Day Seven of the 2015 Cleft Medical Exchange
Today’s morning rounds were the final few hours for our US team in Kaifeng as they prepared to begin their journeys back home. They visited with every child still in the hospital and discussed each case with their Chinese colleagues to ensure a smooth transition of care. It is always so difficult to say goodbye to the dear friends we have made on these trips. What an international effort to make sure so many wonderful kids received the best surgical care possible.
Many of the kids were cleared to discharge today, while twelve others will stay a few more days to fully recover.
Samuel and his father were just waking up when the team arrived. The original plan was for them to stay a few more days in the hospital, as everyone wanted to make sure he was as fully healed as possible before they begin their return trip. It will take them two full days of travel to return to the Tibetan plateau, and a great part of it once they land in Sichuan will be by bus. Doesn’t Samuel look wonderful? We can only imagine how anxious his mom is for him to get safely back home.
Late in the afternoon, we learned that there were no tickets for Samuel’s family to be able to travel back home later in the week. The only remaining air tickets were for TODAY – so our wonderful director Susie went with them to the airport, so they could quickly get a flight back west.
Billy and Delia both looked great today as well. Billy is still being very careful with his incisions. They will stay in the hospital until probably Monday, to make sure their stitches are healing well, since they have a long trip ahead of them, too.
Madison Claire will stay another day in the hospital as well, and her grandfather was patiently giving her a bottle this morning while she recovers from her palate surgery.
Leora has recovered quite well from the surgery on her nose. Her father said that she never cried or called out in pain even once after the surgery. She really loves playing with the new dolls she got from the team.
Baby Sheri, who had a difficult surgery yesterday due to her first repair coming apart, was up in her nanny’s arms getting comforted. She is understandably still very sore today, but her new repair looks wonderful. Babies Caleb and Christopher were doing double time on their nanny’s lap, and I’m sure many of us probably wish we could have been there to help her out!
We have had a few people write us to find out what happened to little Minna, whom we introduced you to earlier in the week. This little sweetheart is from an orphanage in far western China, and we were all very worried she wouldn’t make weight. Last month, we sent her orphanage a case of Nutren formula, a truly wonderful and dense formula that we jokingly call “liquid gold” — both because it can turn around almost any baby who is nutritionally challenged, but also because of its very high price tag in China (12 cans cost $375). Minna was doing beautifully on the Nutren, but when her orphanage brought her to the Cleft Exchange they didn’t bring any of the special formula with them. Minna quickly began losing weight, and in fact lost over 1 kg in just a few days in Kaifeng, making it too risky to attempt surgery this week. Our team feels that perhaps something else is going on with this little one nutritionally, so we made the decision to move her to one of our healing homes. This way she can get the one-on-one care she needs, and we can closely monitor her progress. Rest assured, just as soon as Mighty Minna gets strong enough, she will have the surgery she needs at the wonderful Anhui Children’s Hospital.
We will also be moving baby Adaya, from the same orphanage, to our healing home in Anhui this weekend as well.
Adaya has a really complex bilateral cleft, and our team felt it would be best for her to undergo some “taping therapy” first, where the tissue protruding under the nose is taped back with pressure to make it softer and more malleable during surgery. This often helps provide a better repair and minimizes the risk that the lip will break open following the operation. We know both little Adaya and Minna will completely bloom at our healing home. Some of you might remember that we moved a tiny baby named Penny from the same orphanage in Gansu to our healing home earlier this year. It has been such a joy to watch baby Penny get lots of TLC and receive her lip repair, and we wish the exact same results for Minna and Adaya.
We really do try everything in our power to make sure each child who comes to the cleft exchange receives surgery, even if it can’t be on this particular trip. Little CJ, for example, who has more severe cerebral palsy, will be going to Fudan Hospital in Shanghai for evaluation, as they have an entire medical team there who specialize in doing surgery on children with CP. We felt that was the safest option for him, and so we will make those arrangements shortly.
Today we want to send our deepest thanks to everyone who has helped make this cleft exchange possible. We are beyond grateful to our wonderful supporters for funding the kids’ surgeries, and there are some specific people who deserve a special shout out of thanks as well.
First, we want to thank LWB China Director Stephanie Wang, who lives in Henan province and who first arranged the partnership with the hospital in Kaifeng. Without her, this three-year cleft exchange would not have been possible. Stephanie ran our Henan Healing Home in Kaifeng, and her heart for the children is incredible. In the photo below she is standing with Dr. Liu, the head of oral surgery at Kaifeng Children’s Hospital. We send our deepest thanks to him and the wonderful staff at KCH for partnering with us on the exchange and for working side by side with our team to provide the best medical care possible to the kids.
We want to thank our Medical Director Cindy Wu who works tirelessly to make sure that kids throughout China are able to receive the surgeries they need. She juggles a thousand different details for us each and every day, and our medical program works so smoothly because of her dedication to every child.
LWB team members Yvonne Yi and Susie Chen were also in Kaifeng this week, working nonstop. Yvonne normally serves as our Education Director in China, overseeing all of our Believe in Me schools, but this week she once again translated in the OR for the Chinese and US doctors — a critical job! Susie Chen is our Outreach Director in China, working to provide rural families with both medical and education assistance. This week she was in charge of making sure the nannies and families who came to Kaifeng all had everything they needed. We are so blessed to have both Yvonne and Susie as part of the LWB family.
We also want to thank the incredible team of volunteers who traveled so very far to help change the lives of some very special kids.
Thank you Dr. Tolan, Dr. Clinch, Dr. Derechin and Dr. Tollefson! Thank you Jin Jackson, Jone Lemos, Mary Del Toro, Maureen Gealey, Sandi Glass, Mary Feng, Will Thompson, Chris Ingoldsby, Kenzie Tolan, Dana Donnohue, Andrea Scofield, and David Glass. We know the trips are exhausting and often emotional, but WOW on the kids who were helped! And because we know how much the images from this week have touched people’s hearts, we want to thank volunteer Sherri Cox, the team photographer from Shanghai, for working such long hours to document the last week.
Dr. Derechin, one of the pediatric anesthesiologists on the team, has been on all three of our cleft exchanges to Kaifeng. He is an adoptive father himself, so he definitely understands the enormous difference these surgeries can make in an orphaned child’s life, to help them more easily be chosen by a family. He has been doing these types of trips since he was in medical school, and he said today, “Helping kids in need has been my lifelong passion, and it is such a special gift to be able to help in the birth country of my two daughters.”
LWB team leader Kelly Wolfe will be writing up some of her reflections on the exchange for the blog next week. Until then, we thank you so sincerely for following along with the 2015 trip. So many beautiful children impacted, because of your belief that each one of their lives is important.