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Working to Change Lives in India with Mission Smile: Intake Day

“Intake Day” took place yesterday during our cleft medical mission in partnership with Mission Smile. LWB Board Member Don White is on the ground in Kolkata, and we’ll let him tell the story of the day.

When the Mission Smile team arrived at the South Eastern Railway Central Hospital in Kolkata, the gathering of children and families was amazing.

Throughout Intake Day, the staff screened 179 patients and ultimately selected 100 for surgery. Virtually all of the 79 patients not selected had medical challenges that made surgery impossible at this time; however, Mission Smile is committed to helping them soon.

Three things impressed me most during Intake Day: the parents of the children, the staff and volunteers, and the smoothness of the operation. 

First, the parents. Every parent, as well as child, came dressed in their best outfits that you could tell were carefully selected for this important event.  Although this was a tough day, not one person got upset! Many had to wait for hours to go through the intake process without any assurance that their child would be healed this week. I heard not a single raised voice or demand of any kind, and the smiles of the parents and their beautiful children were infectious.

Second, the staff and volunteers. It has been said that everything rises and falls on leadership, and I saw that first-hand today. The intake procedure was very organized and easy for both the volunteers, staff, and patients to navigate. 

The leadership clearly spelled out the role of every volunteer so that the doctors could focus on patients, while nurses and other volunteers handled everything else with near-military precision. I was very excited to see a troop of boy scouts and girls scouts there working side by side with the other volunteers to make the process go as smoothly as possible.

Third, the operation. Every person was given a number, and a file was started on every child. After the family gave their names and contact information, the parents and children were ushered to a table where nurses took their vitals: blood pressure, pulse, temperature and the like.  From there, they moved to the phlebotomist who drew blood on every patient. They then met with the various specialists on hand – surgeons, pediatricians, anesthesiologists, as well as a dentist and a speech pathologist. 

While it took until the evening, every patient received a thorough screening to determine whether they would be treated at this mission or in the very near future at the local clinic Mission Smile operates in Kolkata. 

Mission Smile is an amazing organization with top-notch doctors who generously give of their time and effort to selflessly care for cleft-affected children in the region. Indeed, at the luncheon held to “officially” open the cleft mission, the COO of Mission Smile, Col. (Retired) Shivaji Samaddar said, “It is the goal of Mission Smile to help every child in India have their cleft repaired.” 

Tomorrow, surgeries begin and lives will be changed. We hope you will continue to follow along on this exciting medical mission!

~Don White, LWB Board Member

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