Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Mastery, Confidence, and Compassion
Yesterday was the first day of surgery in Loja. The dusty waiting room with its two narrow benches was filled with seven nervous families. Many live in the mountains surrounding this small city; some had never left their villages before.
And here they were, handing their children to kind nurses and doctors they had never met and who spoke a foreign language - all with the hope that their children might have a bright future.
The babies and very young children of course cry when they leave the comfort of their mothers, despite the comforts the nurses and I try to provide. But very soon the children are peacefully sleeping on the operating table.
The surgeons perform their task, repairing little bodies injured or disabled in some way, with mastery, confidence, and compassion.
After the surgery, the children awake uncomfortable and/or scared, but soon the rest of the team (anesthesiologists, pediatricians, and nurses) work together to carefully medicate the child to make her or him feel a little better.
I go to the waiting room and call for the mother in very broken Spanish. They nervously walk through the gates of the waiting room with me; I get teary myself as I try to imagine what must be going through their minds. I help them put on sterile gowns and little booties on their shoes and walk to the recovery room where they now bravely hold back the tears as they see their tiny child repaired. Dutifully, they hold their child tightly, shyly sing and look into the child’s eyes and provide the comfort as only they can.
The Intoxicating Motivation
The question I have been asking myself since I met the medical team when we were departing Miami bound for Equador, is why they leave the comfort of their home and all their earning power to do this volunteer work.
Tom, the silver-fox seasoned surgeon, says this experience is like “magic” and wonders why more don’t do the same. Nadia, the sprite and spirited Webster fellow, says, “Organizations like Interplast serve to remind us of our gifts and the need to share them,” and that working with children and “their innocence is always intoxicating and rejuvenating.”
I thought “intoxicating” expresses the sense I feel from the medical team. They are all brimming with an inner drive to help people. And they act upon it. It is very humbling to observe.
The medical team here in Loja really appreciates Ronald McDonald House Charities sponsorship of this trip. But the giving that these doctors and nurses provide is more extraordinary. By my calculations, they quintuple the RHMC donation of about $50,000 to fund this trip, including the surgeries and professional education outreach.
We are on our third day here, and I think I am now intoxicated as well.
Alexander is a wonderful example of how Interplast changes lives. Many times children with cleft lips are ostracized and mocked, and their mothers are sometimes treated as if their child's disfigurement is indicative of the mother's sins.
As you can see, Alexander no longer has to worry about being mistreated, and has blossmed into a happy, adorable kid.
Dr. Gillerman Examining Alexander
Many Eager Interplast Patients
Jorge, Richard, and Bob
From left to right: Dr. Jorge Palacios, Interplast Surgical Outreach Director in Ecuador; Dr. Richard Gillerman, Interplast board member and Loja team leader; and Bob Langert, senior director of social responsibility for McDonald's.