Wednesday, September 14, 2005

This report is from Wednesday. We apologize for the internet problems. I had typed up a complete blog entry that was very long and detailed and when I went to upload it, something happened to our internet connection and I lost it all. At 1 a.m., after an 18 hour day, that is not what you want to happen. I hope I can remember some of the highlights....after another day of surgery it seems like a week ago! I will try my best. We will call this section: "Ring ring…..Ring ring……. "

Can you guess how many times a cell phone can ring in one day? If you guessed thousands and thousands, you would have guessed right. At least that is how it has seemed today after our phone number was published in the paper. We learned today that the circulation of the newspapers we were in is approximately 11 million people. Eleven. For those of you unfamiliar with China, the Henan province is the most populous in all of China, with over 100 million people. Today I think we heard from a lot of them!

Every time our facilitator would hang up from one call, another would immediately come in. Whenever she got busy helping out one of our team, when she returned to her phone it would say “Missed Calls: 45” or “Missed Calls: 92”. When people couldn’t reach her on the cell, they began text messaging, and they would explain in detail why their child needed to be seen by our team. The word overwhelming doesn’t begin to describe it. It would be impossible for our team to see even a fraction of the children whose ayis and parents called. This was very, very hard for our team to know.

Wednesday morning began with our first shift discharging the next set of patients to go home. Once again, there were already tears in the early a.m. as both the aunties and our team members shared tears of joy over the looks of the new babies, yet tears of sadness over knowing that we were saying goodbye to these children whom we had gotten to know and love for the three days they were with our team. The Guangxi aunties all wanted to have a photo with Karen Mai, our main facilitator, and the foster moms were so emotional when they thanked us for helping their babies. We said goodbye to them, but then unfortunately they quickly came back. We had one to keep one baby in the ward for 24 extra hours since he had developed a small infection around his incision, and because of that they had missed their train the day before. When they had gone to the train station today, they discovered that ALL train seats were sold out for five days. They were so concerned over how they would get home. At first we thought they could fly home, but then we discovered that they did not have the proper identification for the babies to take a plane. Finally after many phone calls and discussion, it was decided that a van would drive them to Zhengzhou, two hours away, where they could catch a train back to Guangxi.

The mom who had wanted to have a single photo of her child was next up to our discharge desk. This is the most wonderful family. The grandmother came today to help her daughter get the baby home, and when she walked into the post op ward, she began to cry. She was overwhelmed at how her grandson looked. After we discharged them, they walked down the six flights of stairs and then a few moments later I saw the grandmother making her way back up. She had a small bag in her hand, and she pressed it into mine and said "thank you". Inside were four small cherry was all she could give, and it was such a precious gift to me.

The next family to discharge was the one with the little girl who had cheeks galore. The father could not stop saying “thank you thank you”. I asked them if they had received a blanket and a toy for their child and he said he had not taken it because he thought it was our team's. I took them back into our supply room and asked them to pick a blanket and a toy. I wish I could properly explain how carefully they chose. This was such a rare gift to them. They went through every blanket until they found just the perfect quilt for their cherished daughter, and then I took them to the stuffed animal box and asked them to choose. The mom would pick up one after another and the father would shake his head “bu” (no). Finally the mom found the biggest toy in the box….a soft stuffed dog. YES….this was the one fit for his daughter. They carried their new gifts out to the landing, and then it was time to say goodbye. The mom and I made eye contact and then she began to weep…..with complete gratitude. So of course our discharge team began to cry, too. As they slowly started down the steps, the kept saying “goodbye goodbye”, and I could only wonder where they were going and what their future holds. I will never forget that little girl and how very PROUD her parents were of her.

Before I forget, before surgeries started today, Dr. Buckmiller was doing a pre-op check and she found her “baby”. I think you agree that BingBing would steal anyone’s heart. It is a shame that she obviously never eats. :-) After a final hug, Dr. B headed to the OR and another surgery day began.

The team finished another ten cases today, and all of the kids look great. We did some older children today, and when the moms saw their children’s new faces they were crying so very hard. I have to say that these families have touched my heart in a way that I can never describe. As you know, so many children with cleft become orphans, and so to see these families who have made the decision to keep their children, even though they probably live in rural areas where this condition is not understood… is a wonderful thing. The devotion and love that the parents have has impacted all of our team. The very hardest part has been when we have to turn a child down. We have identified so many heart patients, and unfortunately these children need to have their cleft lips repaired in a hospital with a heart center and not in an orphanage OR. Telling the families “no” is devastating. The mothers have dropped to their knees pleading with us to please heal their children, and today one father whose son did not qualify began weeping. How I wish we could help them all.

The patients who were done on Tuesday are all doing incredibly well. The beautiful little girl who almost skipped into the OR is already smiling and dancing for us. She loves her hospital gown so much! We had volunteers make all of the gowns, and they are so cute. The gowns, the blankets, the toys…..every single person who gave of themselves for this mission is such a part of these kids’ happiness. THANK YOU! I learned her story today and I think it is a beautiful one. We were asking the woman with her if she was an orphan, and the mom at first refused to answer yet we knew that she was in foster care. Finally the mom pulled one of us over and said, "she has no idea that I am not her true momma, so please show her as having a family". How many times can I say that I love foster care?

As I walked through the post op ward, I had to stop for a moment just to enjoy the activities of the room. Everywhere I looked babies were being rocked or their foreheads were being stroked. Nurses were checking to make sure everyone was doing great and other team members were blowing bubbles and coaxing smiles. Just to my left was a little girl who made me laugh out loud. She was sporting her very best birthday suit while going potty, yet the one accessory she couldn’t do without was her pink beads. Simply priceless.

We did have something happen today that was both funny yet horrible at the same time. After almost a full day of surgery, everyone in the OR began to say that their eyes were hurting and feeling like they were burned. Then someone noticed that the anesthesiologist's face was bright red. They quickly learned that there is a huge UV light in the OR that is used to sterilize the room between cases, and it had accidentally been switched on during the morning. Essentially, our team had been operating all day long in a tanning booth. While at first it seemed funny, quickly we realized that almost everyone in the OR had burned eyes and were all blinking back tears because of the way they stung. Before we realized the severity of this, we did snap a quick picture of Dr. Ray and Jake showing off their surgical tans. Jake has a red face with a perfect rectangle white area around his mouth where his surgical mask was. He said it was the first time he ever got sunburn while operating. If you look closely, you can see the "scrub" tan line. Dr. Ray is looking very tan, isn't he? I don't know whether to end that with a :-) or a :-(

As I wrote earlier, we have been flooded with patients, and people are walking in off the street. Peasant farmers have abandoned their fields to come see our team in the hopes we can help their child. I will admit that our screening room hallway did get to the point of being overwhelmed, yet our pre-op screening volunteers patiently logged in every child and took their photo and history, and they did it all with a smile. I can never thank the team enough for being so loving and kind to every single child they meet.

Well, I have volumes more I could write but time is very short. Your support and prayers are so very much appreciated. It is giving all of us strength to know that thoughts of love for these kids are coming from all over the world.