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The First Day of the 2012 Cleft Exchange

It took quite awhile for me to fall asleep on Sunday night, as I was thinking about what a huge responsibility our team feels for the children who have come to Kaifeng this week for their cleft repairs. Before I traveled, I of course knew that we would be putting babies to sleep in the OR for their surgeries, but it wasn’t until yesterday, when I met these incredible kids in person, that the full weight of wanting everything to go smoothly became the heaviest. I am so grateful to all of the donors and supporters for LWB who are making these surgeries possible. The nannies and foster moms have such obvious hopes for their children to be healed. You are making such a difference in their lives.

Our day on Monday started with the official welcoming ceremony. I know we try to make our international medical exchanges look “easy” – but of course a thousand logistics with many different officials and doctors and departments must take place. It was wonderful to meet everyone in person and pledge together to work all for the children. Following our speeches and a toast of tea for successful surgeries for all the children, the operating day began.

The ward was a sea of activity, with babies being prepared for surgery, and pre- and post-op checks being done. It was amazing to see each new child return from the OR.

Emma and Rosie both have new smiles as of today. Shannon has charmed our entire team with her sweet personality, and she came out of the operating room looking absolutely beautiful, as you can see below!

One of the hospital rooms is filled with the older toddlers and preschoolers, and five of them came together on the train from Anhui. It was great to see how they immediately included the children from other provinces in their group, sharing toys and snacks.

Georgia and Julianne

Georgia and Julianne were being so polite, and Isaac made sure Danny from Fujian was included as well.

Danny

Four-year-old Katherine was one of the first from this room to go upstairs for her palate surgery. All of the kids were very concerned when she came back and wanted to make sure she was feeling better.

We have two babies on this trip who have limb differences as well as cleft lips. Little Colleen is missing her arm, and she has won the hearts of all of the team members. More than one person came up to me to say “Colleen is just the sweetest baby ever” or “Colleen is so interactive and smart.”

Colleen

I made sure to spend some time with baby Emily as well, from Shantou (my daughter’s home province). This gorgeous little girl is missing both of her legs and one of her arms, and she will have surgery tomorrow for her cleft lip. She is on an agency list right now but has not been chosen yet for adoption. She is so sweet and smart, and I am really hoping a family will choose her soon.

Emily and me

In all, eight children had surgery today by our team, which was a busy schedule since we didn’t start until almost 11:30. All of the surgeries went perfectly, and the repairs are just beautiful. The team is carefully evaluating a few of the children here because they have bigger issues than expected. The beautiful little baby with the young, rural mom appears to have a mass on her chin and some other issues, so she needs more investigation before having surgery.

The beautiful 16-year-old girl shown above from Anhui, who was actually adopted when she was eight, has a palate that is so wide and deep that surgery would be very involved. The doctors are still discussing her case. And baby Michael from the Henan Healing Home had to have a barium swallow today because his cleft might affect his trachea as well, making surgery very complex.

Michael

It was a very busy, hectic, emotional, tiring, humbling, INCREDIBLE first day. What an honor to be working with so many people to help orphaned and rural children get the medical care they need. And in just a few hours……we get to do it all again!

~Chris Ingoldsby, LWB Board Member. Chris will be spending this week helping to lead our Cleft Exchange Trip and is sharing his thoughts with us each day.

 

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