Day Two of the 2015 Cleft Medical Exchange
Today was a very busy day for the team, and it began early this morning with the official opening ceremony and formal team photo. We are so grateful to everyone in the picture for giving both their hearts and their time to help some truly wonderful kids receive surgery.
At 9 a.m., the first surgeries got underway. First up in the operating room was baby August. Our team was able to learn much more about his family today. August’s father is the sole supporter of a family of seven, and sadly he has been unable to find steady work as a truck driver, only sporadically picking up odd jobs. Their one small home houses the mom, dad, two older sisters, baby August, a grandmother, and a great-grandfather who is ill. The grandmother told our team today that while daily life is a continual struggle for them, they know they are blessed with the love of their family, and that brings them great happiness. How beautiful is that?
August went happily back to the OR with our team and was quickly under anesthesia. LWB cleft trips are true partnerships between both the American and Chinese medical teams, and Dr. Tolan worked closely with the surgeons at Kaifeng Children’s Hospital to give August a beautiful repair.
After the surgery, his parents kept coming up to our team and asking them to look at August’s lip. At first we worried that something had gone wrong, but the family just wanted to show us again and again how beautiful he looked.
Mallory, from New Hope, also had surgery today. Her surgery was a long one as she had a very wide palate, but things went very well and she was resting comfortably on pain medication later in the day.
Baby Dave was up next, and his parents were so happy he was finally getting the surgery he needed. Doesn’t he look so handsome in his hat?
They adore their baby son so much, and we know he is going to get the best post-op care in the world with them by his side.
Beautiful Kelly also received surgery today. It is very obvious that her family absolutely treasures her.
She had a wonderful morning waiting for her turn, but then had a very difficult time separating from her parents to go back to the OR.
She was crying very hard as she was being prepped, and finally the hospital agreed she could have a light sedative to help her calm down. It took her longer to recover in the PACU, but she was resting well when our team left for the day.
Travis was feeling so much better today, and his fever is gone. He was so proud of himself for being able to walk, and every time he would take some steps he would just get a huge grin on his face. He is an alternate on tomorrow’s surgery schedule.
Three more kids from Gansu province also arrived today after a very long journey. Minna, Shepherd, and Spencer all did great during their medical exams and will receive surgery later in the week. We are so happy that Minna made weight!
Both of the little boys received toy trucks, and so far at least they are thinking the hospital is a very fun place to be. They might have a different feeling after surgery, but for now they are both having a great time.
Zale and Xiomar are both on the schedule for tomorrow. These two babies are from the New Hope center in Zhengzhou, and their caregivers were telling us that Zale is the peaceful one and Xiomar is the naughty one. They said if there is something that Zale has that Xiomar wants, he simply takes it – such as this adorable panda hat! Look who ended up with it!
Samuel, his uncle, and his father rested today from their long journey from the Tibetan plateau. It has been more difficult to communicate with them as the father doesn’t speak any Mandarin. The uncle knows a little bit, however, so he is translating for the family.
One of our directors asked the family if there was anything they needed, and they told us they needed absolutely nothing at all. The family is very proud and doesn’t want to accept charity, which of course we understand. Our director Susie made a special trip out today to try and find some snacks that are more like what they would eat in Tibet, to try and make them feel more at home. We did learn today that little Samuel has been unable to be enrolled in school in his local village due to his cleft lip and palate. They said he cannot attend until both are repaired, so we will need to find a way for his palate to be done in six months or so as well.
Samuel is such a good little boy, very polite and kind, and always so compliant with the doctors on the instructions he is given.
Our team had an extra special surprise today when a rural family we helped on last year’s trip came by the hospital to say thank you again for helping their son. Baby Run is getting so big now, and it was absolutely wonderful to see them again!
Our team also met today with a fifteen-year-old boy who has really touched all their hearts. His name is Ray, and he has been orphaned TWICE in his life.
When Ray was a baby, he lost his birthparents when he was abandoned due to his cleft lip. Local farmers discovered the baby and took him home to raise as their son. Ray had a cleft surgery as a child that wasn’t done correctly, so he doesn’t have good movement on one side of his mouth. His family was also very impoverished, and so they had borrowed money just to get by. Tragically, both of his adoptive parents were killed recently in an accident, and so he is now completely on his own. Before his father passed away, he told Ray that the family debt would become his responsibility, so at the age of 15, Ray owes 7000 rmb or $1200 – an almost impossible sum for him to repay. Every moment he is not in school, he now works odd jobs to try and pay off this debt. Some of the team members were so moved by his story that they wanted to help him relieve this burden, but Ray explained that it is his duty to his father to clear their debt through his hard work. What a remarkable young man! Due to his special need, Ray is actually still in primary school at age fifteen, and he lives at the school now full time since his parents have died.
Our team said he is an absolutely awesome kid. They all just wanted to bring him home with them.
Ray didn’t have anyone to stay with him at the hospital, and we were so touched today when an elderly man from Kaifeng who had heard about our cleft exchange came to the hospital to offer his assistance in any way. He heard Ray’s story and offered to stay with him in the hospital. He said he has been so moved by our team coming to help the children that he wanted to volunteer as well to help. So now Ray has someone to keep him company during the week.
Probably the most emotional moments of the day, however, came when three children from an orphanage in Shandong arrived to see our team. All three children have very complex facial issues, and because of that the orphanage has tried to protect them by not taking them out in public. They had to travel by train today, however, to get to Kaifeng, and so they knew the children would be made fun of and hear negative comments. Because of this, they all decided to wear masks on the journey, so that no one would see the children’s faces.
Once they arrived we realized how compassionate the caregivers were being for CJ, Billy, and Delia to take this extra precaution. As soon as the masks were removed, other families in the hospital gasped and began coming over to look at the children. One woman cleaning the hospital became so upset that the children began to cry, and so our team began taping up paper over the hospital room windows so no one could see inside. But as news spread about the children, families from other floors began coming to see, and even ripped the papers down so they could look at the kids. Thankfully the hospital staff got involved and helped secure the room, and the papers were put back up to cover the windows. It was just one of those moments we never anticipated, and it took time to get it under control. Thankfully, once the paper was back up and the door was firmly closed, the children calmed down and warmed up to our volunteers.
CJ took almost two hours to calm down after all the chaos. He has cerebral palsy, and so his surgery has been unable to be done at any of the local hospitals in his hometown. The doctors are still deciding if it would be safe to put him under anesthesia, and so we won’t know for a day or two if he will be placed on the schedule.
Billy thankfully began to have fun with our team pretty quickly after the crowd was dispersed. He loved building 3D puzzles, and he was even beginning to repeat English words. He is one smart little boy.
Delia was smiley and so engaged, and is just such a great little girl. Our team couldn’t believe she still hasn’t been chosen for adoption as she was so adorable and fun to be with.
We had learned right before the cleft trip that Billy has a family who committed to his adoption, and so we discussed whether we should continue with surgery in China or remove his case from the cleft trip. Now we know that we absolutely made the right decision as none of us could imagine what this little boy would have gone through for two weeks during the adoption trip, if his presence at the hospital caused such a huge stir. His surgery will be on Thursday, and it will require both surgeons in the OR. His caregivers who came with him were so incredibly kind, and we are so happy that Dr. Tolan and Dr. Tollefson can help him medically this week.
Ozzy and Josiah are also on the schedule for tomorrow, and they both had very good days on the ward playing with their nannies and our team members.
Thanks for thinking of all the children in Kaifeng this week as they undergo their operations. We are so grateful for your support!