We were crammed, shoulder-to-shoulder, in the back of a creaky auto rickshaw. Bumping along the dusty back allies of Lambayeque, we were heading to a morning meeting. The rickshaw hummed past boys selling loaves of bread on the side of the road, gangs of bored-looking dogs and bustling Internet cafes.
The rickshaw, which was being maneuvered by a young Peruvian who hardly looked out of his teens, neared the final meeting destination. Suddenly, we heard a screaming and commotion outside the rickshaw. What was it? Did our driver run someone over? Was someone hurt? We glanced around, trying to glean where the noise was coming from.
Down the street we saw two figures waving their hands wildly at us. We squinted, but couldn’t make out who it was. As we got closer, we recognized that one of the women was holding a baby.
“Hola! Hola! Dr. Tom! Dr. Tom!” yelled one of the women. We instructed the rickshaw driver to pull a U-turn and so we could figure out who it was. The rickshaw driver heeded our instructions and we neared the walking pair.
It was Yovana and Chalon! Chalon, a small baby girl, was one of the FACES patients who received cleft lip surgery from the team in January 2012 and Yovana is her mother. (We wrote a story about the pair during the last surgical trip: FACES Family Perspectives: Yovana and Chalon). Yovana, walking with her friend, had somehow spotted us, jammed in the back of the rickshaw. We hopped out of the vehicle and greeted her with smiles and hugs, asking how Chalon was doing.
“She’s doing great!” exclaimed Chalon. “Still, there are not words to thank you for what you have done for my baby.”
Chalon, who has round cheeks and enormous, deep-brown eyes, grinned and laughed at us from her mother’s arms. She has the tiniest of scars on her lip, where once there was a gaping hole. Chalon will receive cleft palate surgery from the team in January 2013, during the next surgical trip, and the team is looking forward to help her develop her speech.
After catching up with Yovana we stuffed back in the rickshaw.
“See you in January!” we said, waving furiously as we headed back down the bumpy road.