Saturday, September 17, 2005

Time Flies When Lives Are Being Changed
Thursday September 15 & Friday September 16, 2005

I have to apologize for not being able to blog yesterday. Thursday and Friday blended into one 48 hour day, and there just wasn't a spare moment to write. There were just too many amazing stories to list them all at once. To do so would turn a blog into an actual book.

Thursday morning got off to a great start, and the surgeries started early in the morning. When we were discharging patients, we saw out of the corner of our eye one momma packing up her bag. She and her daughter were there one moment and gone the next. We found her still up on the patient ward floor, and tried to explain that she could NOT leave until she was properly discharged. Well, as soon as we turned our backs to discharge another patient, she and her daughter disappeared. They must have snuck down the back stairs. When we noticed that she was missing and knew that she had not received her discharge orders, we sent Todd out to look for her. He ran down six flights of stairs and looked both ways for them, to no avail. He came up and told us she was gone.

About an hour later, when we were discharging the last patient for that day, Todd just happened to be looking out the sixth floor window and suddenly he yelled, “THAT'S HER!” and we all quickly looked out. Sure enough, she and her momma were walking on the street below. We all started screaming “GO! GO! GO!” and Todd took off like superman down the stairs with us singing the Mission Impossible theme for special effects. This time he caught our little escapee and she was properly discharged and all instructions for post op care were given in Chinese. WHEW!

We discharged 10 more patients, and only had one other small glitch when the older elevator in the orphanage broke down with some orphanage aunties and their babies inside. Thankfully that problem was solved quickly and we were able to get them out and safely down to the first floor.

The last 48 hours have been VERY emotional to all of us as the numbers of children coming to see our team continue to increase. All of the team was crying when a peasant farmer arrived in Luoyang with his six year old daughter who has complex bilateral cleft lip. The father told us that he had found the little girl six years ago as a baby, and that he had decided to take her in and be her father. He told us that when he had decided to send her to school this year, she was beaten by the bullies in school for looking so different. So he stopped sending her to school and now she works the fields with him each day. He asked if she could have surgery that day, and when it was explained that the surgeries for Friday were full, and no surgeries would take place on Saturday as the teams switched, the father became very sad. He explained that he had to leave his crops in order to come and they would not survive without him. We promised this man that she could have surgery on Sunday, and asked for his phone number so that we could contact him. He had never used a telephone before. He told us that he could not stay for surgery on Sunday, because his fields needed to be worked. We offered to keep the little girl with us on her own so he could return back to his fields, and so he agreed to ask the little girl if that would be okay. When asked, the little girl got very sad and said “please don't leave me.” So this father, who loves his adopted daughter so much, chose to help her over his work.

An 11-12 year old girl also walked in off the street, and asked if she could be healed. When the team told her that she could definitely have surgery, she began to cry because she could not believe that her face would finally be healed. We told her and her dad to please go back to their home and we would call them, but yet again, there is no phone. The mom stayed behind to work the fields while she sent her husband and daughter off on the long journey to Luoyang. We have no way to contact her. It brings tears to my eyes to think of this peasant mother waiting back at home, working in the a mother myself, I am sure every moment of the day she is wondering “will they choose her? Can my daughter finally be helped?” Isn't it a wonderful thought to think of this man and his daughter walking up the path to their house and greeting the momma once she is healed. How I wish I could be there that day!

Another couple arrived with a little baby girl that they had recently adopted. We were all so touched that this family had chosen a girl with cleft to adopt. The interesting thing is that they very proudly pulled out their adoption decree and it is the same exact one that international adoptive families receive!I just have to mention that the local people in Luoyang have been so incredibly kind to our team, and they want to help in any way possible. So many people have seen the newspaper article, and have shown up asking how they can help our team, even though they have no money to give. A woman who runs a small laundry shop up the street from the orphanage came to see us and told us she was so touched that she wanted to do all of our patient bedding and towels for us. She only wanted the cost that it took to wash them, so it was 80% cheaper than the first laundry store we were using. A taxi driver came up to the orphanage and told us he also felt that he had to help these children, and so he offered to be “on call” outside the orphanage to drive us for free when needed.

