A Day in the Life of the FACES Goodwill Ambassador

 This year on our FACES surgical trip to Peru, we have our first ever Goodwill Ambassador, Chris Dickey, joining us. Chris has fully immersed herself in all aspects of this trip and is an important member of the team. You can read more about the Goodwill Ambassador position and Chris Dickey here. Read Chris’s story below:


“Start short, you can always cut more.”  These were the words of a teaching surgeon to a resident and were representative of the precision and care taken with every aspect of a cleft lip repair.  This level of professionalism was expected.  What came as a surprise was the tremendous artistry involved in this procedure.  Every child was different and every repair was a work of art.  Long minutes were spent measuring and marking before every cut or stitch.  Every bit of skin and muscle was lined up across the divide the way nature had intended but not accomplished.  Nothing is cut away if at all possible.  In most cases, nothing is missing and nothing is superfluous – things have just gone astray.

These are some of the many fascinating things I learned on my first day of surgeries.  By the end of the day, I was convinced I had the best job there.  Being a glorified gopher and sometimes photographer, I was sent everywhere and asked to do a variety of tasks:

-I entered data in our new (donated) electronic medical record system.

-I took before and after photos of the children.

-I was sent to fetch things I had no idea existed.

-I weighed babies.

-I held babies while parents signed consents.

-I played with babies if they fussed.

-I ran with messages.

-I helped arriving parents gown up when they entered the surgical wing.

-I updated the whiteboard schedule.

-I went shopping for needed supplies.

-I learned what NPO and VPI meant.

-I learned to tie my mask up before I went into an OR.

-I rejoiced with the families and took many family photos.

-I choked up many, many times.

And perhaps the most exciting segment of the day was courtesy of an OR being short a nurse and a sick surgical tech.  I was the “circulator” for a couple of hours during one of the cleft lip repairs.  The circulator is the interface between the sterile world and the non-sterile work in an OR.  Sterile instruments and supplies come in packaging designed to be opened by the non-sterile person so that a sterile person can be the only one to touch the actual sterile object.  It meant that I observed a fascinating surgery and learned what a gut suture size 5.0 P-2 is – among many other things.  The surgeons patiently answered my questions and were tolerant of my mistakes.

The last surgery was a bilateral lip repair and took many hours.  The surgeons didn’t finish until 7:30 PM.  The baby didn’t leave recovery until 8:30.  It was a long day for all of us, but I hardly knew where the hours went.   These procedures are a rarity because of the instant and deeply gratifying result. Congratulations to the patients, families, and the FACES team.  Mi corazon esta lleno.

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