The 2016 Cleft Medical Exchange: A Few Farewells and the Final Day of Surgery
Friday in Kaifeng was bittersweet, knowing that it was the final day of surgeries and that the trip was soon coming to a close. We began the day with lots of discharges, and while we were sad to see our little patients go, we are sure the children were ready to leave the hospital! To each of them, we send our warmest thoughts and wishes for a beautiful future.
And of course sweet little Emory couldn’t say goodbye without first blowing us lots and lots of kisses.
We also said farewell to beautiful Alina. It’s difficult to think about her so recently being abandoned, but we hope with her beautiful new smile she will eventually find an adoptive family to love her forever.
Here’s a short video clip of her showing just how much better she feels post-surgery. What a love! (If you get the blog by email, you might have to go to the actual blog website to see Alina’s short video)
The boys from the PT Center who had their palate repairs yesterday were recovering well on the ward, although they are understandably still sore. We know they will get lots of TLC from their nannies here locally. Levi had a slightly elevated temperature, so the nurses will be checking on him carefully.
Baby Ray was also doing great post-op. He was taking his formula well, and he already looks like he is on the full road to recovery. Such a beautiful repair!
There were only four children on the OR schedule for today, and we’re happy to report that each of their surgeries went very well.
Tessa got some last minute cuddles from her mom before heading into surgery, and she was a little bit pensive once it was time for her to go with our team. Her surgery went off very smoothly and soon she was back on the ward with her very attentive family.
Virginia lives with her mom, dad, grandparents, and two older brothers who are four and five years old. In order to support such a large family, her father goes and buys vegetables in a nearby village each day, and then he sells them second-hand in a small stand near their home. They have no funding at all for their daughter’s medical care, so they were so grateful she could be seen by our team. Virginia has “white people phobia” to the extreme, screaming absolute bloody murder if anyone Caucasian dares to look her way. Our photographer Sherri went in to get a few photos and quickly came out telling the rest of the team, “Good luck in there…she absolutely hates me!” Alas, no one else had any better luck, so we don’t have a single pre-op photo to share with you!
However, it’s amazing what a little bit of anesthesia can do. Following her lip surgery today, our PACU nurse Dana was greeted with a loopy smile and even some bouncing up and down in her lap!
As you can see from the photo, Virginia has a beautiful repair.
Adorable Sierra is from a town about 100 kilometers away from the hospital. The family has two little girls who are less than one year apart in age.
Sierra’s grandfather works in Shanghai as a migrant worker, and her father works in a clothing factory outside of Shanghai as well. For those who might not be aware of the number of migrant workers in China, it is estimated that 60 million children in China are “left behind” when their parents leave home in order to find better paying jobs. In Sierra’s case, thankfully her mom and grandmother are able to stay home with the two little girls, raising vegetables on a small farm. They only get to see dad and grandpa when it is harvest season.
Sierra’s family learned about LWB when a neighbor had a child who had surgery at Kaifeng Children’s Hospital. When Sierra’s family inquired about surgery for their daughter, Dr. Liu at Kaifeng Children’s Hospital told them they could come see our team. Sierra is such a lovely and peaceful little girl, and she gladly let our volunteers and the floor nurses cuddle her with no objections.
Sierra’s daddy came back from Shanghai to be with his daughter during her surgery. He is over the moon in love with her, and any time one of our team members would get her laughing, her father would run over to see her expressions. He proudly served as his daughter’s mobile IV pole on their way to the OR.
Our photographer had a bird’s eye view in the operating room while Sierra was having her repair, and she also captured this sweet photo of Sierra’s precious baby toes.
As we mentioned yesterday, one of the very special patients who came to see our team is little Leora, whom we first met last year in 2015. Leora’s father is a carpenter who travels far from home searching for any jobs he can find, and Leora’s mom and grandparents stay home in their village to farm wheat. Leora was born with a very rare number 14 Tessler cleft, which had required her to use a tube in her nose as a baby in order to breathe. When she tried to go to preschool, the other kids would laugh at her and tease her mercilessly, and her mom told us that she even went to school with her daughter at times to try to support her emotionally, but the ridicule was immense.
Leora’s family took her to several hospitals looking desperately for help, but each time they were turned away. When she was three years old, one surgeon they consulted said the only solution was to amputate Leora’s nose and then use a prosthetic.
Last year, we began working with the Lankao orphanage, a small facility in Henan whose director happens to be the uncle of Leora’s dad. When he learned that we were sending a specialized surgical team to Kaifeng, he asked if sweet Leora could possibly be helped as well. As soon as she arrived and met our team, we all fell in love with her outgoing and sunny personality. Here she is on our trip in 2015 with her dad (who absolutely adores his daughter).
Dr. Tolan operated on Leora last year, but he knew he could only do the first stage of what really needed to be a two-part operation. He was able to smooth out the bumps on Leora’s nose, but as soon as he returned to the US he contacted us to say he needed to return to Henan in order to give Leora the nose she deserved. We are thrilled that he was able to return to Kaifeng this year to do just that!
When we spoke with Leora’s mom on Thursday, she told us that following their daughter’s operation last year, they enrolled her in a different school in order to give her a fresh start. Her mom became very emotional and broke down crying telling us that the change in her daughter since that first operation has been profound. Leora now has several good friends whom she plays with every day after homework is done, and she absolutely loves having these wonderful new girlfriends to giggle with. Through her tears, her mom said that the first surgery completely changed her daughter’s life, and so now anything else Dr. Tolan could do would just be an extra special blessing.
When Dr. Tolan was planning Leora’s operation this year, his original plan was to remove cartilage from one of her ribs in order to build her a more normal looking nasal bridge. However, once she was under anesthesia and he began the procedure, he discovered that she had enough cartilage underneath her nose to do exactly what he was hoping to do! He also removed some of the keloid scarring she had, so we know she is going to love her new appearance. She shouldn’t need any additional surgery until she is in her teens. Her parents were very emotional when they saw her for the first time as she was wheeled out of the PACU, and her mom kept staring at her daughter’s face once she was back on the ward.
Leora was sleeping peacefully when we left the ward for the day.
How grateful we are to everyone who supports these life-changing cleft exchanges. It is really remarkable to think that a one-time donation to help a child in need can have an actual lifelong impact on his or her life, but that is honestly what happens when you partner with us on these very special trips.
Here are a few more photos from the OR today, as we just have to say again how very blessed we’ve been over the years to have so many compassionate doctors and nurses volunteer their time with LWB. Tomorrow we’ll update you on the kids remaining in the hospital before our team says their very reluctant goodbyes to China.