And then there is the art. As most of you know, we hold an annual art auction to raise funds for heart surgeries. We are coming home with some truly spectacular pieces, and they were given to us to help orphans. In the hotel lobby there is an art shop, and the owner of the store is actually the head of the city arts council. She has been so touched by our team helping the children that she told us she wanted to donate one of her peony paintings. We assumed she meant a small picture. When we went to speak with her and pick up the picture, she presented our foundation with a painted horizontal scroll that took four people to unroll. We took a photo of four of our team members standing behind it to hold it up. It is one of the most beautiful paintings of Chinese flowers I have ever seen. I hope it heals a heart baby next year!

One of our translators is a young man named Daniel who is a graduate of a fine arts college. We have become very good friends with him. When we found out that his main job is to be an artist, we told him about how we heal children with art. The next day he brought his portfolio to us, and we learned that he does oil paintings of landscapes and people. They are AMAZING. He said he would be honored to donate to our auction and that he would ask his friends from the art school to do the same. So the cleft mission will end up also helping to heal children with heart disease.I also have to put in a huge thank you to our dedicated nurses. I may not have mentioned it, but we had several of them succumb to what we think was food poisoning. And yet they kept wanting to help. Just to give you an example, one nurse (Teresa) was severely ill one day, but she asked to be hooked up to an IV. She took 3 IV bags of fluid and then was right back on the job. The dedication of these team members is something to experience. The love they have developed for the orphans in Luoyang is so touching. They decided to pool their money and buy MiaoMiao, the older orphan helping us, a new bicycle as hers had been stolen.

Some of our team members had the best time on Thursday night. They took the older orphans out to McDonalds for their first Happy Meal. It was so cute because many of them had on new shirts for this special outing, and the shirts still had the creases from the packaging they were in. Kerry Dixon, who helped arrange this, told me that they did not know what to do with the hamburgers, and most crinkled up their noses at the idea of eating meat on bread. But they LOVED the French Fries! She said they were so artistic. With each French fry they ate, they would take their ketchup packet and squeeze out a doodle or design on each one. Kerry said it was just amazing because sometimes it is hard to take even two kids to McDonalds, and they took a whole bus and the kids sat still in their seats and were so polite.

The hardest part of the last few days has been turning people away. These farmers want to heal their children so desperately, and my heart goes out to them because I would do the exact same thing for my child. We had to make up a sheet saying “we are sorry, but your child cannot be seen by our team. We are only accepting palate patients at this point who are age five and under”. One dad received the news began crying. He said, “please take my son.....he is just two years over, and we are too poor to ever help him.” The mom also got on her knees and was begging. There just are not enough days left to do every patient. It has broken all of our hearts. We have had such complete highs and such complete lows. All of us were crying when a woman came with a 28 day old baby who was soon to become an orphan if the cleft was not repaired. The mom was crying so hard asking us to help her keep her baby. She said “I love my little girl, please help me keep my little girl.” But even in the US, her baby would be too small for cleft surgery. She was crying so very hard and kissing her baby's forehead, and so we made the decision that we had to pay for her surgery locally. It is very hard to realize that we will most likely never know the outcome of this woman and her child. We sent her away with enough funds to go to the hospital in 2 more months when the baby would be old enough, but she had told us that she was getting so much pressure to not keep this little girl who had cleft.

These are the stories.....this is what we have lived and felt all the way to the center of our hearts. These are Chinese families who cherish their children and who are desperate to see them be healed so that they are not ostracized in their villages. We have helped so many...60 children healed as of Friday night......and yet I think all us are feeling like we just didn't do enough. It was an impossible task. And so once again we come back to our motto.....that every child counts. And I hope that each of our team members can look back on this mission and know that the 60 children that Team One transformed are 60 beautiful little blessings. We worked as late as we could could each night, but there are still so many waiting. So we must take joy in the 60, yet our hearts will never forget the many, many more who came all the way to Luoyang with such hope. They have touched our lives forever.

This is my last post from China. As I type this, Team One is at the airport getting ready to start the long journey home. Team 2 arrived in Beijing last night, and are on their way to Luoyang today to start surgeries on Sunday. I pray that their time in China is as awe inspiring and life impacting as ours was. Thank you again for taking them time to read our journals and to follow along on our journey.

Touching lives, one child at a time......THIS IS OUR STORY OF HOPE.