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Final Day of the 2017 Cambodia Medical Exchange

It’s our final morning to say “Hello from Phnom Penh and Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital.” We’re happy that all our patients continue to recover well, and that meant a few more discharges were in order.

Kenzie’s grandma reported that her granddaughter slept well through the night and completely regained her appetite, so it was time for our team to say goodbye to this beautiful little girl. We’re all wishing her a future filled with love, health, and laughter.

Ben, Sue’s big brother, was also cleared to leave the hospital today following his lip revision surgery. Ben and Sue’s mom was unable to travel with them, and we know she must be counting down the hours until she can see her children again.  With each passing week, Sue’s lip will heal even more, but her before and after surgery photos are already remarkable.

Polly was also finally able to leave for home, and our nurses gave the family lots of instructions on how to continue recovering from palate surgery. We’re so glad we could help this sweet and happy little girl.

Yesterday we introduced you to six-month-old baby Everett, who gave Sue a run for her money on having the best hair of the week.

Everett is a very alert and curious little baby. Although he was having fun playing with our volunteers before surgery, he started to get a little worried when Dr. Sai from Smile Cambodia came to take him back to the OR.

“Hold on a second, guys….let’s rethink where you’re taking me.”

The team treats every child with so much compassion and kindness throughout their medical procedures, and Everett got a reassuring hug before being laid down for his surgery sleep.

Everett sailed through his cleft lip operation with Dr. Tollefson, and yet again we get to say, “What an amazing repair!”

“I’m sorry, but no paparrazi allowed at the moment.”

Henry is a very spunky one-year-old with the chubbiest little legs. While waiting for his surgery, he continually ran from one end of the ward to the other, full of nervous energy. Henry had lip surgery when he was younger, and his mother brought him to Phnom Penh hoping to have his palate repaired. When the doctors examined Henry, however, they decided they needed to do another lip repair instead. They worried about Henry being bullied or ostracized in the future if he didn’t get a better result.

Dr. Clinch gently put Henry to sleep before Dr. Tolan did his repair.

Soon he was waking up in the recovery room. We joked that it was one of the only times we’ve seen this rambunctious little boy still for a few moments!

It didn’t take Henry long at all to bounce back to full speed.

“Lip owie? What lip owie? I’ve got Matchbox cars to throw and exciting new worlds to explore (including this super cool camera).”

While Henry was back in surgery, we learned that his mom had recently suffered from a serious dog bite on her leg. Several children from our Believe in Me schools in Cambodia were bitten by dogs in their villages, and so we know that proper and timely treatment is absolutely essential, especially in the prevention of rabies. Mom probably didn’t expect that she would be receiving medical care as well from our team, but she was resting comfortably after we tended to her wounds.

Notice that Energizer bunny Henry is still wide awake and in fact, soon made another run for it while his mom was resting!

Another patient who traveled a long distance to see our team is beautiful two-year-old Carol. Carol is from the same northwestern mountain region as Grace, the teen we introduced yesterday. Carol’s father told us they left the Thai border at 1 a.m. and endured a 17-hour bus ride to try to make it to Phnom Penh in time to meet with our medical team.

Sadly, when little Carol arrived, she was extremely sick with a lung infection, and we immediately treated her with nebulizer treatments and antibiotics in the hopes that she would be well enough for surgery before our team had to leave Cambodia.

We are very disappointed to report that we won’t be able to do Carol’s surgery this week due to her illness. Like Grace, Carol’s father is from a minority group that doesn’t speak Khmer. It took a long time to explain why we had done Grace’s surgery (from his same region) but could not safely operate on his daughter this week.

One of the doctors with Smile Cambodia assured Carol’s dad that they would definitely repair his daughter’s lip once she is stronger. They will be doing a surgical mission in northwest Cambodia in December, so his heart was finally eased. We hope the antibiotics will soon have Carol feeling much better.

Carol with a new hat donated for the trip

Speaking of Grace, this lovely sixteen-year-old continues to recover from her lip repair surgery from yesterday. She’s been having some difficulties with her oxygen levels, but nurse Mary has been showing her how to breathe deeply and then cough, as then her numbers go quickly back up.

Since neither Grace nor her father know how to read, we need to make sure they fully understand all the post-op instructions as we can’t send a summary sheet home with them. Grace managed to get up and walk around some this afternoon, and we’ve assured her that every day she will continue to feel better, especially as the swelling goes down.

And so another LWB cleft trip has come to a close. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about some of the lives impacted during our 2017 medical exchange. We send our deepest thanks to everyone who has played a part, from the medical team and volunteers to Smile Cambodia and our wonderful supporters.

This life-changing week has shown yet again that when we come together with the common goal of helping children, so much good occurs.  We all have a part to play in making this world a better place.

May we never grow tired of living out the truth that EVERY child counts.

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