Monday, April 26, 2010

The Final Stretch

After four days of procedures, 69 patients had been treated by the time the last team members boarded the bus back to the hotel Thursday night.

Operating room recovery nurse Ann Critelli was on last year’s mission to Santa Marta as well, and says that’s about the number of patients they saw over five days in 2009. This mission is more intense, with team members working for 16-18 hours, instead of the 12-hour days of the last trip, she said.

“These cases, we’re doing more intense cases that are doing more in the OR and more in the recovery,” she said.

One such intense case Thursday involved one pre-teen girl with what doctors thought would be a simple removal of a large growth above her lip. But once the operation began, they discovered that it was pure bone, and had to spend four hours operating and drilling to grind it down.

Critelli’s most memorable case this year, she said, involved a 12-year-old boy with a cleft palate. His mother had died when he was three, and his father left him and his two brothers. The boys are being raised by their grandmother, who said the one thing their mother had wanted was to have her son’s palate fixed.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Tiny One

The team awoke Tuesday to the sound of loud thunder, and bright flashes of lightning punctuated breakfast.

Late Monday, a pediatrician from the NICU had come upstairs to ask our help with a baby born 10 days ago with a cleft lip and palate. The baby was having trouble feeding naturally due to the severity of his cleft. He was being fed through a nasal gastric feeding tube, but had to be weaned off it before he could be allowed to go home, and his young mother was afraid of doing anything wrong. Craniofacial speech physiologist Dr. Etoille LeBlanc met with the baby and her mother, and with a bottle and nipple specially designed for babies with cleft palates, taught mother and son how to feed. Within 24 hours, the baby was learning to suck the bottle and move his jaw. He progressed to the point where doctors were able to remove his nasal gastric feeding tube.

LeBlanc checked on them again Wednesday morning, and reported that he continues to improve. "You can tell he's better; he's much more alert," LeBlanc said. "It's really cool."

Tuesday's dinner was provided at the hospital; nobody made it back in time for the hotel's dinner.

On the fourth floor, where the surgeries take place, Tuesday was dominated by cleft palate surgeries. On Wednesday, the focus shifts toward cleft lips, which typically involves younger children.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Surgical Day One- Santa Marta, Colombia

We arrived early Saturday morning, and spent the day recovering from the red-eye flight and planning for the busy week ahead.

On Sunday, we hauled 58 bags of medical equipment, supplies, and donated materials to Hospital Universitario Fernando Troconis. Upon arrival, the Unima volunteers ushered us in and hopeful children and their parents and grandparents awaited our arrival.

The team saw 102 patients on Sunday. Soldiers provided entertainment
for thepatients and their families as they waited in the hospital's open-air lobby,
while team members provided balloons, which kept the children occupied
during the day-long wait. Return patients freely greeted doctors and nurses

with hugs and kisses as they checked in for follow-up visits and procedures.

The first patient of the week to be treated was 6-year-old Valentina; she came in with a growth on her upper lip, and left groggy and crying for her mother, but with a reconstructed lip. She would be followed by a steady stream of children, ages ranging from 6 months to 7 years, shuffling in an out of two oper
ating rooms and a recovery room. By the end of the day, 17 children were scheduled for procedures.

Santa Marta, Again!

Early Saturday morning, Dr. Manoj T. Abraham and his team of 29 others departed JFK airport for Santa Marta, Colombia. After several months of preparation, countless emails and telephone calls, they are off. Please visit the blog throughout the week as they'll be posting daily stories (as long as the internet connection cooperates). The team will mostly treat children with cleft lips and cleft palates.

