We were back on the bus by 630 AM, with the fabulous Henry the bus driver at the wheel. Today is the first day of surgery, mostly for kids with cleft palates and other complicated cases. Lip repairs are done towards the end of the week because they are less likely to have any complications. Today we have a dozen surgeries scheduled and about 15 speech therapy sessions. The week is off to a productive start.
The first day always has glitches. The surgeons could not get certain supplies that we must purchase here and not transport from the States until well past the time they anticipated starting the first 4 cases. By midday the first surgeries were finishing up, which means we will probably be late going home tonight again. This is all part of the way it goes, we just have to roll with the punches.
After a team meeting, it was time for the Speech Team, comprised of me, Helen Buhler, program director of communication disorders at Mercy College, Lindsay Naylor, Mercy ’13, and Linda Rollert and Mary Byrd from Kaiser Permanente craniofacial team in Denver, to head to our offices for the day. But…where would that be? We were originally promised the Emergency Room Auditorium, on the second floor and well-hidden, but spacious. We considered the residents’ locker room, near to the wards where our kids would be recovering and near to our surgical Ready Room so we could be at hand to help out with any problems the team might have. We hoped to have our previous room in the Special Surgery building. This room is marked Auditorium, but has gradually turned into a storage area. Where could we go? The rehab building was booked, the pediatric lecture hall was booked…finally we ended up in the warehouse. It is filled with boxes full of …I have no idea… and Jerry cans of distilled water. Gallons and gallons of distilled water, lined up against one wall. Workmen come in and out throughout the day to get boxes, and the roof has quite a few birds’ nests. You can hear the pigeons cooing above you. We are trying to find a good name for this new speech office and we are toying with the aviary for now. Doesn’t that sound better than the Warehouse?
The aviary has been quite busy all morning, seeing clients from Yurimaguas, vary far from here. The families ride a bus for two days to come to Lima. Many of these patients are familiar to us from Ica, where the wonderful Bertha brought them for the first time. Bertha travels tirelessly, sometimes by canoe, to find the patients and bring them to us. She and I are hatching a plan for a speech trip to Yurimaguas, but it’s only in the daydream phase right now. We met with the parents as a group and then saw each child individually for therapy and parent training customized to the child’s needs. It was a jam packed morning.
After a quick lunch, a mom and baby we last saw in Ica found us outside of the surgical suite. She had been looking for us all and wanted to keep her speech appointment. I quickly took her to The Aviary for an extended session. Her beautiful little girl was doing quite well after palate surgery according to the mom…too bad the child would not say a word to me! Eventually, with all our tricks of the trade, Lindsay convinced the child to speak and play with us. We were able to confirm that her resonance sounds good (sounds coming from the mouth and not the nose) and that she is making good progress since Ica. It is always so gratifying to see that the advice we give is taken to heart and implemented by the families to great effect.
We said goodbye to this family, only to see them coming back about 20 minutes later. Another family was having trouble finding us, and the first mom guided the second mom to where we were. We see these instances of parent helping parent throughout the week. Everyone truly feels that they are in it together.
So greetings today and all this week from the Aviary. More posts to come.