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With the first “cuts” scheduled for 8 AM and fighting travel weariness getting to the hospital, we needed the operating rooms ready and the line of scheduled cases already waiting brings me to tears. I see the first little boy getting a massive cleft lip repaired and the parents beside themselves for this opportunity, free plastic surgery and his returning home handsome and complete with aftercare meds in hand.
All the while, Dr. Alvear, who is gifted beyond words, working his magic on an esophagus, never even left the operating room. His brilliance with pediatrics leaves him at the table from start of day to finish. No break. No lunch. I feel a part of something so much bigger than myself and anything I can do. Contemplating going back to school to be a nurse or other career in the medical field. It’s impossible not to feel this way when lives are being saved with tears of gratitude.
Around 11 o’clock I see a patient on gurney coming up the hallway holding the large intestine outside his body. This is a case from the hospital’s ER with the patient waiting 8 hours without as much as a diagnosis. I watched the eyes of Dr. Peter Rovito and Dr. Karima Fitzgerald light up and with one local surgeon on call the World Surgical Foundation surgeons scrubbed in. With four more hands, this man who waited hours in the waiting room with bowels in his lap due to a botched procedure a few days prior had his surgery revised and everything intact within 45 minutes. I love this stuff!!!
I even witnessed one of our anesthesiologists, Dr. Asuquo “Eskor” Inyang, mopping the floor himself to get an OR ready speeding up the turnover rate. After only the first day coming to a close WSF, thanks to all of the volunteers, donations, and medical supplies is filling up the PACUs (Post Anesthesia Care Units). Neurosurgery has an unprecedented 13 surgeries scheduled, while previous mission have only had one or two neurological cases. Maybe they just didn’t know their problems could be fixed by working on the brain alone. Dr. Ostdahl and Dr. Payne have their hands and minds busy this week with all of these cases.
I am amazed and so impressed at the work being done here. Tomorrow will be another day reporting on the legendary work that is the World Surgical Foundation.
Volunteering on a mission with the World Surgical Foundation has turned out to be more of a life changing experience than I could have ever even imagined. When we arrived, despite red-eye flight exhaustion, we came en mass to the Dr. Mario Catarino Rivas Hospital and hit the ground running. With the volunteer surgeons doing consultations and the nurses and support staff (myself included) setting up the stock room.
My first encounter as I walked through the doors, armed with my spanglish abilities, was being approached by a woman in tears with a picture of a her beautiful ten-year-old daughter who is completely paralyzed on the left side. I wish I could fix her myself, but with confidence I told her to go to the clinic and in my heart knew that somehow WSF would help her. I saw so many people who will finally get the help they need, at no cost, with nothing but the hearts of the WSF staff. The surgeons saw patients for hours and scheduled as many patients as possible.
Now we are ready for the first day of surgery on Monday. Invigorated, exhausted, excited and emotional are the words to sum up the day for me. I would be remiss not to mention the fact the these surgeons are bringing their gifts to change the lives of as many people as possible out of the goodness of their hearts at their own cost. I am a habitual volunteer and have never felt the work I’m participating in is going to actually make a difference. Sometimes I volunteer and spin in circles trying to give food to a homeless drug addict who declines my offer of a meal wanting only money. Here, a child with a terrible cleft lip is going to have an infinitely talented plastic surgeon repair it and the gratitude is palpable.
I would like to introduce myself. My name is Mikaela Maria Lannan and am not a newcomer to community service. My family has a foundation called the Lannan Foundation that works in the social and art/literary world so as a new volunteer for the World Surgical Foundation I come to Honduras with an open mind and heart to the philanthropic medical sector of service. Unafraid of blood and not easily grossed out, I expect to be nothing but amazed and am proud to be a part of the work that is the World Surgical Foundation. These are things I am sure of that there are surgeons beyond talented and community of people in medical need. The first sight of the dilapidated hospital we will be working in gave me a clear idea that we will be welcomed and desperately needed. Needless to say I am ready to get my hands dirty and jump in.
Hospital Nacional Dr. Mario Catarino Rivas
Collaborative. Kind. Warm. Open. Accommodating. Friendly. These are the words echoed by volunteers in the hospital halls when describing the new relationships formed between Coron District Hospital staff and WSF volunteers. “We depend on them,” says Christina Prudencio, a nurse on her 3rd WSF mission, who handles the patient surgery schedule. As a very hands-on operation, WSF has volunteers and hospital staff working closely to direct patients to each other in preparation for surgery. “Everything is so organized, and everyone is so helpful,” said Mayette, the chief nurse of Coron District Hospital and one who has worked here for 32 years. “I was so touched to see Dr. Jason cleaning the tables, and doctors/nurses moving patients from OR beds to recovery room,” said Judith, head OR nurse and staff member of 22 years. ‘Service’ was the word they both used to describe their time at the hospital and our mission trip this week. What an honor for our work to be thought of at the same level as theirs.
Most importantly, it’s a space to share healthcare practices. Outside of the operating room, Sister Margaret and some recent nurse graduates volunteering from the local Rural Health Unit (RHU) discuss the practice of inserting an IV into patients and the cultural norms surrounding it. Inside the operation room, doctors show unique techniques of their own specialty in how they perform surgery. There’s a strong commitment to educate and learn on these mission trips.
Through discussions with Philippine healthcare workers, I am learning that medical missions are common in rural hospitals of the Philippines. One unique element to WSF, however, is their commitment to providing needed items and machines for hospitals to continue doing good work. “We have recycled many of our items. The donations mean we have the supplies to do our work. Your donations will help us save time.” These were the words of Judith, the head OR nurse. She described some of the timely procedures that would be quicker now with the donations from WSF.
Chief of Coron District Hospital, Dr. Edgar Flores
To truly understand the need for this adopted hospital in Coron, Chief of Hospital Dr. Flores explains in great detail. “We have been doing minor surgeries and orthopedics. Major surgical cases are referred to Manila and Culion.” These destinations require either a boat or plane, so many may not go. When there is a high tide and rough sea, people will not come to the hospital. WSF experienced this during the week when we were told that a boat of patients was delayed from another island due to a tropical storm. He goes on further to say, “People are hesitant to come here because we lack specialists.” Dr. Flores also emphasizes that the Coron economy will strengthen with this adopted hospital model because tourists will know “they are safe here” because there are people to help in times of energy. I hear Coron, Palawan, regularly referred to as “The Next Boracay” – and I now see that even with the help of WSF, it is all connected.
According to Dr. Flores, the population of Coron is 80% indigenous people (many who speak their own Palawan tribe dialect) and 20% other – these 20% are those that usually can afford to pay. Collaboration for this hospital has always involved a mix of strong local government support, NGOs, and even the local community members. He hopes that in the future patients can donate food as a fee for service to equip the hospital with food for admitted patients – a model he has seen in other provincial hospitals. As he said this to me, a patient comes in with 6 pizza pies as a thank you for the hospital’s service! Dr. Flores stresses that the needs are still increasing in the community, and the continuous support for medical services from collaborators will help the hospital to support the people.
There are only 3 doctors including Dr. Flores, 8 nurses, and 4 contractual nurses that work here. He closed by saying, “We don’t know how we do it, but as long as we love our work, we are ok!”
We are sharing more photos taken by WSF Volunteer Kui Kanthatham that encapsulate the beauty of the 2013 medical mission trip to Coron District Hospital in Coron, Palawan. Thank you, Kui!