruption of Mount Pinotubo in 1991, even thought the volcano is over 2 hours away. Some of the only visible parts of the church were the roofs.
The next day, Saturday, we traveled back to Manila to spend the day there before our flight that night. We went to GreenHill Mall. I realized that none of the malls that we visited in Manila are small. You could get lost so easily. Without the help of Jicz, a nurse and local Filipino from Manila, at the GreenHill Mall we would have gotten seriously lost and paid way too much for our purchases. We grabbed a late lunch at The Hard Rock Cafe and headed back to the hotel in Makati to change and get our luggage to go to the airport.
I am just arriving home to Florida after 20+ hours of travel from Manila. I am sure the 12 hour time change is going to hit me soon, I can only wait.

Salamat po for reading and following my blog : ). I will post pictures soon, so look out for those.

Ingat palagi (take care always),


Friday, June 4, 2010

Last Day of Surgery


Yesterday was the final day of surgery. The team did a total of 4 surgery days, screened around 198, and did 140 TOTAL SURGERIES!!!!! :D Not only were the lives of the 140 patients changed but the lives of the families were changed too. The lives of the grandparents, brothers, sisters, friends, and other relatives were all changed by this simple surgery. I am so honored to be a part of this organization that impacts so many lives. The people of San Fernando and of Pampanga were so appreciative. We spent the majority of the morning in the Post-Op and Pre-Op. In Post-Op we had the chance to see all of the patients of the previous day with a new smile. It was so amazing. Many of the children that we followed through the week were in this batch of patients. Akil was one of my favorite little boys. He was getting surgery on his palate. He was so happy throughout the whole process- always smiling, even after surgery. It made me thrilled, ecstatic, so happy, words cannot even describe about how happy I was for him and his family. He kept smiling and waving and blowing kisses at me. They lived about 2 hours away by bus/jeepney and started on their journey back home that morning. I gave him the Claire Bear and his mother told me how much he liked it.
After going in Post-Op, we headed over to Pre-Op where we played with a bunch of the children and adults before they headed over to the hospital. Music, pipe-cleaners, coloring entertained many of them for a while. It was one of the little girl's birthdays- Daisylyn. She was turning 8 years old. One of the nurses, Kelly, gave her a big present and ordered a birthday cake for her to blow out the candles. Someone came in with the cake and we all sang happy birthday to her. She seemed so happy. She was having surgery on her palate. After spending most of the morning there, we headed over to the hospital to give presentations in other parts of the hospital and handed out toothbrushes. We helped out in the Pre-Op rooms of the child-life specialist, Toni, and then later that after noon we went up to the OR to watch surgeries and play with the children in the waiting room. Melanie and I watched different parts of many surgeries and watched the majority of one surgery of a 30 year old man. Kumar, plastic surgeon from India, was performing the surgery. He explained certain parts and we observed the making of a new smile. It is quite magical to see a cleft lip come together to form a new one. We stayed at the hospital until about 7:30 and then headed off to a team dinner. It was at another one of the local volunteer/sponsor's houses. It was very relaxing after a long day at the hospital.
I cannot believe the mission is over! WOW! It went by so fast. I loved every minute of it- the team, the natives, the food, the patients, and the new smiles.

-Mary Claire : )

Akil, his Mom and I

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Third Day of Surgery


We were scheduled to go to another orphanage/home but before that we spent some time in post-op. We got to see many of the children, adults, and toddlers with new smile that we saw before at screening and pre-op. We saw David and Daniel-twins that both had cleft lips. JB- 1 year old with a cleft palate. JB's parents gave me a small gift and told me that it was so that I would never forget them. Later inn the morning we went to a home for abused women and girls. Many of the girls there still have court cases pending. It was about 45 minutes away. It is located at the foot of the Mount Arayat. We saw toddlers, girls our ages, and mothers at this home. We gave more presentations today about Dental Hygiene, Burn Care and Prevention, Nutrition, and ORT. Some of the girls were very excited and interactive while others were very timid and shy. After the presentations, we handed out nail polishes, brushes, toys, and hair ties. I met one girl that was 16, the same age as me. We then headed back to the hospital to get our first look into the OR. Once back at the hotel, we put on our scrubs and other gear and headed in. Jason, the medical student, and Shoba, anesthesiologist, explained how the anesthesia works. Jason continued to help Melanie and I understand each step of the repair, either cleft palate or lip. A few days ago Kumar, a plastic surgeon gave Melanie, Adrienne, and I a short presentation on the anatomy of the lip and what process they use to repair them. It is so helpful to have so many people there to teach us about it. My favorite part about observing the OR is the final steps of fixing the cleft lip- sewing both sides of the lip together. It all finally comes together to form a beautiful new smile. We ate dinner at the hospital and then went back to the hotel at about 9 to catch some sleep.
I learned a few other words of Tagalog-
Ma-i-nit- It's hot
Ma- la-mig- It's cold
Pogi Ka- You are handsome

- Mary Claire : )

Second Day of Surgery


Yesterday was the second day of surgery. We spent the morning visiting the pre-op. In pre-op, all of the children are so ready for surgery. They are waiting with either their parents, grandparents, or siblings to be called to go to the hospital to have their cleft lip or palate repaired. Coloring pages, small stuffed animals, and hot wheels cars help calm the nerves and the dullness of waiting. The parents are so thankful, saying "salamat" or "thank you" since many of them speak some English. After visiting pre-op, we had the chance to go to an orphanage. It was about 45 minutes to an hour away. Two student nurses from a nearby university came with us to translate. The orphanage was for children from ages 0-6; however, there were most of the children we saw were boys between the ages of 7-10. This was a place for abandoned children. We made presentations there and handed out toys. They were so full of energy and excitement. Always wanting to volunteer during the presentations and wanting to take lots of pictures. After the presentations, we took a small tour of the place. They had a house for disabled children, babies, and older children. We handed out a lot of toothbrushes here too. On the way back to the hospital, I realized how much you can learn from just watching the streets you drive through and listening to the noises from the streets in a car ride. Once we got back to the hospital, we went up to the pre-op to see Toni, the child life specialist, and then up to the waiting room outside of the OR. We played with children and gave smaller presentations. Melanie's little boy that she met at screening had surgery today of his cleft lip and his brother was having cleft palate repair later that day. She gave her Claire Bear to the older brother who had his cleft palate repaired. I tried Halo-Halo, which means mix-mix in English. It is dessert made of a layer of crushed ice on top and then things on the bottom to mix into the ice. Coconut and other things were at the bottom of my cup, halo-halo is so delicious and it cools you off in the hot and humid weather. We left the hospital around 8 ish and to have dinner at one of the local's houses. Just like at the welcoming party, huge trees were covered with hanging lights. There was more delicious food there too. Chicken, rice, ribs, and yummy desserts were abundant. Also, the lemon grass tea of the Philippines is very good. After, we came back to the hotel and crashed.
New words of Tagalog:
Guapo- Handsome
Masarap- Delicious
Cumostaca- How are you?

-Mary Claire : )