Joining Dr. Abraham are: Dr. Andrew Jacono, Dr. William Kennedy, Dr. Arthur Menken, Dr. Aslie Darr, Dr. Augustine Moscatello, Dr. Bruce Chipkin, Nick Schwetschenko, CRNA, Dr. Kalpana Modi, Dr. Dawn Larson, Robin Birchenough, CRNA, Dr. David, Fenner, Dr. Danny Aronzon, Mary Hayden, RN, Ann Critelli, RN, Miriam Lynn, RN, Carol Meken, RN, Debbie Fritz, RN, Chikela Cody, CST, Ann Conboy, RN, Maureen Fink, RN, Bibi Yasin, CST, Donna Matcham, RN, Steve Nargiso, Nancy Aronzon, Bob Conboy, Veeshal Modi, Helen Buhler, speech therapist, Etoile Leblanc, speech therapist, Annabel Clark and Gregory Marano.

This is Dr. Abraham's third time to Santa Marta. There, he and the team expect to treat new patients and provide follow up care to children treated during previous missions.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Natural Born Healer

Often we say that it is not only the children whose lives are forever changed by the volunteers of our teams. Victoria Keiser is a senior at Villa Walsh Academy in New Jersey. In her short 17 years on this planet, she has participated in 3 volunteer trips abroad. Below, in her own words, she shares how her participation has changed her life.

I grew up helping people. Compassion was in my blood. My dad is an oral surgeon and my mom, a teacher. These wonderful and caring people have formed my 17-year old personality that yearns to help others. In 8th grade when my dad asked me to be a part of his Peru mission trip of 2005, I jumped at the chance. My only words to him were, "Dad, can you promise I won't see any blood?" I grew up wanting nothing to do with medicine. I wanted to be a teacher and be with children every day. I hated the sight of blood, guts, pus, and all those other bodily fluids. I left for Peru and came back a changed woman. I was only 13 years old and after seeing the poverty and medical needs in Peru, I knew I wanted to change my career plan. Oh, I saw plenty of blood and pus in Peru and I realized that it really didn't bother me as much as I thought. I was cleaning the blood off of the dentists' instruments and watching teeth being pulled and children being scared and parents being thankful. I loved every minute of it and I told my dad that I couldn't wait for the next trip. The next trip I went on was to Guatemala in my junior year of high school. I was much more mature and I felt like a bigger part of the team as I was able to make long-lasting friendships with the team members and help out in a bigger capacity. This trip increased my love for helping people and my dream of one day becoming a doctor. My most recent trip was to Belize in my senior year of high school. I sterilized instruments, held hands, taught dental hygiene practice, handed out toothbrushes, and became a true dental assistant. I am committed to Boston University's class of 2014 to study Human Physiology as a pre-med student. I plan to go through medical school and become a pediatric surgeon and lead trips of my own. In the meantime, I am looking forward to continuing helping others and going on these mission trips with my dad learning about other cultures and helping the poor of the world.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

For more pictures of our Belizean adventure...

Our Final Day

Our final day was spent at Parish Hall. Reunited, the entire team worked on overdrive to finish treating all of the school children from across the road as well as the remaining children of the area. We also had a school bussed in full of children for treatment. While the day was long and hectic we maintained order and worked hard to finish the goals we had set for ourselves. The grueling day was broken up with a few humorous patients, one including a nine-year-old boy who told us he was having a heart-attack during a filling.

We were also visited by Dr. Solomon, Punta Gorda's only permanent dentist. He seemed shocked to say the least at the level of treatment and the number of students being seen to. All children that we were unable to deliver treatment to due to time constraints were screened and referred to Dr. Solomon. We also were able to donate over 5 bags of medical supplies to Doctor Solomon's clinic.

Our un-belize-able team's treatment numbers were as follows...
We worked a total of 5 days over the course of our time and treated 641 patients.
Of the 641 patients, all received oral hygiene instruction, toothpaste and a toothbrush.
285 fillings were completed.
42 patients received sealants.
65 patients received a cleaning.
529 extractions were performed- multiple extractions on some patients.

The total value of these services is US$282,150, which includes US$12,800 of donated supplies and medication.

An unmeasurable thank you is owed to each and every member of this trip, especially Dr. Greg without whom none of this would have been possible. The members of Team Belize and the children of Punta Gorda thank you.