This dispatch was written by Chris Dickey, the FACES 2014 Goodwill Ambassador. Chris, who was also the 2013 Goodwill Ambassador, has been helping with all aspects of the surgical trip planning and execution.
Dr. Tom has been in discussions for a year with the new Regional Hospital, a large, state of the art facility located about 20 minutes away from Belen Hospital. FACES desires to have a back up facility for its work and this one, being so new, is perfect. The possibilities are three-fold. Complex and high risk cases that may require more sophisticated equipment could be performed there. Also, we could increase the number of cases each trip with only one additional surgeon and anesthesiologist because the hospital could provide the pre – and post-op nurses and the OR nurses. Finally, if FACES succeeds in scheduling a second surgical trip per year, it is possible the new hospital could become the primary site for the second trip if Belen Hospital cannot accommodate a second trip. For our yearly trip, Belen Hospital donates the use of three of its four ORs for a week, which is a significant disruption to the hospital’s schedule. On the other hand, the five ORs at the Regional Hospital can each accommodate 2-3 surgeries at a time. However, the ORs are currently underutilized because the hospital lacks sufficient anesthesiologists to run them all.
Today, all of Dr. Tom’s groundwork paid off. Half of the FACES team went to the new hospital to perform what was not only the first FACES cleft repair in the new hospital, but also the first cleft repair that has ever been done in the Regional Hospital. One-year-old Miguel suffers from both a cleft lip and palate. He is significantly underweight, as most of our patients are, because he has so much trouble eating. He has never been able to nurse, and he can only drink from a bottle with a special nipple. Teresa, the leader of the Lions Club’s involvement with the FACES campaign, provided the special nipple as soon as she found out about Miguel in November. She provides this kind of personal attention to as many of the patients as she can.
Miguel comes from a small town about an hour and a half away by bus. The family lives in the rural area around Morrope, and Miguel’s dad works as an agricultural laborer while Miguel’s mom, Lucita, takes care of Miguel and his two older brothers ages two- and three-years-old. Lucita found out about FACES when she was visiting a posta or local clinic. As part of their work, the Lionesses put up posters about FACES in as many clinics as they can get to. So when Lucita came into the clinic with Miguel, the nurses were able to tell her about the work FACES does at Belen. Lucita brought Miguel to the screening clinic in December and was scheduled for surgery for this trip. Teresa arranged for Lucita and Miguel to stay with Teresa’s cousin while they were here. Such generosity on the part of the Lions Club is standard operating procedure.
This morning little Miguel had his lip repaired. He was a perfect charmer before the surgery, but now he can grow up without the stigma of a cleft lip. We also hope he will be able to eat better now that his teeth are better aligned. We will look for him again next year to repair his palate so he can begin to talk. His future may involve additional surgeries involving bone grafts in the gum, and hopefully a final revision when he is about 15, when, like all teenagers, he will probably care a lot about his looks. But right now, he couldn’t be any cuter.